Wednesday, July 17, 2019
‘Moonscape’ to Launch at Community Library
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Julie Weston, pictured against a limber pine at Craters of the Moon, was a big fan of Nancy Drew mysteries growing up before segueing into the “hard stuff” by such authors as Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie.
 
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY GERRY MORRISON

Craters of the Moon has long been viewed as an otherworldly, even grotesque, landscape with its jagged aa lava running like a gash across the landscape and its twisted limber pines reaching towards the heavens.

In Julie Weston’s new novel “Moonscape,” the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve becomes the setting for murder, as well.

 
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Hailey artist Poo Wright-Pulliam, a former artist-in-residence at Craters of the Moon, penned a map illustration of the unusual landscape for “Moonscape.”
 

Weston will discuss her latest mystery novel in a free power point presentation at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at Ketchum’s Community Library. Refreshments will be served.

The novel is the third recounting the adventures of Nellie Burns, a Ketchum photographer, and her black Labrador retriever named Moonshine.

The tale, set in 1923, is a fast-paced absorbing romp through a whirlwind of possible suspects with twists and turns at every bend of the pahoehoe flow through the then mostly unexplored lava fields. Caves and splatter cones, it seems, make good hiding places for truths and mistruths about religious cults and human greed.

Weston got the idea for the novel after reading Robert Limbert’s 26-page account of Craters of the Moon, which was published in National Geographic in 1924. The article, which recounted a 15-day hike he’d taken across the lava fields in 1920, led to the area being made a national monument.

“The article made clear that it’s a strange and mysterious place. And, as I read it, I thought: One of those caves would be perfect for a murder,” said Weston. “The fact that two women got lost and died out there several years back only spurred me further.”

The novel follows Nellie Burns and Hailey’s Basque Sheriff Charlie Azgo as they are asked to find a religious elder and two women that accompanied him into the foreboding, mostly inaccessible landscape.

What started out as a search party quickly turns into a murder mystery as they discover a woman who has been speared by a stalactite in one of the caves. And the hunt for clues takes them to Ketchum’s Guyer Hot Springs and back again.

The novel follows Weston’s earlier award-winning novels Moonshadows,” which was set in the foothills around Ketchum, and “Basque Moon,” which was set near Stanley along the 4th of July Creek Road.

“The stories just come to me. And I thought this one might help resolve the mystery left hanging at the end of ‘Basque Moon,’ ” said Weston. “But I didn’t know it was going to involve multiple murders when I started working on it.”

Weston, who lives north of Hailey with her photographer husband Gerry Morrison, has long had a fanciful imagination coupled with a penchant for writing. She had her first story—about an angel—published in the Kellogg Evening News when she was 12.

She spent the next few decades working as a corporate business lawyer where she apparently saw enough of man’s bad side that her subsequent writings majored more on murders.

She began her Nellie and Moonshine series in 2015 when Five Star Publishing informed her Women Writing the West group that they were looking for Western novels written before 1920 with strong female leads.

“Nell and Moonshine have become a part of my family,” Weston said. “I feel like I know Nell and some of the other characters really well, although I’m getting deeper into them in my next novel, which is set in North Idaho. I already have people come up to me in restaurants asking when the next one is coming out.”

In addition to the library presentation, Weston will present her book at Craters’ of the Moon Moonfest celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing. She will discuss her book at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 20, at the Visitor’s Center, then head out on a book signing tour through Seattle and north Idaho.

Her debut mystery “Moonshadows” was a finalist for the Mary Sarton Literary Award and “Basque Moon” won the 2017 WILLA Literary Award in Historical Fiction.

Her third book was harder to write than the other two as it took a long time to figure out the plot. Weston walked through the Craters on wildflower and other hikes to research her book. She toured  Buffalo Cave, which is the farthest out that’s accessible to the public. And she borrowed from Limbert’s account of having to pile up rocks to get out of one cave.

“I had to imagine how people got from one place to another in a day when there weren’t paved roads,” she said.

Weston tries to write three to four days a week but not more than two hours a day as, she says, any longer is too tiring. She’s gone to sleep plenty of times wrestling with her characters’ next move. And she’s woken up numerous times with revelations about whodunnit.

“I don’t get up and write it down. I tell myself, ‘I have to remember. I have to remember.’ ”

Unless she’s sleeping, you won’t find her without a pencil in hand—she even corrects grammar and spelling mistakes in others’ books. And, even though she writes her own books on computer, she prints out the pages because she likes to touch what she’s writing.

The book that’s just about to come out is always her favorite.

Both Julie and her husband, who has photographed her book covers, like the fact that her books are set in Idaho.

“Idaho is such a beautiful state—to be able to have Julie write stories about it, particularly this valley, is an important thing to do,” said Morrison.

Weston agreed: “I like writing about Idaho and I want others to know about Idaho. It may be that I will get it on the map as Idaho, instead of Iowa.”

 

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