March 19, 2017

Settling of Idaho Leads to Inspiration with Resident, Julie Weston



Idaho is a state of contrasts—from farmland to mines to sagebrush steppe to rocky mountains, to blue lakes and white water rivers.  Shoshone, Nez Perce and other Indian tribes peopled the varied geography.  They met, guided, and saved Lewis and Clark on their expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase in 1804-05.  And then the Indians were swept away.

Forested and mineral filled mountains and deep lakes—Coeur d’Alene and Pend O’Reille—fill the panhandle of northern Idaho.  Rolling hills of fertile earth and high plateaus of camas and the tribal lands of the Nez Perce comprise the large batholith of central Idaho.  From there, the land turns to high desert and more mountains, this time the granite peaks of south central Idaho, and the Stanley Basin, where the Salmon River begins its flow to the north as the River of No Return.  Farther south lies more farmland irrigated by the Snake River. 

In the mid to late 1800s, thousands of settlers arrived in Idaho, both north and south, mostly searching for gold, which they found in abundance for a short period.  When the ready gold played out, only the hard rock miners stayed, digging deep for lead, silver and zinc with tunnels and shafts into the mountains and rock crushers and smelters on top.  Loggers cut the forests and farmers settled the fertile Palouse area in north central Idaho, and their winter wheat farming continues to this day. The southern farmers grow not only the famous potatoes of Idaho, but also range sheep and cattle and raise sugar beets.
My mother’s family arrived here in the 1870s, on their way to Oregon.  Weary and ill, they stopped in Boise City.  My forebears cleared sagebrush from the town square, claimed land for settlement near by, worked in the mines of the Wood River Valley and freighted supplies to other mines north and west of the Stanley Basin, where they also spent summers searching for valuable metals.  My grandmother and my mother were both born in Idaho.

I was raised in the mining town of Kellogg, in Idaho’s panhandle.  Although I left Idaho to attend school and law school in Seattle, Washington, Idaho has always been the home of my heart.  I now live here again, this time in Hailey, a south central town located near the first American destination ski resort:  Sun Valley. Skiing has been and still is a passion of my husband and me.

 My first book is a memoir of place:  The Good Times Are All Gone Now:  Life, Death and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).  This book tells stories of my ancestors in Idaho, of the mining in north Idaho over 100 years, and of my growing up years in a town famous for its silver and lead and notorious for its brothels, gambling and drinking.  This book won Honorable Mention in the 2009 Idaho Book of the Year Award.



Nearly all of my writing—short stories, essays, and books—has been about Idaho and the stories I learned from my own family, as well as from the miners and characters of my home town and the towns of Hailey, Ketchum, and Stanley, and research.  The beauty of the state has influenced my characters and me, but so have the fierce landscapes, the outdoors, the mining, the prejudices of the state’s people, the sheepherding, and the contrasts reflected in its geography.



My next two books are mysteries, set in the 1920s in the high desert and mountains of central Idaho.  Nellie Burns, a photographer, comes to Idaho from Chicago and is based on an early woman photographer in the panhandle.  Her black Labrador dog, Moonshine, fits right in with all the dogs of Ketchum.  The Chinese characters; Rosy, a one-eyed miner; Charlie Asteguigoiri, a Basque sheriff; and Goldie, owner of a boarding house, could have stepped right out of the streets of Hailey and Ketchum, where the action takes place, in MOONSHADOWS (Five Star Publishing, 2015).  Kirkus Reviews said:  This debut mystery from Weston authentically portrays the gritty mining towns and the wild beauty of Idaho while presenting a challenging puzzle. Ridley Pearson called it “A gorgeously written, taut mystery.”  It was a Finalist in the May Sarton Literary Award and True West Magazine named it Best of the Rest in mystery.


My second mystery, BASQUE MOON (Five Star Publishing, 2016), set in the Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains of the Stanley Basin, follows many of the same characters, and adds a few more to the Idaho pantheon, including sheepherders and cowboys.  Kirkus Reviews called this one a “rip-roarin’ Idaho yarn.”
 Nellie and Moonshine and the sheriff are now embarked on an adventure in Craters of the Moon, a national monument since 1924, finding bodies and terror in caves and desolate lava fields, in the third mystery, still in process.

All photographs, including the cover photos, are by Gerry Morrison.  To enjoy more of his work, visit www.gerrymorrisonphotography.com .  The painting on the cover of my memoir was done by my mother, Marie Whitesel, in 1961.

To learn more about my books, stories and essays, visit www.julieweston.com  .

If you crave mystery set in 1920’s Idaho, I am offering one lucky winner his or her choice of MOONSHADOWS or BASQUE MOON and an 8x10 of one of the photos above.  Please leave a comment with your preferred contact info to be entered to win!     

25 comments:

Robin Bayne said...

One of my best friends just moved to Boise, thanks for the lovely description.

Nancy Oswald said...

Thanks for sharing about Idaho. The photos are magnificent. I loved the book Moonshadows and look forward to reading more Julie Weston Idaho-set books!

Linda Thorne said...

I almost moved to Boise, Idaho in my early thirties. My brother and his family lived there and I was tired of the heat in Arizona. I some times wonder how different my life would've been if I'd made that move, but a few years later I did move to California, and then a year later on to Colorado. I enjoyed your post.

Maggie King said...

Thanks for the inviting description and pictures of your home state.

Mary Deal said...

