The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

April 14, 2010

Thomas Black's Seattle

Today's episode of Detectives Around the World Week, sponsored by the ever-clever Jen Forbus at Jen's Book Thoughts, finds us in Seattle with our PI, Thomas Black.

Thursday afternoon traffic probably wouldn't be bad, but the Seattle area was so congested and there were so few alternate routes, it took the freeways only a heartbeat to choke up like a fat boy in an all-you-can-eat restaurant.
                                                         (Deception Pass)
The mental image many people conjure of Seattle includes the Space Needle, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier somewhere beyond the city itself, maybe even the old Kingdome that was imploded a while back. All that stuff certainly draws (or drew, in the case of the Kingdome) tourists, but it's all background noise for many Seattleites. While author Earl Emerson, in his Thomas Black mystery series, ensures that the reader gets to visit Seattle, he avoids the trap of allowing too many notable tourist spots to overwhelm his story. Let's take a quick trip around Seattle and maybe see just a little of this city as Thomas sees it, instead of the average tourist. That means no Space Needle, no Mount Rainier, but places either close to where he lives or works, places where his interests might take him, and places where he goes while on the job.

PI Thomas Black lives in a "modest frame house off Roosevelt in the University District." It might look something like the house in this picture if this house had roses growing there. Thomas enjoys biking and growing roses, so he probably takes time away from his work to occasionally visit The Woodland Park Rose Garden. (Yes, that IS a McCartney rose in the picture.) Don't let that "rainy city" nickname fool you into staying away. Seattle doesn't even make the top ten list for American cities with the most rainfall. In fact, Seattle has a moderate climate that is perfect for roses and gardening.
And since the garden is attached to The Woodland Park Zoo, he might also want to take in the meerkats coming to the zoo this May. Even if he doesn't want to, I have a feeling that Kathy, his wife, would make sure he doesn't miss seeing these little guys.

Thomas and his wife, Kathy, a lawyer, have their offices on the fourth floor of the Mutual Life Building in the historic Pioneer Square district. On the first floor of the building is Magic Mouse Toys, a 7,000-square-foot package of toys, run by a "professional child." After the way Thomas played around with the electroshock weapon in The Million-Dollar Tattoo, it isn't too much of a stretch to imagine him whiling away the odd hour in a store as convenient and inviting as this one:

Pioneer Square isn't really a square at all. It's about 90 acres of art, history, music, dance, and shopping. There's an old street car and an observation tower and - wait for it - bookstores! Yes, bricks-and-mortar bookstores that still sell those paper-and-ink relics so dear to a book-blogger's heart. In fact, our April Indie Store of the Month, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, is one of those bookstores found in Pioneer Square. The square is busy during the day -- you wouldn't want to miss Seattle branch of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park --  but at night is when the place really comes alive with live music and dancing.

At one point in The Million-Dollar Tattoo, Thomas takes a 30-mile bike ride that takes him through the University of Washington Arboretum, which has been called "one of the largest, and most loved, historic park holdings within the Seattle Parks system." Here are a few reasons why Thomas would enjoy the ride:

After stretching and showering, I met Kathy at Rosita's, a Mexican restaurant near Green Lake, where you were served all the hot tortillas you could eat while you waited.
                                                       The Million-Dollar Tattoo
Earl Emerson didn't make this up. There really is a Rosita's at Green Lake, and I got hungry just looking at the photographs of the food they serve up.

Thomas' fellow PI and client in The Million-Dollar Tattoo is Snake Slezak. Snake has his office in the International District of Seattle. Formerly called Chinatown, the district is now a neighborhood of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians businesses and homes. Besides the beautiful Chinatown Gate, there are parks, art galleries, a hotel, grocer, festivals, and much more. But one of the pictures that caught my eye was of the beautifully painted columns supporting the I-5 freeway.

Closer to Thomas' home is the Hotel Meany, where Thomas goes for a job interview. It was the Hotel Meany when the book was published but now is called Hotel Deca. Built in the early 1930s, the building is art deco. The owners began a massive renovation project in the late 1990s, restoring marble floors and giving the entire hotel a neo-deco look, right down to the art and bedding in the individual rooms. And for a boutique hotel in a major city, the prices are as good or better than any of the chain hotels around Chicago. Should I make it to Seattle, I think I'd like to stay here. It's only about four miles from downtown, is close to the university and its attractions, and has panoramic views. And look here what they have for sale online: art deco bed linens. I really think Thomas and Kathy need to spend a getaway weekend here.

As a PI, Thomas visits all parts of the city though, not just swank hotels, parks, and toy stores.
Reluctantly Elmer sat up and directed me to Second Avenue, and then to the Millionair Club at the corner of Second and Lenora. It was a concrete block building with about a dozen men leaning against the wall or standing on the corner waiting for employers in automobiles to come by with work."
                                                       The Million-Dollar Tattoo
The Millionair Club is a charity whose mission is to provide day labor and employment-readiness services for the working homeless in Seattle and King County. The charity fosters dignity by providing opportunities for the working homeless to get back on their feet and be part of their community. The charity screens its workers, and last year more than 4300 homeowners, investors, and businesses hired workers through the Millionair Club. And while this charity does fine work, the truth remains that, as Christ noted, the poor are with us always. You have only to read a couple of posts on Street Stories, a blog by Rick Reynolds, to feel your heart break for the homeless of Seattle and everywhere.
About the only project my neighbor Horace ever took on that I approved of was driving down here a couple of times a year to pick up men for the heavy work in his yard...
                                                       The Million-Dollar Tattoo

Thomas is a resident of Seattle. His cases don't necessarily include murder at all of the usual tourist stops. From the waterside of the Coleman Ferry dock to watching dead salmon being tossed like softballs at Pike Place Market, Thomas Black covers the city of Seattle. And it is thanks to Thomas's creator, author Earl Emerson, that the reader's experience of Seattle never feels like a tourist's map. It feels like Thomas's home.

