Mariner's Compass
Earlene Fowler

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Benni Harper

About Mariner's Compass

      Here is a picture of me with the famous Agatha award teapot.   I won Best Novel 1999 for Mariner's Compass.   I was so surprised and really didn't expect to win so I didn't even bring a camera to the awards banquet.   Luckily, Sara Berger, a fan, took this picture.   On the other side of the teapot is a picture of a skull holding a rose in its mouth with two crossbones underneath it. 

      This is a picture of the James Dean memorial outside of Cholame, California.   Just like I describe in the book, it is in the middle of nowhere.   There is a restaurant next to it where I had a great hamburger and came up with the idea to use it in the scavanger hunt.   I made up the songs on the jukebox, of course.   I didn't make up the young cattle playing in the fields next to it.
      Parkfield and the Parkfield Inn really do exist.   It is even more in the middle of nowhere than Cholame.   It's so quiet out there you can hear the sound of grass moving in the wind.    The gift shop which was in an old train car has closed, but I really did buy a rope there used by Blaine Santos.  
      This is the restaurant I based Cafe Palais on.   It is on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay.  My husband and I had eaten there many times over the years before I decided to use it in a book.   The outside color of the restaurant has changed and is now brown.   I derived the name Cafe Palais from my then editor, Judith Palais.   Her name is French for "palace."   The owners, Marty and Eve, are named for her and her husband (her middle name is Eve).   I like using the names of my friends in my books (and I never make them villains).
      There are so many interesting things in Morro Bay that my imagination didn't have to work very hard!   Here's a picture of the giant chess set that is very popular among the residents.   In the background you can barely make out Morro Rock, which is covered with fog.   If I could pick any place to live on the Central Coast, I have to admit it would be Morro Bay.
     This carved horse's head was part of my inspiration for the mysterious stranger who leaves Benni his house and possessions in Mariner's Compass.  I found it in a wood carving museum (now closed, unfortunately) up near the Hearst Castle in the small town of San Simeon.  There are no markings or signature on the carving so I don't know who made it.  If someone knows, I'll be happy to give him/her credit.
   Just a couple of ol' cowgirls outside Paso Robles' fantastic Cowgirl Cafe.

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