Monday, April 9, 2018

Have you met the White Witch of Jamaica?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Larry D Thompson to my blog. He's touring the internet with his latest book, Researching the White Witch, and he's here to tell us about the research that led to the novel. So, thank you for stopping by Larry, and over to you.


Researching The White Witch


My son, Kel, who lives in South Florida, returned from a business trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, talking about the legend of the WHITE WITCH. His story interested me enough that a few months later we both went to Jamaica to learn more about Annie Palmer, the White Witch,  and, also, about the Maroons. Kel had not stumbled across the Maroon story while he was there, but I did a little research about the area and learned about them. That trip let me to combine the Maroons with the White Witch to create what is certainly my best thriller to date (bear in mind that I’ll probably say the same thing about my next thriller; such is the nature of a novelist.).

We stayed at the Ritz, which was built on what was once part of the Rose Hall Plantation. We golfed at the hotel course, aptly named “The White Witch.” We toured the Rose Hall Great House where Annie Palmer lived two hundred years before and where she tortured and murdered three husbands and many more slave lovers. We learned that even today the staff in the mansion insists on leaving before dark every evening; for they fear that the White Witch may be out roaming the grounds of her old plantation. However, let me hasten to add that Annie Palmer is only a supporting character in this drama. After all, she died two hundred years ago. Still her legend is strong enough that in my story when a series of murders occur in the Montego Bay area, some with snake knives said to have belonged to the White Witch, it’s only a small leap for the locals to believe, true or not, that the White Witch must be responsible.

The real story and the conflict that created it is up in the mountains above Montego Bay, a small village called Accompong, the ancestral home of the Maroons (short for Cimarron, or “wild and untamed.). The original Maroons started escaping from their Spanish captors in the early fifteen hundreds, following game trails up into the mountains where they formed villages and lived off the land. When the Spaniards tried to re-capture them, they fought back and soon were going down from the mountains in the dead of night to attack the Spaniards as they slept. They fought for about a hundred years before the British drove the Spaniards to Cuba. The British could not understand how a band of ex-slaves could so consistently beat back the Spaniards until they tried to capture the Maroons. After another hundred or so years, they asked for a cease fire and signed a treaty with Cudjoe, the leader of the Maroons, giving them dominion over the rainforest up in the mountains, provided they would allow the British to raise sugar cane and bananas along the coast. That treaty exists to this day. Only, an American corporation was threatening  to mine bauxite in the Maroons’ rainforest when Kel and I were there. To get to the bottom of the conflict, we drove up a pothole filled road to Accompong and asked for an audience with the Colonel of the Maroons. Surprisingly, he talked to us. Only later did we learn that they did not like strangers in their village, particularly white men. Still, what we didn’t know didn’t hurt us. But it did give me the idea for the story which is really about the Maroons willingness to fight once again for their rain forest. Of course, the White Witch does make cameo appearances throughout the tale, but usually only in the imagination of some other character.

It was fascinating research that led to a very good thriller. And if you want to see the Maroon/British treaty that Cudjoe signed (with his X because he could neither read nor write), just go on line. The treaty is still there and is validity is still being debated by scholars.

What a fascinating background - especially for me, since I'm British by birth. Thank you for sharing it with us Larry, and good luck with this and all further novels, which I'm sure will all be your best and everyone's favorite.

I'm going to include a little about the author and the book blurb below, then, for those of you who might want to purchase the book, there's even an excerpt to entice you. Just keep reading down the page.


After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Larry spent the first half of his professional life as a trial lawyer. He tried well over 300 cases and won more than 95% of them. Although he had not taken a writing class since freshman English (back when they wrote on stone tablets), he figured that he had read enough novels and knew enough about trials, lawyers, judges, and courtrooms that he could do it. Besides, his late, older brother, Thomas Thompson, was one of the best true crime writers to ever set a pen to paper; so, just maybe, there was something in the T hompson gene pool that would be guide him into this new career.  He started writing his first novel about a dozen years ago and published it a couple of years thereafter. He has now written five highly acclaimed legal thrillers. White Witch is number six with many more to come.

Larry is married to his wife, Vicki. He has three children scattered from Colorado to Austin to Boca Raton, and four grandchildren. He has been trying to retire from the law practice to devote full time to writing. Hopefully, that will occur by the end of 2018. He still lives in Houston, but spends his summers in Vail CO, high on a mountain where he is inspired by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
His latest book is the captivating thriller, WHITE WITCH.

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Jamaica is a place where the surreal is simply everyday reality. When a ruthless American aluminum company plans to strip mine the Jamaican rainforest, they send former Navy SEAL Will Taylor to Montego Bay to deal with local resistance on their behalf. But he’s unaware that the British had signed a treaty deeding the rainforest to the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of escaped slaves, over 300 years ago. The Maroons fought and died for their land then, and are more than willing to do so now, whether it’s the British or the Americans who threaten them this time around.

Upon Will’s arrival, a series of inexplicable murders begin, some carried out with deadly snake daggers that were owned and used by Annie Palmer, a voodoo priestess better known as the White Witch. She was killed 200 years prior, but is said to still haunt the island at night, and the local Jamaicans are certain she’s responsible for the gruesome murders, her form of retaliation against the new turmoil taking place in the rainforest.

And Will has been forced directly into the middle of it. After a few close calls, he’s finally convinced to leave his company and join forces with the Maroons, headed by Vertise Broderick, a Maroon who resigned from her position at the New York Times to return to Jamaica to stop the mining. Together they hire a Jamaican attorney to prove that the Maroon/British treaty is still valid to stop the mining, and they take it upon themselves to solve the White Witch murders, because the legend of the White Witch can’t possibly be true…
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Will returned to his room, too wound up to sleep. He stripped to his
underwear and flipped channels on a large screen HD television until he ran
across First Blood with Sylvester Stallone. Having lived that life for a few years,
he never passed up the opportunity to watch it again. He settled back and had
drifted off to sleep when his cell chimed. He glanced at the television to make
sure it was not coming from there and found Fred Astaire waltzing Ginger
Rogers around a ballroom. He turned off the television and reached for his
phone.

Taylor.”

“Will, Alexa here.” It was nearly three in the morning and Alexa was still at
her desk. Smoke drifted from a cigarette in her ash tray while she sucked on a
Tootsie Pop. She was on the speaker phone. When Will answered, she walked to
her window and stared at the lights of Baltimore.

Will turned on the nightstand light, glanced at the clock, and swung his feet
into a sitting position on the side of the bed. “Yes, ma’am. Little late for a booty
call.”

“Cut the crap. Kaven was just found at Rose Hall. He’s dead.”

“What? Are you sure? I just saw him a few hours ago.” Will got to his feet
and began pacing the room. “Shit.”

“Must be those goddamn Maroons. He called me last night once he got
back from Accompong. He told me about what happened up there. By the way,
they let the pilot go. They said they had no beef with him.”

“So I heard. What was Kaven doing at Rose Hall? When I saw him, he was
going to his room.”

“How the hell should I know? I got a call from some local detective. They
found his employee identification in his wallet. When the detective called here,
the operator knew I was still in my office and put the call through to me. You need to get to Rose Hall now.
“Yes, ma’am,” Will agreed.
“And I’m flying down there tomorrow before this gets any more out of
hand. See if you can keep anybody else from being killed until I get there.”

Will’s cell went dead. He put it on the nightstand and picked up the hotel
phone. Pleased to find it working, he punched the key for valet parking.

“Good evening, Mr. Taylor. How can I be of assistance?”

“Bring my company Land Rover to the front as quickly as possible.”

Getting assurance that it would be there when he got downstairs, Will hung
up and walked to the bathroom. Five minutes later he was met at the hotel
entrance by a valet.

“Can I give you directions, Mr. Taylor? It’s a little late at night.”

“No thanks. I know exactly where I’m going.” Will got in the car, fastened
his seat belt, and left the hotel.
When Will got to Rose Hall, he turned onto the road they had just come
down the evening before. At the top of the hill he could see the mansion, now
well lighted. He dodged tree limbs and utility wires and parked among several
other vehicles. Police cars were positioned so that their headlights focused on the
steps of the mansion where Will could see the yellow police crime scene tape. He
walked up a path from the parking lot between the police cars that faced the
mansion to the yellow tape where an officer stood watch. The officer came to
attention as Will approached.

“Sorry, mon. I can’t let you past here. We’re investigating a murder.”

Will kept his voice even but controlling. “I know, officer. That’s why I’m
here. Name’s William Taylor. I’m head of security for Global American Metals.
Here’s my identification.” Will tried to hand him an ID. The officer just shook
his head. “Officer, the dead man is one of Global’s employees. Can you get
someone in authority to let me up there?”

Before the officer could reply, Miles Harper, the St. James Parish Chief of
Detectives, approached. Harper was a lean, fit man with a shaved head and a no
nonsense manner. He was dressed in a brown suit, yellow shirt, and matching
tie. He looked like he just stepped out of GQ Magazine, even at three in the
morning.

“Mr. Taylor, I’m Miles Harper, Chief of Detectives in this parish. I was
told by your company to expect you.”

Will extended his right hand. Harper ignored it. Instead, he nodded at the
officer and motioned for Will to follow him. Harper went up a dozen steps and
turned to Will as he stood beside Kaven’s body, sprawled on his back with dagger in his chest. Will bent over for a closer look and found that the handle of
the dagger was in the shape of a snake. At the top of the handle was the snake’s
head. The snake’s eyes were two bright rubies.

“Shit,” Will muttered, “He was almost killed because of one snake on the
road today and now someone finished the job with a, what would you call this, a
snake dagger?”

“That’s as good a name as any, Mr. Taylor. My officers reported what went
on up in Accompong and the incident with the boa.”
Will continued to study the body. “Looks like he’s been dead a couple of
hours. I last saw him about ten last night. Who found him?”

“The hotel has a security guard that roams the mansion grounds and up to
the club house in a golf cart. He spotted the body.”

“Where’s your coroner?”

“He’s a local Justice of the Peace, not a medical doctor. He won’t set foot on
these steps until morning. My men here won’t go past the tape either. They
believe the White Witch did it.”

Will shook his head in disbelief. “Come on, Chief, this is the twenty-first
century.”

“Old beliefs die hard, Mr. Taylor. Come on. Let me show you something.”

Harper stepped around the body and climbed the steps with Will behind
him. Entering the ballroom, Will said, “I was just in this room yesterday evening during the storm.”
Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”

Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion
while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”

Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar
for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”
Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake
daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been
broken and the daggers were gone.

“You see this case when you were up here?”

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.
It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out
power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I
don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told
us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer.
evening during the storm.”

Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”
Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion
while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”
Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar
for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”
Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake
daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been
broken and the daggers were gone.

“You see this case when you were up here?”

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.
It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out
power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I
don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told
us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer. Surprising that she didn’t show us these daggers when she was telling the story.”

“Interesting,” mused Harper. “You have any idea why your man would
come up here in the middle of the night?”

“Not a clue. Have you checked his cell phone? He always carried it.”

“Yeah. The last calls were with you yesterday afternoon and one with Ms.
Pritchard later in the evening.”

Will nodded. “He called me from Accompong, warning me of trouble up
there. I should have gone with him.”

Harper shook his head. “Whether you were there or not wouldn’t have
made any difference. Just would have been one more person that was in my
police car that rolled, assuming, of course, you didn’t take a bullet up on the
mountain.”

“Understood.”

“How did you get in the mansion?”

“Vertise said she knew where a key was hidden and let us in.”

“Strange that she could get into the locked mansion. It was my
understanding that only the manager of Rose Hall had a key. He locked it and
left when the storm was hitting. The hotel spent a fortune on period pieces to
recreate how it looked two hundred years ago. One of his jobs is to make sure
they are not stolen.”

“Any signs of a break-in?” Will asked.

“This is not for publication, you understand, but when I got here the
mansion was locked and the lights were off.”

“So, you’re saying that someone got into the mansion, stole two daggers, let
themselves back out, killed Kaven, and left no trace.” Will paused to absorb all
that he had just said. “Wait a minute. If someone wanted to kill Kaven, why not
just use a gun? Why go to all the trouble of getting that dagger to do it?”

“I’ve been wrestling with that very question,” Harper said. “It’s illegal for a
private citizen to own a gun in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean they are not
available if you know the right people. My working hypothesis is that the killer
or killers wanted the public to think voodoo was involved, or maybe even the
White Witch. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that the Maroons
are trying to send a message to Global. They tried to kill Tillman in Accompong
and failed. Maybe the message is that they finish what they start. Either way,
someone is trying to make trouble for your company. I have another problem
that may not be apparent.”

Will looked quizzically at the detective.

“As you can see, there were two snake daggers in this case. One’s accounted
for out on the steps. The other is gone. Nearly everyone around here thinks that
they are voodoo daggers with magical powers. They were found in an overseer’s
grave during the restoration of the mansion thirty years ago.”

“Does ‘everyone’ include you? Looks to me like the killer or killers are just
trying to mess with the minds of my co-workers, maybe keep some locals from
hiring on with us.”

Harper stuck his hands in his pockets. “Not up to me to decide if they’re
magic or not. I’ve got a murder with one of those daggers. My job is to solve the
murder and along the way, find that other dagger before someone uses it.”
Will’s eyes searched the room in a futile effort to see any clues to the crime.

Then he focused on the chief. “Look, I’m going to need a gun. My company is
obviously under attack. I’m licensed to carry back home.”

“No way, Mr. Taylor,” Harper exploded. “Foreigners are not permitted to
have guns in Jamaica. For that matter, as I just told you, neither are Jamaicans.
And I want you to stay the hell out of my investigation. We don’t need your
help. Understand?”

“Yeah, I understand. You know that each of our mines on this island is
permitted a certain number of guns for our guards. I’ll just get one of those.”

“The hell you will. Don’t you dare go behind my back. Those guns never
leave mine property. I have an officer that inventories them. If one turns up
missing, I’ll confiscate every damn weapon that Global has and put you under
house arrest. Clear, Mr. Taylor?”

Will clinched his fists and tried to hold back the anger that was apparent in
his face. Without another word, he turned and stormed out of the mansion,
pausing only to gaze at Kaven and say a prayer for him and his family. At the
bottom of the steps, he got in his car and glanced toward the mansion. The
lights from his car somehow caught the ruby eyes of the snake, making them
appear briefly to be alive. Will shook his head, put the car in reverse, and
returned to the hotel.

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