After five Inspector Shan mysteries set in contemporary Tibet, Edgar Award—winner Eliot Pattison places the action of Bone Rattler in 18th-century North America.
Since you already have a successful series, why did you decide to start a new one?
I didn't want to be the writer who just did Tibetan mysteries, as much as I love that series. I have broader interests and wanted to reach a broader readership. The best novels to my mind are those that transport readers to a new place and teach them something about the world at the same time. Contemporary Tibet for me is one of those places, and 18th-century America is another.
How did you become interested in that period?
I'm a 10th-generation American, and my family has roots going back to colonial days, so just growing up in my family I was exposed to a lot of history about my 18th- and 19th-century ancestors. The 18th century is when the seeds of America were really sown, but more broadly, it was really the beginning of the modern era. Printing presses were beginning to connect and empower people in a whole new way never before known. The straightjackets of religion were beginning to fall away, and science was beginning to blossom. A significant number of people ventured out into the American wilderness, where they encountered the extraordinary woodland Indians. It's a chapter in history that's often overlooked because it's the time before the Revolutionary War.
What sources did you use for your historical research?
I did a lot of in-depth research into the French and Indian War and visited a lot of battle sites from that conflict. I read a lot of esoteric sources, firsthand accounts of wilderness experiences, from members of the military and from missionaries. I learned a lot about the Iroquois culture and had the pleasant surprise of discovering that there was a real connection between them and the Scottish outcasts of that period, which became an important theme in Bone Rattler.
What ideas do your Inspector Shan mysteries share with Bone Rattler?
There are a lot of common elements in the two series. There are a lot of exiles, outcasts, people who have been abandoned by government or have no government who have to find justice in their own way. That's very much a theme with Inspector Shan in those books, and with my Scottish and Indian characters in Bone Rattler.