The Precious Pachyderm, a traditional mystery inspired by the real-life astrologer Evangeline Adams, began its life when I awoke one morning from a vivid dream. I was working for Evangeline and she asked me to get astrologer Ed Dearborn on the phone for her. In the dream, it soon became apparent that Adams was a Talker. With Jupiter rising in Pisces, I’d never thought of her that way before, but it fit. And it now became clear to me exactly how she would sound and act, and it was suddenly obvious how I might include her in a mystery.
I’d thought about writing a mystery novel about astrology for many years, but was never sure exactly how to go about it. I wanted the situation and plot to reflect astrology somehow, but other than that, I had no real clue. I enjoyed reading a number of astrological mysteries over the years, but was still unable to jump-start my own book. Still, my husband continued to encourage me in a project we soon began to call “The Astrological Detective.”
I’d already written a biography and an astro-biography of Evangeline Adams, and had toyed with the idea of using her as my amateur sleuth. I had done a lot of research on the 1920s for the bios, and after studying all of Adams’ books and reviewing her many newspaper and magazine interviews, I knew her very well, and could even hear some of her typical expressions in my mind. I began reading more books from the time as well as histories of the 1920s in New York, and while I learned a great deal, I still wasn’t inspired enough to begin writing.
It wasn’t until my nighttime intuition of June 19, 2010 that I finally gained the insight into Adams’ character that I needed. The story could take place in her office, a setting I knew well from many years of day jobs. Of course, I also knew first-hand about both astrology and consulting. Adams was privy to many secrets, and her staff, clients and the authorities would all know this, creating a colorful background for a mystery. Adams also had a high-class clientele that would be fun to depict as well.
The only things I personally knew about the 1920s in New York were through my grandmother and her siblings. They were the children of immigrants from Italy who lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn and were warm, family-oriented and hard-working people — quite a contrast to the bootleggers, flappers and gangsters that we so typically find in fiction set in the 1920s. And one doesn’t very often read about “regular people” in the histories of the period, either. I began to wonder what real working people were doing during this time, and wanted to include their perspective in my book. Then I realized that Evangeline’s assistants would drive the plot. I ultimately feel that they represent my experience and point of view.
It’s funny how things work out. It was Evangeline Adams who seemed to bring about my relationship with Ed Dearborn, since we began corresponding in 1993, when we primarily shared information about Adams and her history. Through my dream, Ed then re-introduced me to Evangeline. About the book.