Friday, October 14, 2016

Hide and Seek, Jo A. Hiestand

The plot for McLaren’s sixth mystery, “No Known Address,” was mentally making a nuisance of itself, so I decided to do something about it while I was in England. I wanted a unique setting for a section in the novel, and--after book-researching candidates such as Matlock Bath’s cable cars, the flooded Speedwell Cavern, Peveril Castle’s ruined keep (erected in 1176), and the moors surrounding the Cat and Fiddle Inn (the two centuries-old pub is the second highest in England)--I thought the old windmill in Heage, Derbyshire sounded a perfect choice. Heage is about seven miles as the crow flies from the bed-and-breakfast where I would be staying in Dethick. But add at least twice that mileage for the twisting roads.

Armed with directions from the B-&-B owner, and confident I could find the thing, I set off. Twenty minutes of driving in what were probably circles, U-turns and figure eights never brought me to the mill. Nor produced any signs proclaiming the thing’s existence. I was more than disappointed; my frustration verged on panic. That wonderful scene was evaporating into the hedgerows and stone walls that kept me from my goal. But when my anxiety finally lessened, I realized I had another option.

In my circular wandering I had discovered the village of Crich and the old Wakebridge Engine House. Wakebridge is a remnant of the by-gone lead mining days in Derbyshire, and joins the list of other mines with colorful names: Bacchus Pipe, Leather Ears, Merry Bird, Pigtrough, Silver Eye, Wanton Legs… The region wallows in mining history stretching from Roman times into the 1950s. With such a past, surely I’d get something useful out of Wakebridge. So, assuming a bird in the hand is worth more than trying to locate its nest, I latched onto the mining house. Which is why you’ll read about Wakebridge instead of the Heage windmill in “No Known Address.”

I still love the idea of a scene in the mill, though. The creaking of its six sails, the moaning wind whipping up the hill, the birds huddled in the loft, the scuff of thick-soled shoes on the wooden steps… Perhaps next trip I’ll find where it’s hiding. A potential scene in a mill is too good to become chaff in the wind.

Jo A. Hiestand,

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