THE CONTEST
First, the answer to yesterday's puzzle: It takes ten $100,000 bills (the ones with a portrait of Woodrow Wilson) to buy a million-dollar tattoo. Although if you really, really have to have a tattoo, I'm sure you can get one for a much more reasonable price.

TODAY'S PUZZLE
There are twelve books in the Thomas Black mystery series. Identify those books which include actual Washington locations in the title. Be careful, this is tricky. If you need help, visit Stop, You're Killing Me! for a list of all titles.

Post your answer in the comments any time before tomorrow's post. Then come back tomorrow and Friday to find a new puzzle and post your answer. Everyone who posts a correct solution to each day's mystery will be entered into a drawing for a wonderful prize. The more puzzles you solve, the more chances you get to win. For example, if you post the correct answer to three out of the five puzzles this week, you will have three chances at the prize. And naturally, you must post your correct solution before the answer is revealed in the following day's post, or it won't count. (Today will be a busy day for me; I may not check answers before late afternoon.)

The winner will receive a copy of Cape Disappointment, the most recent book featuring Thomas Black,  and a $35 gift certificate courtesy of Aunt Agatha's New & Used Mysteries, Detection and True Crime Books, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Aunt Agatha's just happens to also be the Indie Store of the Month, Whenever you're in or near Ann Arbor, Michigan, be sure to visit.

Also, remember to check Jen's blog for the schedule of events honoring Detectives Around the World Week all over the crime fiction blogosphere this week.  I bet somebody else is giving away freebies, too! And if you haven't voted in the final round of World's Favorite Detective, what's the holdup? Marlowe needs your vote!

14 comments:

  1. Twenty years ago, I spent a month in Seattle for work and it only rained one day while I was there. Wish I'd gone to the arboretum; it looks gorgeous.

    This is tricky. I'd say 3 titles are exact matches for names of actual places: Cape Disappointment, Poverty Bay and Deception Pass. BUT, there's a place called Fat Tuesday's Tavern in Vancouver, WA and that's awfully close to the title Fat Tuesday. So, if you don't mind the apostrophe, s, and the word "tavern," I'd say 4 titles have names of real places.

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  2. This is an amazing post, Naomi! I loved visiting Seattle this way. If you ever decide to take a trip out that way, let me know...I wanna go, too - we can tour the parks! Meerkats are hilarious. I saw some at the San Diego Zoo. I could have watched them for hours. I came home with a ton of pictures of them, too!

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  3. Naomi-I have to say what a lovely job you've done with this. I have only been to Seattle once but this takes me back. Thanks!

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  4. As far as I can tell, only three of Emerson's Thomas Black books use real Washington place names in their titles: POVERTY BAY, DECEPTION PASS, and CAPE DISAPPOINTMENT.

    -- Jeff

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  5. This post has me homesick! I used to live in Eugene, but my brother lives in Seattle and I used to go up there often enough. Sigh.

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  6. Poverty Bay
    Deception Pass
    Cape Disappointment

    There is a Portland Laughter but no Portland Laugher.

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  7. 3

    Poverty Bay
    Deception Pass
    Cape Disappointment

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  8. Poverty Bay, Fat Tuesday (if you include Washington DC which I'm sure you don't), Deception Pass, Cape Disappointment

    This was tough. I probably messed up totally. LOL

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  9. Oh, man. I must have made this one too tough or too tricky. Kudos to Pop Culture Nerd and to Kay for creativity though. But no one had thus far identified all of the titles with an actual Washington (state) location in the title. I did warn you that this one is tricky. I will now add that the secret to one location / title is hidden in this post. Everyone feel free to try again!

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  10. The Rainy City
    Poverty Bay
    Deception Pass
    Cape Disappointment

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  11. All righty! Carol M has posted the first, and thus far only, correct answer to this puzzle. Congrats, Carol M!

    Anyone else care to step up and try it again?

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  12. Jeff Pierce, you have hit upon why this puzzle is tricky. I didn't say "place names,"I said "actual Washington locations."

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  13. Wow, Naomi, you might have me stumped here. I thought I was right the first time, that there are only three actual Washington locations featured in Emerson's titles: Poverty Bay, off Woodmont Beach in South King County; Deception Pass, off Whidbey Island, northwest of Seattle; and Cape Disappointment, a headland in the extreme southwest corner of the state. All of those are featured in my copy of James M. Phillips' book, "Washington State Places Names" (1971).

    But let me try this game once more, assuming that you're REALLY endeavoring to be tricky.

    In that case, I guess that "The Rainy City" could qualify along with the three previously mentioned spots, since one of Seattle's nicknames, and therefore could be considered an "actual Washington location," though it's not the proper name of a place.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

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  14. Aha! Jeff Pierce has indeed solved the puzzle!

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