Last Friday, the tenth book in my Mogi Franklin Mystery Series, War Train, became available on Amazon.
The story is centered around the Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico, a famous Fred Harvey House built in 1898 by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. A hundred yards from the tracks, the huge Spanish hacienda-styled hotel was built specifically for train passengers, but it also served the surrounding communities. Teddy Roosevelt held the first Rough Riders Reunion there in 1899.
It was a large, famous, and fabulous hotel in its first two decades but fell on hard times during the Depression. It came roaring back with Pearl Harbor and the years of World War II. A few million soldiers were fed in the lunch room on the way to training camps, military assignments, or on their way to Europe or the Pacific. On some occasions, the Harvey Girls took sandwich fixings out to tables on the sidewalk, made sandwiches, and handed them to GIs through the train windows as the train paused as it pulled through.
After the war, the railroad-based hotel business dissolved under an America that had fallen in love with cars and busses. The Castaneda limped along mostly as a vacant building until 2014, when it was purchased by Allan Affeldt, the restorer of the Las Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona. Affeldt began restoring the hotel in 2016 and it reopened in 2019. I was able to see the hotel under construction in 2017 (Affeldt hosted an open house), took an official tour a year after that, then visited in August, on the way back from Texas. It looks like it’s doing fine. Check out the accommodations at castanedahotel.org.
The historical mystery that anchors the Mogi story is a bank robbery that occurs in 1943, in Las Vegas, a block or so from the Castaneda, and from which two robbers and a bag full of fresh one hundred-dollar bills vanish without a trace. Mogi and Jennifer get involved in the present day when Jennifer becomes a summer student in an architectural program researching the building’s features before the interior of the hotel is demolished in preparation for remodeling. A hidden attic is discovered, and inside the attic is a locked trunk from 1945. When it’s opened, a few hundred-dollar bills fall out and the real mystery begins.
You’ll enjoy it, especially if you like World War II memories. As with my other books, if you would like to try it out before buying, the first two chapters are available for reading at DonaldWillerton.com.
In other news, the two books that were finalists in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Contest didn’t win any prizes, but it’s nice to know that someone other than friends read my adult novels.
Also, the rework of my latest manuscript, The Biggest Cowboy In The World, has been finished. It’s considerably smaller and better than my first edition. I’m forcing myself to wait a month before doing a final read-through, and then I’ll submit it again.
I don’t know what I’ll be working on next, but the brilliant colors of fall are fading away, we’re into Indian Summer, and Thanksgiving is coming. The weather will get colder, which means fires in my wood stove, which means I’ll be camped out in my recliner, watching the flames. That means more book reading time, contemplative time, and I’m sure to find a plot somewhere.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.