Night shot 096 DV 10 2009 Death in Death Valley

Night, Death Valley

Photographer: Jack Freer


About my novel

Macy Gallager’s husband Kevin is killed in a mysterious car accident in Death Valley, California.  The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office won’t share details of the investigation, so she’s left to her own devices to try to dig up information.  She moves to Sacramento to live with her brother and sister-in-law, organic urban farmers who give her a part-time job to help keep her mind off Kevin’s death.  Unfortunately, troubling questions remain: was her chemist husband mixed up in counterfeiting and wine fraud?  Why did he lie to her about his plans for the weekend of the accident?  What had he been doing in Death Valley anyway, and what exactly was involved with his relationship to the glamour couple next door?

Fictionalized true crime

Two local California crimes became the basis for my ideas.  One was the 2012 sentencing of Mark Christian Anderson for the 2005 arson of the Wines Central wine storage warehouse in Vallejo.  The other was the conviction of Sarah Dutra for her role in the 2001 poisoning murder of lawyer Larry McNabney.

The settings

I used Sacramento for three reasons: first because I live nearby, second because I fell in love with a historic neighborhood there I wanted to fictionalize called Poverty Ridge, and third because it is becoming the ‘Farm to Fork’ capitol.  This movement is not only tremendously exciting but growing stronger every year.  I felt I had a unique opportunity to combine my interests in history, crime and organic agriculture into one new story.

I used Death Valley for many reasons, among them: it is gorgeous, intense, dangerous, mysterious.  I used to live in the Eastern Sierra, so this proximity gave me the privilege and opportunity of spending time there.  I think Death Valley is underutilized in fiction as a geographical ‘character.’  I think about what Tony Hillerman did to promote the beauty of Four Corners area of New Mexico and Arizona; perhaps in my own way I can draw attention to this incredible resource.

As part of my novel research I came across an amazing photographer named Jack Freer, and he has graciously granted me permission to use the beautiful photos of Death Valley included above and below selected from his Overland Photography website

I also want to mention a fascinating story he wrote called “Finding Norman,” a true account of his search for a missing suicidal man in Death Valley.  See .


Sunrise Dantes View IMG 5602 3 4HDR1 1 1024x503 Death in Death ValleySunrise, Dante’s View


Dunes 062 IMG 1278 tonemapped 1024x506 Death in Death ValleyThe Sand Dunes, Stovepipe Wells


Badwater Basin 076 MG 2481 1024x528 Death in Death ValleyBadwater Basin


Race Track 130 DV1004 1024x682 Death in Death ValleyThe Racetrack, view of the Grandstand


Inyo Mine 122 DV1004 Death in Death ValleyInyo Mine


If you are interested in another true search story in Death Valley, check out “The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans” on Tom Mahood’s website: