In the Pecan Springs Enterprise Trilogy, readers get a real education in modern journalism, a profession much under fire these days, and the conundrums facing small-town newspapers.
Texas Hill Country’s Susan Wittig Albert, author of the long-standing and very popular China Bayles Herbal Mysteries, among many other titles, is taking her writing in a new direction—novellas linked into trilogies. The novella is a short novel, about half the standard length, and Albert packages them in three-book omnibus editions, after publishing separately as e-books.
She explains that some of the secondary characters in the China Bayles books (now numbering twenty-seven) fascinated her, but in the novels, she didn’t have time to get to know them. So, she uses the novellas to bring them to life in a tightened form—and combines three separate episodes, challenging that character, in a trilogy. First up was the Crystal Cave Trilogy featuring China’s friend and business partner, Ruby, who uses her psychic abilities to help—even save—people.
New this summer are the three novellas in the Pecan Sprints Enterprise Trilogy, featuring Jessica Nelson, investigative reporter on the staff of the Pecan Springs Enterprise. July saw publication of the first two, Deadlines and Fault Lines. The third, Fire Lines, comes out in August.
Jessica is a central figure in Mourning Gloria (number nineteen in the China series) and also in Out of Body, third of the Crystal Cave novellas. Albert says she became deeply interested in Jessica’s work as a crime reporter and true-crime author and wanted to explore her backstory, her professional challenges, her friendships, and love life. Albert is also interested in the dilemmas faced by newspapers in the internet era.
Deadlines begins with the serial killer, recently arrested, who almost ended Jessica’s life and who has been the subject of an ongoing investigation by her. But it goes on to showcase her reporting skills as she follows the lead when a woman suggests her late sister did not commit suicide but was murdered. Once again, Jessica—or Susan Albert—reveals the underbelly of life in a quiet, small town.
Fault Lines, second in the trilogy, plunges into the shaky situation of small-town journalism. The Enterprise, like newspapers across the country, is barely surviving, challenged by loss of local readers, competition from the internet, and declining advertising. Editor/owner Hark Hibler worries that he won’t make payroll, will lose the paper, or will have to sell out to a venture capitalist and lose the familiar, close community knowledge that distinguishes his and other small-town papers.
Ruby reappears in Fault Lines to uncover the truth about a mystery that has troubled her for years, and Jessica encounters an ongoing journalism dilemma—how to separate personal life from professional.
The third novella in the trilogy, Fire Lines, continues the story of the plight of the newspaper but also delves into Jessica’s history as she finally confronts the fire that took her parents and only sister when she was young and left her with a crippling fear of fire.
As always, Albert has done thorough research, and these books not only bring secondary characters to life, but they ring with authenticity. In the Pecan Springs Enterprise Trilogy, readers get a real education in modern journalism, a profession much under fire these days, and the conundrums facing small-town newspapers. The omnibus edition of the trilogy will be available later in the fall in print.