The Californian Trip Home

It’s Thursday.  We’re slowly making our way north after stopping off in LA for a cover shoot.  With Daphne and Aggie both gone across the Rainbow Bridge, it’s time to have a new cover photo with Bella the Book Tour Dog front and center.

Yesterday, we drove from Pasadena to Belmont in the Silicon Valley where we stayed at the Hyatt House but which, henceforth in our family’s traveling lexicon will be referred to as the Big Bang Theory Hotel.  The place was fully stocked with computer science types.  My observation tells me that there is a positive correlation between the wildness of the T-shirt and the relative level of the wearer’s IQ, with the highest IQ wearing the most outrageous T-shirts.  There were plenty of young female engineers in the mix, by the way, and that bodes well for my granddaughter who is studying engineering at WSU.

As we travel down the road, I’m still reading the e-mails that turn up in my new mail list from readers all over the country.  This week I heard from a Boeing engineer who left Seattle in 1971 when they were saying that the last Boeing engineer to leave the city should please turn out the lights.  He settled in Australia and enjoys reading the Beaumont books in particular because, as he said, they take him home.

Another e-mail came from, as the writer himself said, “way out in left field.”  My correspondent turned out to be a Professor Emeritus of Ethnography from Berkley.  He said that my books do a great job of depicting lower class and lower middle class life in America.

I’ve been thinking about that while we’ve been driving.  J.P. Beaumont may have started out poor as the son of a single-mother who supported her family by being a seamstress, but he’s certainly not poor now.  Yes, he lives in a penthouse in downtown Seattle, but he’s never forgotten his humble beginnings.

The same goes for Ali Reynolds.  As the daughter and granddaughter in a family-owned diner in Sedona, she came from humble beginnings, too.  A scholarship made it possible for her to attend college and attain her goals as a television journalist, and even though she’s lived a jet-setting kind of high profile existence, she’s never far from what she learned waiting tables after school at the Sugar Loaf Cafe.

As for Joanna?  She’s the daughter of a copper miner whose father went into law enforcement when the mines in Bisbee started closing down.  Her decision to follow in her father’s law enforcement footsteps keeps her close to her roots and grounded in Bisbee’s small town milieu.

And why are my characters like that?  I guess the answer is that they take after me.  I may have traveled a long way from my roots, but I’m still very much who I was growing up in Bisbee–the daughter of a South Dakota farmer who moved to Arizona for his health and went to work as an underground miner in Bisbee.

My parents and Joanna’s parents and Ali’s parents and J.P.’s mother are all the kind of people who could be called the salt of the earth.  They remind me of my favorite characters in the current Ali book–Deadly Stakes.  One is a cashier at the Burger King in Gila Bend.  The other is the cashier’s boyfriend, a guard at a nearby prison.  When a confused old woman wanders into the restaurant and settles into a booth to wait for her husband–who has been dead for a number of years–that young couple–the cashier and the guard–put their own concerns aside and go far out of their way in order to help the old woman.  They do this not out of any sense that they might be rewarded for their kindness but because being kind was and is the right thing to do.

I think all of these folks, my characters’ fictional parents as well as my real ones, lived lives that are indicative of the American dream.  And that goes for me, too.

Next week begins with April 15, time to “render unto Ceasar”.  Because of my loyal fans and readers, we’ll be writing a check to the IRS that’s larger than Bill and could have imagined possible.  I could have never imagined it possible to make that much money, to say nothing of owing that much in taxes.

But the truth is, we owe that much, and we will write and mail our check with joy in our hearts because the American dream has been very good to this lower middle class girl.