To Kill A Mockingbird

At last! “To Kill A Mockingbird” is one of my favorite books and, by an odd coincidence, I was rereading it on my Kindle when it was announced as the WSJ book club next selection. I couldn’t lay my hands on my hard copy, although I finally did. I prefer a hard copy if I have a choice. The book is a picture of a family in a small southern town in a period that I can relate to. Read and enjoy!


Lizzie Watkins in the Kitchen

In my historical mystery, Innocent Strangers, Lizzie Watkins  cooks delicious meals and tempting baked goods for guests of the Red Fox Inn.  Here is one of her recipes updated for use for today’s cooks.


Stir together in a bowl

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt

In sauce pan, melt 1 stick margarine or butter.  Add 1/2 cup Mazola or Wesson oil, 4Tb. cocoa and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a rapid bowl and pour over flour mixture.  Stir well.  Add 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk, 2 eggs, slightly beaten, 1 tsp. vanilla and t tsp. soda.  Pour into greased  15 1/2 x 10 1/2 greased pan.  Bake 20 min. at 400 degrees.


1 stick margarine or butter           1 box confectioners sugar

4 TB cocoa                                  1 tsp vanilla

6 Tb milk                                      1 cup chopped nuts

Combine butter, cocoa and milk.  Bring to a rapid boil.  Remove from heat and add to sugar, vanilla and nuts.  Beat well.  Spread on cake while hot.





Mystery Diploma

Missing among the family papers that I inherited was my father’s diploma from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1914.  That struck me as odd since the first thing most professionals do is hang their framed diploma on the wall of their office.  My father began his practice as the doctor for the mining village, Revere, for the W. J. Rainey Company.  He lived there and had a bungalow office.

Several years ago, a woman called me and asked me if I was the daughter of Holbert James Nixon.  I said that I was. She said that she had my father’s diploma.  I was dumbfounded!  She had bought a large framed picture at a church auction at Leckrone, a mining village not too far from Revere.  When she got home, she removed the picture from the frame to replace it with one of her own, and she found the diploma in back of it. How the diploma got there is a mystery, but it had hung covered in its frame for almost a hundred years!

The woman knew the diploma was important to someone, so she called the Uniontown Hospital to see if there were any living relatives of Holbert Nixon. She was referred to me. I was delighted to receive this family treasure and thankful that she was kind enough to take the trouble to find me, and to deliver the diploma.


Mansion on Cover

The beautiful mansion on the cover of my historical mystery, Innocent Strangers, is a picture of the main house of Sisters of St. Basil the Great in Uniontown.   It used to be the home of J. V. Thompson,, a wealthy coal operator.  One of the lead characters in the story is a coal baron and a picture of  home was a perfect illustration. The sisters kindly gave me permission to use it.


The Hatfields and the McCoys

The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys was the most famous feud in American history. I always vaguely knew about the feud, and I thought, wrongly, that it was a West Virginia hillbilly fracas.  In his book, “The Feud” Dean King tells the story of these two families, and it is more vicious than I ever imagined. 

“The sprawling Hatfield clan dominated the politics and social life of the Tug River Valley along the Kentucky-West Virginia border.  …The family would be long forgotten, however, were it not for the crimes committed by its sons against the equally prominent McCoy family.”]

Shortly after the Civil War, the feud may have started with the murder of Harmon McCoy.  He was accused of taking part in several wartime raids on Hatfield-aligned farms in the area.  Vengeance seeking Hatfields tracked him down and killed him.  The feud escalated with brutal killings on both sides.  Many murderous and bloody episodes are chronicled in the book.  Eventually, the governor of Kentucky, who backed the mostly Kentuckian McCoys, set out to restore order. Bounty hunters, paid by the state, effectively ended the feuding, when most of he Hatfields were driven from the area or sent to prison.