Murder on Frequency was inspired by many of my friends in the amateur radio community. Ever since The Easter Egg Murder came out, they have been asking me, “When are you going to write about ham radio?”
It hadn’t occurred to me to do that, but the more I thought about it, the more intriguing it was. But how could I possibly work that in? It’s true that I’m a ham radio operator (KE5FVS) but I’ve never gone beyond my original Technician’s class license. I run a “net” once a week and talk to a lot of hams on that day. I belong to four different radio clubs in the area, and my husband served for four years as the New Mexico Section Manager for ARRL (that’s the American Radio Relay League.) But did I really know enough about the subject to include it as part of a mystery?
In early September 2014, Don and I traveled to Alamogordo, New Mexico for their annual “Hamfest” over Labor Day weekend. We arrived on Friday afternoon and had dinner that evening with a couple who are friends of ours. The husband was, at that time, serving as New Mexico Section Manager. The conversation turned to what would be the topic of my next book. At the time, I hadn’t even finished the second book, but I was close. Once again, our friend Bill said, “Why don’t you make it about ham radio?”
And that’s when the idea was born. You have to have a good beginning to capture the reader’s interest, so we came up with the idea that a ham would be out in his ham shack late one night, seeking someone to come back to his call for contact. Finally, someone would answer his call and they would begin to have a conversation. Then, abruptly, this new fellow who had answered the call would just disappear. The old ham couldn’t get him back, no matter how hard he tried. But he had his first name and his call sign. With that, he could look up his full name and figure out where he lived. But when he looks up the name and sees his contact information, he also sees something that stuns him. The man he was just talking to is supposed to have died at least five years ago! Now I had something, so I went to work on it as soon as we returned home the next evening. I didn’t expect it to take two and a half years to get it written and published, but that’s the way these things go.
Even if you aren’t an amateur radio operator, you can still enjoy this book. It features several of the characters you have come to know from the other books, and you’ll meet a few new ones. And it also gives you information about ham radio and the people who love being involved with this hobby.
In November 2017, Murder on Frequency was awarded the 2017 NM/AZ Book Award for Best Cozy Mystery. My squeal of delight could be heard beyond the banquet hall that night!
I hope you decide to read the book. I’ll be anxious to hear what you think about it!
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Patricia Smith Wood