One of the things a writer friend of mine says that people always ask her is where she gets her idea. If you’re like she and I, it’s not getting the ideas, it finding the time to write them all.
The story for Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold grew out of the location. Having driven through Durango on several occasions, I loved the place. Doing research on the history of Durango brought up the city’s connection with Wells Fargo. And reading about Wells Fargo I found that the company in the era of my story did in fact, have detectives.
Wow, what a great idea – my hero, Wes, could be a detective for Wells Fargo. Many of the incidents that happened or are related to my hero as a Wells Fargo detective actually occurred (although I’ve used my hero, with changes in times and place). This is why I love research.
The Wells Fargo connection also gave me some of Wes’ backstory/background. To communicate between office and various other businesses in San Francisco (giving me where my hero grew up), Wells Fargo employed boys to carry messages at twenty-five cents a message. This would be Wes’ first job, connecting him with the company. This allowed Wes to advance in the company eventually becoming a guard for the iconic green box (green painted box wooden box bound with strap iron and sealed with a hasp and lock) which became a trade mark of the company. His foiling of a robbery ended up with him becoming a detective for the company.
Much to my surprise I found that several undercover Wells Fargo detectives held jobs as deputy sheriffs, or even country sheriffs while actually working for Wells Fargo. So Wes’ job working for the smelters isn’t as odd as it might seem.
The most famous Wells Fargo detective was James Hume, responsible for the capture of Black Bart, the notorious stagecoach bandit know for leaving poetic messages at the site of his robberies. At what turned out to be Black Bart’s last robbery, he was wounded and fled the scene. One of the items left behind was a handkerchief with a laundry mark. Hume and another Wells Fargo detective went to over ninety laundries in San Francisco, and traced it the customer and his boarding house. The suspect confessed to the robbery.
Even today, the Wells Fargo stagecoach is still one of the enduring images of the West. A little research on Wells Fargo really helped me shape my hero and his character, and helped me develop the plot of Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold.
Where have you gotten your story ideas?