Your information shows how much you know about your home state. It shows you have not just great knowledge but have done a lot of research. My best high school friend moved to Kuna and I wish I had a chance to visit her and Idaho before she passed. Have always felt an attraction to the state and almost got to Sun Valley once on a road trip, but one of we three travelers became ill and we had to cut out trip short. I'm still wishing to visit your state. Please do not include me in your drawing if you cannot give the book through Kindle if I am chosen. I am in the midst of a major residential move. The last time I moved, my mail was so messed up, they even lost checks. I would love to read about your state through your writings, but feel I should remove myself from your drawing.

Andrea Downing said...

Julie, your descriptions of Idaho make it absolutely come alive for me, and give the setting a character as important in Moonshadows as the people who inhabit it. The description here is equally intense--love it, and of course, I just have to drive down the Teton Pass to enjoy it as well. Thanks for sharing.

Susan J Tweit said...

It's always a delight to hear more of your family story, Julie, and to see Idaho through your eyes, and through Gerry's photos!

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

Moonshadows is a fantastic book!

MaggieB said...

Your books are a treasure, Julie. How beautifully and lovingly you create word pictures to share your home state with the rest of us. You entice anyone with a passion for being outdoors to come visit and explore Idaho. And, in the meantime, we want to read your books for a deeper insight about the people and places in earlier days, perhaps still to be found in updated settings. You write absolutely spendid books of a place you love and include photos to prove why. In doing so, you instill in your readers a love and appreciation of the old West and its people, along with a curiosity to know more about them and the places where we live or where our ancestors settled. Thank you!

TL Cooper said...

Julie, I lived in Boise for 13 years and reading your post made me want to plan a trip back to see how things have changed and to visit friends.
Did you ever attend Murder in the Grove, the mystery writers and readers conference that used to be held in Boise?

Renaissance Women said...

I've been to Idaho briefly in the mid-1970s, but was impressed even then. Thank you for sharing so many pieces of your beloved state. It shows. Doris

Jan Maher said...

Looking forward to Craters of the Moon! Both to the story you will wordweave within its pages and the stunning photography I'm sure it will feature on the cover.

Belinda Anderson said...

I visited Idaho when I was 12, and Julie's writing -- rich and detailed as always -- reminds me of that great experience. I admire how many facets of Julie's home state inform her writing.

traveler said...

Your descriptive and informative post made Idaho come alive. The photos are wonderful. Your books would be greatly enjoyed as they sound captivating and unique. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

What a fascinating and lovely ode to Idaho, a place where I would enjoy visiting. Your novels are to be cherished and savored. Thank you for this interesting and beautiful exploration of your state and your books.

Linda Swift said...

Julie, I enjoyed your post very much. So many of the places you have named are familiar to me. Two of my aunts left Kentucky to live in the Shoshone area many years ago. One aunt's husband was principal of several schools in the area before he passed away. He tried to convince my dad who was also a principal to come out but he didn't. My life would have been so different if I had grown up there. The other aunt married an Idaho rancher. My mother visited them several times after she became a widow and loved the state but somehow my husband and I never found the time. Now I regret not taking time somehow. I have jewelry that my aunt and uncle made from the stones they found and designed. And many family photos brought on their visits back to Kentucky.
Your books sound wonderful and I wish you continued success with every one.
LindaSwift1950@gmail.com

Julie said...

Thanks for your comments: Robin, Nancy, Linda T, Maggie, Mary D, Andrea D, Susan J, Kelly B, Maggie B, TLCooper, Doris, Jan, Belinda, traveler, petite and Linda S! Idaho IS a special place--especially the outdoors. I'm sorry some of you have never been able to visit, but do think about coming, if you can. And the outdoors is what spurred my stories about Nellie Burns and crew!

Betsy Swanson said...

I've truely enjoyed Julie Weston's Books.....her love, descriptions, narratives and care of her Native Idaho are very evident. I, too, have been in Idaho for over 60 years, as my family has had a summer home at Priest Lake up in the Panhandle.

My Father and Mother lived for several years in the mining town of Wallace during the 1930's. they had many stories and tales to tell....thank you for creating this writer's blog.

I'll share with my Book Club in Seattle and my new one in Spokane, WA.

Betsy

Darlene Dyer said...

In both Moonshadows and Basque Moon, Julie Weston paints a true portrait of what life was like in the 20s and 30s in the Idaho mountain towns of Hailey and Stanley. But better yet, her narrative is compelling because of Nellie's (the main character's) somewhat accidental involvement in crime solving. Nellie's pursuit of her photography career is a legitimate "lens" for her as an outsider (city gal) to see things the regular townfolk miss. These novels are wondrous page-turners for me, and I can’t wait for the next Nellie and Moonshine adventure!

Betsy said...

Thank you for Nellie Burns' adventures!! Ketchum is our new home and I get a good perspective of the history and way of life in the 1920s from these books.

Anjali Banerjee said...

Julie, what a wonderful blog post! I love your writing, always have. I thought Moonshadows was absolutely amazing, and I've got Basque Moon to read! I hope to see you soon.

Dani Mazzotta said...

Love Julie's descriptive style of writing and the way she captures the true essence of Central Idaho in her books.

Randi Samuelson-Brown said...


Very interesting article and back story of your family. Thanks for putting this on your mailing list - 'cause it's how I knew to take a look for Idaho (and other states as well).


Julie said...

Dear Betsy, Darlene, Betsy, Anjali and Dani, Thank you, friends, for your comments. I am so pleased you have enjoyed my Nellie Burns stories! I know you all love Idaho, too!

Linn Kincannon said...

I love the characters in Julie's mysteries. They are authentic representations of Idahoans I have met! And her descriptions of Central Idaho capture the beauty and wild character that still exist there today.