Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Eliot Pattison

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Eliot Pattison

We are delighted to welcome author Eliot Pattison to Omnimystery News today.

Eliot's fourth mystery in his series set in the years before the Revolutionary Way is Blood of the Oak (Counterpoint; March 2016 hardcover and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to talk with him about the book.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to your series character, Duncan McCallum. What is it about him that appeals to you as a writer?

Eliot Pattison
Photo provided courtesy of
Eliot Pattison

Eliot Pattison: Duncan is a symbol of the battered, besieged people who came to America, voluntarily or otherwise, in the 18th century to start new lives. Raised in the robust, spirited traditions of the Scottish Highlands, he was studying in Holland when his family was destroyed and his life shattered in the violent wave of change brought by the last Jacobite rebellion. Duncan is the perfect reflection of the outcast, abandoned people who began populating America during this period — and who played a vital role in creating a nation that was markedly different from those of Europe.

OMN: Tell us something about Blood of the Oak that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

EP: Ultimately the biggest mystery probed in the Blood of the Oak isn't that of the underlying murders but of how the many disparate characters appearing in the book — natives from dying tribes, exiles trying to leave the Old World behind, refugees from religious and political persecution — somehow congealed into a radically new breed of people called Americans. The pre-Revolutionary War setting of the novel is a fascinating time when the seeds of massive social and political change were being planted. That process, and that setting, provides rich material for a mystery novel.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories? What have been some of the more interesting or demanding topics to research?

EP: You might say I've been studying 18th century history ever since I started collecting arrowheads as a young boy on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and that curiosity led me to many history classrooms and libraries. I have my own private library on the period that is constantly expanding, with new and out-of-print books. I have also made a point of visiting all the geographies featured in this series. There is a great wealth of preserved heritage sites in the region that have helped transport me to this 1700s.

I am committed to keeping my backdrops as authentic as possible. If I am going to introduce British marines into my story, first I want to know the color pattern of their uniforms. A tobacco plantation features in this story, but before I began to describe it I made sure I understood how tobacco was grown and transported in this period. Without question the most difficult aspect to research was the tribal origin and cultures of the African slaves who are included in the cast of this book. The most exciting, and most melancholy, topic in all my Duncan McCallum books has been the vibrant, deeply spiritual culture of the woodland tribes, who are glimpsing their own extinction during these years.

OMN: How did this most recent book in the series come to be titled?

EP: The title Blood of the Oak derives from a passage in the book and reflects the recognition — implicit in the early pages, more obvious later — that those living close to the land, whether woodland natives, Africans, or European frontiersmen, share the bond of nature. That spiritual closeness to the natural world shapes these people and, as I suggest in the book, had a role in defining what it meant to be American.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests?

EP: I have a never-sated appetite for exploring historical and natural sites, which are very conspicuously reflected in Blood of the Oak. This means that during my travels I might be found with an 18th century journal in one hand and bird-watching binoculars in the other.

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Eliot Pattison has been described as a "writer of faraway mysteries," a label which is particularly apt for someone whose travel and interests span such a broad spectrum. After reaching a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica, Pattison stopped logging his miles and set his compass for the unknown. Today he avoids well-trodden paths whenever possible, in favor of wilderness, lesser known historical venues, and encounters with indigenous peoples.

An international lawyer by training, early in his career Pattison began writing on legal and business topics, producing several books and dozens of articles published on three continents. In the late 1990's he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery.

A former resident of Boston and Washington, Pattison resides on an 18th century farm in Pennsylvania with his wife, three children, and an ever-expanding menagerie of animals.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at EliotPattison.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Blood of the Oak by Eliot Pattison

Blood of the Oak by Eliot Pattison

A Mystery of Revolutionary America

Publisher: Counterpoint

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

America, 1765. Duncan McCallum is thrust into the throes of the Stamp Tax dissent, which marked the beginning of organized resistance to English rule. Duncan follows ritualistic murders that are strangely connected to both the theft of an Iroquois artifact and a series of murders and kidnappings in the network of secret runners supporting the nascent committees of correspondence — which are engaged in the first organized political dissent across colonial borders. He encounters a powerful conspiracy of highly placed English aristocrats who are bent on crushing all dissent, is captured by its agents, and sent into slavery in Virginia beside the kidnapped runners. Inspired by an aged native American slave and new African friends Duncan decides not just to escape but to turn their own intrigue against the London lords.

Blood of the Oak by Eliot Pattison


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