The Thomas Dordrecht Series
Concept and On-Going Plan
· Our hero is born in the year 1740 and his exploits take place in very specific historical time. Thus, he will age as the series progresses, and so will his family members and all continuing characters. His attitudes and beliefs—and theirs—will evolve as time passes and they mature.
· His father’s extensive family is Dutch-American. All were born in New York, but live in a primarily Dutch-speaking community and retain many Dutch customs and folkways. His mother was born in England, emigrated to New York at the age of twenty, promptly married Rykert Dordrecht, and has lived in New Utrecht ever since. Thomas Dordrecht therefore has a familial foot in both worlds—and is not undividedly loyal to either. Like many New Yorkers today, he is natively bilingual.
· Like most families in New Utrecht, the Dordrechts are not impoverished, but are far from well-to-do. Their primary occupation is farming—always a dicey business—and they incidentally run a tavern/inn. Generally, they are honest, well-meaning, and hard-working.
· Though Thomas Dordrecht inherits very little, materially, he is blessed from birth with robust health, excellent eyesight, a pleasant appearance, and a sharp mind. (From the point of view of making one’s way independently about the world in this historical milieu, it goes without saying that it is also Thomas’ good fortune to have been born male, Caucasian, and Protestant!)
· His predilections and ambitions are the result of his own independent thinking and optimistic personality, but there’s no question that he is extremely lucky in regard to acquiring truly helpful friends and mentors.
· Although he stumbles over murdered corpses with alarming frequency—the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief will be required here as with all series in the mystery genre—our hero will never become a “detective.” His forays into investigation will always be interruptions of his on-going business and personal life, necessitated by chance circumstances and driven both by his intense curiosity and his outrage against injustice.
· His roots in the New York City area will give our hero an important perspective on the events of his era that is perhaps less familiar to most readers than that of denizens of Massachusetts or Virginia. (It’s of course more familiar than that of New Hampshire or Georgia … but we’ll have to leave that to others!) Location in New York will, at any rate, put him squarely in the middle of much of “the action.”
· Similarly, his commitment to the private shipping industry will give him another perspective not often heard—and will also involve him deeply in the controversies of the day.
· He may become locally prominent and esteemed as a worthy and productive citizen, but he will avoid politics and will never become so notable as to have his name recorded in the history books!
· He will be a man of his time—whom we hear speaking to us directly—but he will always strive to face the world without preconception or prejudice.
· One way or another, our hero will survive—well into the nineteenth century. (How often he will report in … will depend largely on the future of his author!)
· He will always be an omnivorous reader, a lover of music, a ready traveler, and an open-minded person eager to understand the world. He will also, despite having to endure long intervals of very desperate times, keep a steady moral compass and a cheerful disposition.
· As an independent-minded participant in the events of the period, he may be able to offer us his personal take on what goes right and what goes wrong, as it happens, “in real time.” But of course—murder mysteries being the merest entertainments, after all—this will surely never tax anyone’s political toleration. Heaven forfend!
Coming next in the series:
Thomas Dordrecht in 1770
The minions of despotism
are laying every snare their corrupt hearts can suggest
to enslave a free people.
—Alexander McDougall, December 16, 1769
After working three years in Curaçao, Thomas Dordrecht returns to New York a successful merchant haunted by terrible personal tragedy. Again he finds his native town enmeshed in dramatic political turmoil. For months, he holds himself aloof from the bitter imperial controversies agitating his neighbors … until he literally trips over a murdered corpse in a snowdrift. When the victim is revealed to be his own hapless Uncle Frederik, Dordrecht is shocked out of his despondency, and regains his characteristic fierce determination to see justice prevail. As he strives to root out the murderer, however, it becomes apparent that despotism has corrupted more than the political system—it has wormed its way deeply into people’s souls.