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Book Leaden Skies set in Leadville

Kimberly Nicoletti
Avon, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyAnn Parker said she was inspired to write 'Leaden Skies' when she found out about her ancestors in Leadville
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AVON, Colorado –Author Ann Parker, who will appear at the Avon Public Library Monday, was drawn to write Colorado historical mysteries when she first discovered her rich local ancestry.

Upon learning that she had a great-grandfather who was a blacksmith in Leadville, a grandmother who worked at the bindery of Leadville’s Herald Democrat newspaper, a grandfather who was a Colorado School of Mines professor, and another grandfather who worked as a gandy dancer on the Colorado railroads, she became fascinated with the area and its history.

Parker sets her mysteries in Leadville. In her book, “Leaden Skies” (the third of a series), former president and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant tours Leadville’s silver mines, while others play at politics. Parker’s main character, Inez, strikes up a back-room deal with an upscale brothel madam, in hopes of securing a great financial future. But it all starts to unravel when the “pleasure palace” catches fire and one of the prostitutes turns up dead. Inez, in a race against time to untangle the dealings of the high and the low during Grant’s visit, discovers that politics, power, property and prostitution can be a deadly combination.

Parker lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but her parents grew up in Colorado, so she spent summers and holidays visiting relatives along the Front Range. She became inspired to write a mystery series based in Leadville at a family reunion in 1997, when her Uncle Walt, a retired engineer who had worked for Martin Marietta, started talking about their genealogy and telling her about Granny Parker, who was raised in Leadville.

Parker only knew of her grandmother’s Denver and Central City connection.

“When I asked Uncle Walt, ‘What the heck is Leadville?’ he launched into an enthusiastic paean of Leadville and its history, ending up with: ‘Ann, I know you’ve been thinking of writing a novel. I think you should research Leadville, and set a story there,'” Parker said.

Already hooked on what her uncle had told her, Parker began researching the town just as the dot-com boom was happening.

“What I read about the silver rush resonated with what was going on around me at the time: Everyone was throwing caution to the wind in hopes of ‘getting rich quick,'” she said. “History was repeating itself – different place, different era, but similar dynamics. I found the parallels between times present and past fascinating.”

Parker fits in time for writing “in the corners of her life,” between working as a consulting corporate technical writer. She started her first fiction book around 1998. She found an agent who shopped it around New York City, but when he left the business without placing the book, Parker turned to Poisoned Pen Press, an independent publisher that wanted not only “Silver Lies,” but also a follow-up.

Leadville’s history, as well as its current and past residents, continue to inspire Parker to tell stories and discover “serendipitous finds” when researching her book. Plus, she loves her characters.

“For those who have read the earlier Silver Rush books and want to know ‘what will happen next to Inez,’ I can guarantee that ‘Leaden Skies’ reveals more about Inez’s life and circumstances,” Parker said. “For those who are curious about Leadville’s history, reading about Grant’s visit and about some of the local politics of the town might prove interesting.”

As Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen series and other historical mysteries, said:

“Parker’s deft evocation of a lost era in Western American history – the life of the mining boom town – and her complex characterization make ‘Leaden Skies’ an absorbing read. Her final, cliff-hanging sentence will make every reader desperate for the next installment in Inez Stannert’s epic tale.”

Parker will be at the Avon Public Library at 6 p.m. on Monday. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Avon Public Library at 970-949-6797.


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