Parker’s fifth Silver Rush mystery, What Gold Buys, takes series heroine Inez Stannert to Leadville, Colo., in 1880.
Why the long gap between the previous installment, 2011’s Mercury’s Rise, and What Gold Buys?
Compared to many mystery authors, I’ve always been a slow writer. But right around the time that Mercury’s Rise came out, it felt like life, the universe, and everything else just came crashing down. I know there are people who can work through, say, their spouse having brain surgery, but I can’t. There aren’t a lot of publishers who would welcome a writer back after a five-year lapse, but Poisoned Pen did so for me. I’ve been with them since the series’ first book, and I’m deeply grateful for the relationship.
What drew you to 1880 Leadville as a setting?
I was born and raised in California. But my parents, grandparents, and cousins are from Colorado, and I was always drawn to the state. At a family reunion, an uncle once mentioned that my grandmother was raised in Leadville. When I admitted I knew nothing about the place, he said that it had been the site of the biggest silver rush in the world, a “hell-raising town.” The more I read about it later, the more intrigued I became with this huge influx of people coming from all over the world, hoping to strike it rich at 10,000 feet in the Rockies, where winter lasts nine months of the year. It seemed like a really wonderful place to center a series. Just like the location itself, the setting gives me lots of room to expand and explore.
Inez Stannert is a tough woman in a masculine world.
When I was a kid I watched a lot of westerns. Even then, I realized that the guys were having all the adventures. As I started the Silver Rush series, I wanted to let the girls have some fun! I didn’t want my protagonist to be perfect, and I didn’t want her to be a spunky young thing. I wanted her to be a woman who’d had some experience in life and was willing to walk the fine line between right and wrong, legal and illegal, when it would get her what she needed, help her friends, or protect her family.
What inspired the novel’s theme of communications after death?
When I finished Mercury’s Rise, which was all about the scourge of tuberculosis, it seemed natural to go from disease to death and the afterlife. I have training in the sciences, so it’s hard for me to believe that we can connect with those who have died. But I can understand the drive to want that to be possible, and I was intrigued to discover how prominent Victorian women were in fields like spiritualism.