By Leslie Budewitz
Well, maybe not. When I was a kid and we visited relatives in Minnesota, they always called out “come back soon” when we left, and my father always replied — sometimes loud enough to be heard outside the car — “the roads go both ways.”
But in my life, all roads — live and Memorex — seem to lead to Montana. One of my eight short stories is set elsewhere (“The End of the Line,” in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, December 2006).* Everything else happens under the Big Sky.
Like many Montana writers, I consider myself a very placed writer. My view of the world is literally shaped by having grown up here and having chosen to return. I define direction by the flow of the rivers and the location of the mountains. I breath easier in these valleys and on the front range. It is my default landscape — the one that fills my dreams, both waking and sleeping.
When it came time to choose a setting for my first mysteries, Montana was both natural and right. It’s the place I know best. No other cozies — the light-hearted side of the mystery world — are set in the region, although Diane Mott Davidson has set a wonderful example with her catering sleuth series set in Colorado.
More importantly, story derives from interesting — intriguing — characters put in positions of contrast and conflict. Montana is rich in all of those, making it a particularly rich source for writers of all genres – literary fiction, darker crime fiction (think James Lee Burke’s recent Dave Robicheaux mysteries), and, I hope, the lighter side. Montana is a vast state, with many views, and a many kinds of small towns. Jewel Bay – like Bigfork, its’ closest real-life relative – surprises people. And surprise is the first ingredient in a memorable setting.
Come on by. I think you’ll be glad you did.
* But I’m having a blast writing the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, debuting from Berkley Prime Crime in March 2015. After all, as readers of Death al Dente know, it’s a common story for Montana kids to leave home and return, as both Erin Murphy and I did. But my Seattle years left me with great affection for the city, and it’s a delight to visit it again on the page and for research. And to eat my way through the Market, again, and eat tax-deductible meals in restaurants I remember fondly and their younger cousins.