I’m going out on a limb here and admitting a particular weakness for museum gift shops. I’m among friends, right? And no one will think less of me. Not long ago, my husband and I took a 2-day trip to Tombstone in southern Arizona. He wanted to see the famous sights (OK Corral, Birdcage Theatre, Boothill Graveyard), and as an author of western historicals, I’m always looking for research opportunities.
Who knew all that history occurred in an area that is only three blocks long and four blocks wide? We started at the courthouse museum and I could have spent the entire day there. Great exhibits and specimens with detailed descriptions. We saw such a thorough depiction of the shootout of the OK Corral (and a carefully researched rebuttal) that we didn’t feel the need to sit in the hot sun to watch the reenactment.
For me, the real treasures are the books in the gift shop. The ones that have a narrow focus and are usually written by people who live in that geographic area. Children’s books featuring desert animals from the region, recipe books using native plants, biographies of famous people involved with the locale. (I did carry around at least one of these three types before making my final decision.) Because I live in a small cabin with limited shelf space, I truly had to restrain my buying habits but couldn’t resist three titles. One highlighted Arizona mining towns, another included stories of frontier female doctors or nurses, and the last was a picture book about Tombstone. I never know when one tidbit of first-hand information will be the exact fact I need to make my historical stories as authentic as they can be. So many research books, such limited shelf space. Sigh.
Anyone else confess to a similar guilty pleasure?
My only book so far set in Arizona was part of the American Mail-Order Brides series titled Libbie: Bride of Arizona. Alone for the first time, tomboyish Libbie Van Eycken accepts a mail-order proposal and travels across country to find a place to call her own. Arizona rancher Dell Stirling needs a wife but didn’t count on the eccentric creature that brings chaos in her wake.