The Empty Mint Mystery is the first in the adventures of Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson. 

Their search for a long-lost treasure takes them from New Orleans to Toledo Bend in Northwest Louisiana’s Sabine Parish.  Along the way they encounter betrayal, kidnapping, and murder, all in the course of a normal day for our hero and heroine. 

I have a lot in common with Trent and Darcey.

I was born “Louisiana proud.”  So were they.

I was raised “Alaska tough.”  Trent spent a lot of time in Alaska when his father was on temporary assignment there.    Darcey will come to love Alaska, too, through future adventures with Trent.

Darcey established a new life and a successful business in San Francisco, a city of which I have also become fond. 

Funny, isn’t it, how the characters share my ecumenical loyalty to such beautiful parts of America?

Beginning life as a Louisiana country boy and growing up in pre-oil boom Alaska, gives me a unique perspective.  After all, I hold dual citizenship in two of America’s most fascinating cultures. 

My parents made sure I remained connected to my cornbread, collard greens, and gumbo roots.  They were teachers in Anchorage.  Our annual schedule was thus the reverse of today’s “snowbirds.” 

I spent hot summers roaming the woods around my grandparents’ house in Northwest Louisiana.  That kept me grounded in family tradition.

At the end of summer, we returned to Alaska and prepared for the cold winter to come.  There were many fall days with my dad, lugging a World War II vintage 30.06 almost as tall as me, hot on the trail of moose or caribou in what was then the true wilderness of southcentral Alaska not far from Anchorage. 

I remember waking one crisp fall morning at the head of a valley near Gunsight Mountain.  From our camp site I could see all the way down the valley.  We were the only ones there.  Just my dad and me.  It was a sight, a feeling, that lingers not only in my memory but in my soul.

Spring often found Dad and me the only two fishermen on salmon laden Bird Creek south of town or dipping hooligan from the Twenty Mile River at Portage. 

 My life has been a series of adventures more than a career.  Rock & roll disc jockey.  Broadcast journalist.  Political campaign staffer.  Founder of a statewide news network in Alaska.  Co-owner of a movie theater, video arcade, and restaurant in Nome.  Senior corporate executive.  Lobbyist and advocate in both Juneau and Washington, D.C., for several small companies, many of which are cooperatives, struggling to bring advanced telecommunications services to rural and Bush Alaska.  I have such vivid memories of all those adventures.  Boredom is not among them.

Funny, isn’t it, that boredom is Trent Marshall’s greatest fear?

The plot for the Empty Mint Mystery developed from one sentence I read in a book sometime back in the ‘80s.   The book was a collection of letters, diary entries, and such, written by people trying to survive the national devastation of the War Between the States.

The sentence was in the diary of a young woman sent to Richmond where her family thought she would be safe.  She heard from her brother, she wrote, that he was assigned to get the gold out of the New Orleans Mint before the Union retook the city.

There was quite a lot of gold and some silver in the Mint when the State of Louisiana, and later the Confederate government, took possession in 1861. When Admiral Farragut’s landing party entered the building a year later it was empty.  

What happened to the bullion?  It’s difficult to say.  The facts, after more than one hundred fifty years, are blurred. 

What do I think happened?  The one certainty is, like any good government, the Confederacy used the gold to print money.  Double eagles.  Twenty-dollar gold coins.  After that who knows?

And so were born Darcey Anderson and Trent Marshall.

I’ve always worked better in the morning and dislike working late.  By five o’clock I’m ready to pack it in for the day.  By then the sun, as my Navy Seabee uncle always said, is over the yardarm.  Cocktail hour is at hand. 

Funny, isn’t it, that Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson follow a similar schedule?