In 1994, New York Times reporter Lindsey Gruson wrote a story about the apparent suicides of two prominent cattle breeders, one in Maryland and one in rural New York’s Finger Lakes region. They were puzzling deaths, possibly linked to insurance fraud, but suicide seemed an exaggerated response for relatively minor offenses. If there were hidden truths, they eluded Gruson and law enforcement investigators.
Not a story that would have caught my attention. I was a journalist and PR professional who had worked in California for decades, but there was a connection. My family had owned farms in New York's Otisco Valley since the 1800s, just a few miles from where one of the deaths occurred. My grandmother taught school there at the beginning of the twentieth century. She and my grandfather ran a country store that sold everything from pickles to pickaxes. My mother fished and speared frogs and attended a one-room school.
The Times clipping sat in my file for over fifteen years before I sat down at the computer to write. I thought it would be the story of a contemporary journalist who solves the mystery of unexplained deaths, but the more I became immersed in my fictional tale, the more sinuous and complex it became.
I began to see new characters, extraordinary women who might have lived there in the time of my grandmother and mother. I saw a story of how a gold cache buried during World War I could have affected three generations, its malign legacy leading to modern-day murder. As it unfolded, Thread of Gold became a story of past and present.