Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Murder in Dollywood Country!

Excerpt From: Fifty-Seven Traveling by Lonnie Cruse
Tourism Attraction: Cades Cove/Pigeon Forge
Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Photos: Click to enlarge any photo! Photos from MyPigeonForge.com (visit their site through the Pigeon Forge link in the Toursim Links below to plan a vacation)

Kitty Bloodworth was looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She and her husband Jack were entering their prize classic car Sadie into an antique car show. When Kitty sets her eyes on a classic car for sale, her enthusiasm lands her in the middle of a murder mystery that perplexes even her keen senses. This novel is set in the beautiful tourism destination of Pigeon Forge. Learn more about how to visit the real places in the novel by clicking on the tourism links at the end of this excerpt.

From Fifty-Seven Traveling . . .

“Look at that,” Deb said, pointing out her car window at the mountain stream rushing over the large rocks alongside the highway leading to Cades Cove. I fished in my tote bag for my camera.

It seemed as though there were rushing mountain streams everywhere we looked. Jack stopped several times so I could take pictures. The sound of the water over the rocks very nearly lulled me to the point of needing a nap. And the wind sighing through the trees had me turning in slow circles, trying to capture the colors on my camera so I could enjoy them at home.

Back on the road after another quick stop, Leo said, “Are you speeding, Jack?” He pointed to the passenger side mirror.
I turned around in time to see an official car, lights flashing and siren blaring as it whizzed around us. Jack pulled to the edge of the road as best he could, and traffic in front of us parted like a pond wave as an ambulance slid by. The sirens were deafening. I counted a fire truck, another ambulance, a police car, and several other official vehicles as they flew by and said a silent prayer for whomever those vehicles were racing to rescue.

“Wow, must be something big going on,” Deb said. She’d roused herself from a brief backseat nap long enough to see what all the ruckus was about. Jack inched his way nearly into the intersection that split off toward Cades Cove, and for a few seconds I feared we’d be flattened in the crush of cars scuttling out of the way. Fortunately, the emergency vehicles zipped by us and continued on.

Jack turned onto the loop that meandered through the historic Cades Cove area, and the next few hours were spent admiring the amazing fall colors or hiking up the short walks to some of the older cabins, like the old Oliver place where we saw a momma deer and her twins snacking on a low tree limb. She sniffed at us as we sniffed at her.

“Even though deer pass through the pasture behind our old farm house nearly every day, I never get over the thrill of watching them up close,” I whispered to Deb.

We left the deer family to their meal and hiked the rest of the way to the old Oliver family log cabin, settling in for our own picnic under a nearby tree.

“I always try to imagine the people who once lived in these old cabins and what their lives might have been like,” I said, carefully gathering up the leftovers and cartons. I certainly didn’t want to leave any litter behind in this lovely place.

“The view form the porch is so beautiful it takes my breath away,” Deb said.

I nodded and glanced around inside, marveling at the small size of the rooms and lack of privacy for family members. Many of the old cabins had one central room where the family did household chores, ate, sat by the fire, and sometimes even slept.

“I’m thankful the locals somehow managed to preserve this historic area. It’s something future generations need to see, how people lived in pioneer days,” I said.

I’d nearly filled an entire memory stick on my camera with pictures of the homes and the woods and fields surrounding them. At this rate, I’d need to buy another memory stick before we left the area, even if they cost the earth. And I’d have to replace my little printer without letting my daughters know what happened to the one they gave me.

“Let’s take a different route home,” Jack suggested as we passed through the exit gate. “See what we can see.” Words which always made me cringe.

“Can you read that sign?” Jack asked, after we’d ridden in silence for several miles. Thankfully, I could still see distance better than he could, even from the back seat.

“Yes, it says ‘Weddings in the Woods. Get married among the beautiful trees of the Smoky Mountains.’ Hmmm, I wonder if Sunny and Craig would consider having their wedding here. It certainly would be far less expensive than the extravaganza she’s planning, and the area here is beautiful.”

I snapped a couple of quick pictures, in case Sunny showed some interest. Never mind that we didn’t know exactly where “here” was. I’d keep my eyes open and see how we got back to where we were supposed to be, assuming Jack didn’t get us permanently lost.

We were haggling over whether or not to have a quick snack of ice cream to tide us over until we met the car club for dinner as Jack fiddled with the radio knob.

“I bet they got a great oldies station around here,” he said.

“Yep,” Leo said, “they don’t make songs like that nowadays.”

“Like what,” Deb asked. “‘Purple People Eater?’”

“Actually, I was thinking about the one where the momma doesn’t rock and roll,” Leo said.

“You’ve got it backwards,” Deb argued, “the momma don’t dance and—”

“Hey, listen!” I pointed towards the radio. “They’ve found a dead body in a ditch. Just up the road from the Cades Cove entrance.”

--Excerpted from FIFTY-SEVEN TRAVELING, Copyright © 2010 by Lonnie Cruse, All Rights Reserved

Tourism Guide

The goal of SELTI is to introduce readers from around the nation to unique tours based on the real settings of popular novels. What better way to do this than a novel about a vacation to a beautiful Southern town? The new novel Fifty-Seven Traveling by Lonnie Cruse is just such a story, set in the picturesque Pigeon Forge tourism district of Tennessee. For fun getaways, the Smoky Mountains are hard to beat, but adding the spice of a murder mystery only makes the trip that much more intriguing.

In such a beautiful area, it would be very easy for a traveler to spend the weekend shopping, eating, and relaxing without ever stepping outside of the tourist bubble. When my review copy of the novel arrived, I was expecting a light, fun mystery, and that's an accuracte description of the novel. However, Fifty-Seven Traveling also surprises the reader by connecting with the place on a deeper level by highlighting the culture of the local residents. The Beadle family’s old-fashioned values and traditions are refreshing, especially within the context of our modern society. The novel also includes mainstream attractions such as Dollywood, which the story proves is as much fun for adults as it is for kids.

The antique automobiles themselves become very sympathetic characters, and one has to contrast these solid, quality-crafted vehicles against today’s hastily-fabricated fiberglass constructions that often start falling apart within a few years. The classic cars were made to be durable for decades, and so were the moral values of the generation that produced them. For example, many couples today divorce within the same time they trade in their cars for new ones. There’s something to be said for things—and values—that last.

This talk of values and cars does play out at the end of the novel, which is not only creative but very touching. The main character, Kitty Bloodworth, is a grandmother that many people can relate to and might know in their local community. Placing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances is often a great device to writing an interesting story.

The real area of Pigeon Forge and Sevier County is indeed beautiful almost to the point of being a wonderland, especially at Christmas time. The towns are as picturesque as a postcard, but it sure is fun to step inside that postcard and breathe in the fresh mountain air—maybe with some white fudge mixed in. Good eating plays a prominent part in this novel, and the same is true of a real vacation there. Be sure and bring your camera and some extra memory sticks because the real sights will be something you will always cherish.

Tourism Links
Pigeon Forge

Cades Cove Auto Tour

Learn more about author Lonnie Cruse

Order Fifty-Seven Traveling

The Official Tennessee Vacation Guide

Follow SELTI on Facebook for updates on new articles and an easy list of all the others around the South: