From The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge:
G’s was an old building that a few decades past had been a flower shop—when Fulda had a business district. Rundown on the outside, because maybe Gretta hadn’t gotten to exterior remodeling yet, it was shiny and new on the inside with a hint of rustic style. The bar was dark polished wood with brass trim, and the stools looked to be leather-covered. There was a jukebox, the old-fashioned kind with real 45s in it, but it wasn’t playing anything; maybe it was just for show. Two pool tables in the front had Coca Cola lights hanging over them, and several round dining tables spread out over a pitted, impressive hardwood floor were filled with customers—who had paused their conversations to regard Millie.
Millie was twenty-four and in her full deputy regalia, including her hat. The rest of the occupants—all men, save a bartender—were in jeans and t-shirts and in their forties to seventies, looking rough around all the edges and relaxed.
I read a random article on the MSN page one morning: “Obscure Laws in Every State.” I figured there might be something interesting I could use in a book. I tabbed over to Indiana and discovered that it is illegal for a bartender to give a buddy a free drink if he is charging everyone else. Handing over a complimentary beer could land you in jail with a hefty fine … if you’re reported, if a cop bothers to show up, and if the DA is willing to prosecute.
I wanted to use that outdated law somehow in one of my mystery novels. I just had to create the vehicle for it. So I built a tavern in rural Spencer County, Indiana, in Sheriff Piper Blackwell’s jurisdiction. I made it rundown on the outside, slick and shiny on the inside—as the owner had paid for a serious remodel, sprinkled in some customers, and created the bartender, a retired school teacher in need of something to do with her free time. I put records in the old-time jukebox and plopped the whole of it on a county road.
Then I set a chapter of The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge in this bar, put that obscure law into play, and it grew into a subplot that wrapped itself into the novel. There’s a murder in the book, else it wouldn’t be a murder mystery, and that crime is elsewhere and serves as the main action of the novel. G’s Bar is just for a little color, to let me have fun with an obscure law, and to show that a rural sheriff’s department never has only one crime to handle.
The action in Jerusalem Ridge switches between rural Spencer County, IN, and across the river in the woods in Kentucky, a spot where cell phones don’t work. I consulted various experts in those Kentucky backwoods, and my law enforcement and DA buddies to make sure I got all the details right. I detest mysteries that don’t follow real-world practices and places. Sure, I’m a writer, I make stuff up. But the laws of geography and courts … I make sure I keep it factual.
I had fun surfing and ogling tavern online menus so I could establish the offerings at G’s Bar. And I conducted a quick poll on the price of “beer night specials” so I knew what to charge at my fictional establishment.
G’s Bar is a place I might like to visit. The music on the jukebox is good, aged and rhythmic, the tunes I like to hear. The pool tables are up at the front, and I enjoy playing pool, even though I am not good at it. I don’t care for beer, but once a year I order a strawberry daiquiri for my birthday … except this year, Covid closings, you know.
The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge by Jean Rabe
Sheriff Piper Blackwell’s three-day vacation with old Army buddies ends in tragedy. At the same time, a vile hate crime along a county road enrages her department. Their forces divided, Piper and her deputies must solve both cases before tensions boil and threaten the rural fabric of Spencer County, Indiana. Only eight months on the job, the young sheriff must weave together clues to uncover both a killer and a secret that could scar her soul.
Jean Rabe has written 40 novels and more than 100 short stories, has made the USA Today Bestseller list a few times, and lives in Central Illinois surrounded by cornfields and railroad tracks. When not writing, she games and spends time with her cadre of dogs. She’s good at tossing tennis balls. A former newspaper reporter and bureau chief, she penned a true crime novel with F. Lee Bailey: When the Husband is the Suspect.
The link to The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge can be found here.
Jean Rabe’s Amazon author page can be found here.
My personal webpage is at www.jeanrabe.com