Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Seems like writer's block hit me. Sometimes, a historic novel like Queen Of The Everglades just seems to fall together with little effort on my part. We were living in Hobe Sound, Florida, at the time when Dolores and I went on a short exploration adventure nearby to old downtown Stuart. We walked into a bookstore and... this rare old book was sitting on the shelf beckoning for my attention. I'd heard of the Ashley Gang who had been bootlegging booze from the Bahamas, robbing the Stuart bank, and even holding up a passenger train, so the book felt good tucked under my arm on the way home.
   Later that evening, I turned a few pages, and there was Laura Upthegrove. Odd coincidence that I had a 12 year old young girl as one of my 7th grade students who was a distant relative. I learned that Laura walked the streets of old downtown Stuart, Flordia with the gun in its holster just like you see her in this picture. Now, that sparked my imagination big time! Why would this lovely young lady be wearing a gun? What had happened to her to make her leave her husband and two children to take up with a known escaped convict, John Ashley, and his gang? I was reminded of the similarities between these two and the famous criminals of that time, Bonnie and Clyde. Look at her face. That's not the face of a hardened woman who's seen a rough life. Here she was in the middle of the Roaring 20's living the fast-paced life with booze and guns hiding out in the midst of  the Everglades. Just think that our Colony Street neighborhood was once considered to be part of a wilderness inhabited by alligators, racoons, and more mosquitoes than it has now ! So my historic research and novel writing began to fall together. There were still the gaps that had to be filled such as the reasons for leaving her husband and children. The only reason that I could see for Laura abandoning two children would be if there was abuse. From the abuse idea there had to be a point where she said to herself, "That's it! I'm not taking any more." Then I recalled the true story about a mountain lady who sewed up her husband in a bed sheet and beat the heck out of him. Laura headed into Stuart, boarded the train, and that's how she met John and his gang who were in the process of robbing the passenger train.
    Be wary of judging people who lived years ago with the same modern standards we live by in today's life. John Ashley and Laura lived in a different time in history. Laura's lover was a hunter and trapper in the Everglades. He and Seminole Tiger were partners, but they got into a dispute over the division of furs. John said the Seminole tried to kill him during the night. Later, when they found the  Indian's body, John was convicted of the crime. John's brother was killed in a shoot out trying to help John get out of prison. So, John and his gang set out on a life of crime assured that he was wrongly accused just like Jesse James.
       Hey! If you have an e-reader you can borrow the book from the Amazon library free OR it sells for $4 and  it's a darn good read. Download the Kindle for the PC from Amazon, and you can read it on your computer. OR if you just love to hold a "real book" (Dolores says) then you'll have to pay a bit more. After you've read the book, go to Amazon and write a review. I appreciate your criticism and want to work toward writing more good books.

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