Inspiration It’s axiomatic that authors write from experience and what inspires them. My inspiration over the last forty years has come from the village of Clayton, New York, located in the Thousand Islands. Although not the same place, Clearview, New York as described in my story bears a striking resemblance to Clayton – but none of the people, streets, restaurants, businesses or buildings are the same.
If you are interested in wooden boats and river skiffs, you can visit the Antique Boat Museum (www.abm.org), which was the inspiration for the Classic Car and Classic Boat Museum. The Museum describes itself as “a globally recognized museum with the most extensive and diverse public collection of mid-19th to mid-20th century freshwater boats, engines and archival materials in North America.” There you can see one of the original Baby-Gar Snail boats and, while there is no car collection, they do have an annual Concours d’Elegance of rare and classic cars.
As for the rest of the village, see http://www.1000islands-clayton.com. If you look closely at that island directly opposite the downtown, you may spot a familiar tower. And if you want to play golf at The Course, check out www.cwayresort.com.
Historical Mystery About the historical mystery described in the story: when writing fiction based in part on actual history, you can get a wide range of results – at the extreme, for example, the National Treasure movies or the movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Here is what I did. There was a real Hermit of Maple Island named John Payne who was murdered as described right after the end of the Civil War. To my knowledge, the murder was never solved, but the accounts which exist indicate that there were “Southerners” looking for him. The island is actually part of the Town of Clayton and is much larger than what I described – and is inhabited, so please don’t try to visit! I did read accounts that Payne was related to Lewis Payne, traveled south to assassinate General Sherman and returned north, appearing in Toronto two weeks after Lincoln’s death. It is also reported as fact that he and John Surratt stole $300,00 and escaped across Ontario, with Surratt ending up in Rome and Payne on Maple Island.
The facts surrounding Booth’s kidnapping plot and subsequent assassination of Lincoln, escape to Virginia and death are well documented, as are the fact that Booth’s diary was taken back to Washington, examined by Lafayette Baker and handed over to Edwin Stanton. The missing pages dispute is also true and, to my knowledge, they have not been recovered.
The “Stanton conspiracy” theory has been espoused and debunked by a variety of books and websites. I don’t take sides on the controversy, but for plot purposes took the additional fictional step of having Payne meet with Baker, be entrusted with the pages and take off for Toronto and on to Maple Island, after which Baker sent his men (Yankees all) off to find him, while impersonating Southerners. Booth’s diary pages cannot be in present-day Clayton because there are no hotel basements dating back to the Civil War.
Terrorism I tried in my novel to take a balanced approach in not just painting all Muslims as evil and extreme, but distinguishing the good ones from the bad ones, as you should with any religion. The media seems to make little or no effort to distinguish Sunni and Shia or extremists and the peaceful devout, which leads to more stereotyping for all involved. Clearly, ISIS/ISIL and extremists have to go, but it’s going to be a tough journey.