Years ago Dee wrote the history of a California businessman. On a research trip to San Francisco, we interviewed one of the cousins. Alice, her elderly mother, lived with her and had a cache of old letters written during the 1930s, which she gave Dee to keep. Since they didn't apply to the story being written at the time, they were set aside, packed up and saved for a second volume someday. The client died before that happened and the stuff got stored in Dee's archive.
Recently, for another project, Dee was going through his archives and ran across the bundle of hand-written letters.
Some of the letters had been sent from Vienna where Clara was waiting while her husband traveled by train to meet Stalin in Moscow. Her daughter Alice wrote back from San Francisco, detailing the romantic, lavish lifestyle of a rich young woman before WWII. In Europe the times were troubled, and Vienna was a city of spies and secrets, as Hitler was coming to power, and the old Austro-Hungarian Empire was falling apart. Clara's husband had been right in the middle of it and was now doing his bit for peace, introducing free enterprise to Russia. Clara was alone in a foreign city dealing with men she didn't trust, who tried to win her favor and manipulate her thinking.
Suddenly Clara got word that her husband, a healthy man of 61 had died mysteriously in Russia. No explanation, just a promise to bring his body back to Vienna within a couple of weeks. Amidst all the political secrets, there were questions about how he died and if he was murdered. This much of the story is alluded to in the letters.
We've spent hours discussing what could have happened and now we realize we've got a full-fledged murder mystery aching to be solved. It's set in our favorite place, at the exact time in history we've spent decades studying.
Plot, check. Tomorrow I'll meet the characters. With a cup of cocoa I'll sit down for a long day of snooping through the past. Anticipation is tingling through my arms. This could be the book I've wanted to write: a historic novel set in pre-World War II Austria. Spies, intrigue, wealth, love, war, family drama and to top it off me and Dee sitting on the sidelines analyzing clues, and even making up a few. I'm between assignments and this is the perfect time to start a new novel.
I'm going to keep track of my exact steps in this diary of a novel.
I'll keep you posted.