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  • Writer's pictureJames Sargent

California Redwoods: A Mickey Mathews Mystery

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Blog Item from California Redwoods #1

September 15, 2022

Mickey Mathews, the celebrated novelist and investigative writer, took on a cold case for the first time over Christmas of 1945. Sara Clarkston, his wife Patty’s aunt, had disappeared in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve in 1933. No trace of Sara was ever found. Rather than take his best friend Frank Tuttle, whose new job as Chief of Security at Michigan Normal College began the day after New Year’s, Mickey decided to go it alone. He knew Patty’s cousin Chet Clarkston was eager to help solve the mystery of his mother’s disappearance. On Thursday afternoon, December 27, Mickey’s flight landed in San Francisco, and the dangerous adventure began.

Excerpt from Chapter 1, “California, Here I come”:

Retrieving the suitcase [at San Francisco Airport], Mickey accompanied Chet down a hallway filled with travelers of every size, shape, and description, most of them dressed like they arrived from colder climates. Men wore suits or sports coats, mostly blue or gray, and carried coats. Women were attired in dresses, high heels, and coats, wore their hair fashionably styled.

Emerging through a set of double doors onto a sidewalk, Mickey saw a line of cabs waiting. Many of the drivers were lounging on the passenger side, beckoning to possible customers.

Standing outside the door in the shadows, Mickey noticed a big man with a flat nose and a jutting chin in a black suit. A Stetson pulled over his eyes barely exposed the stare he directed at him. When Mickey looked again, Black Suit was striding to the end of the taxi stand. There he boarded a black four-door Oldsmobile.

Chet pointed to a muscular man in a peaked cap beside a yellow taxi. He crossed his arms. “That’s Ted Barnes. He usually works the Capitol. He’s a nephew of the doorman, Eddie Ballenger. They’re good guys. Ted fought in France. Let’s go!”

At the prewar Checker, Chet bubbled with enthusiasm. “My cousin, Mickey Mathews, from Michigan. Mickey, this is Ted Barnes. I’ve ridden his cab all over town.”

Barnes, an inch taller than Mickey, had dark eyes, kinky close-cropped black hair, and a scar on his left cheek. His wide smile said welcome. “How are you, Mister Mickey?”

Mickey nodded, shaking hands. He and Chet slipped into the back seat, and Ted hurried around to the front, sliding behind the steering with its blue knob. Chet said, “We’re going to the Capitol.” He glanced at Mickey. “Later, we’re going to investigate about…my mother.”

Grinning, Chet added, “Mickey’s a writer. He writes murder mysteries!”

Ted peered at Mickey through the rearview mirror. “You a detective, or something?”

Mickey chuckled. “Or something.”…

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