By Patrick Whitehurst
My fifth nonfiction book, “Murder & Mayhem in Tucson,” (In bookstores throughout Tucson on September 27, 2021) began on the Central Coast of California. Monterey would soon be in the rearview mirror, I knew, and a return to Arizona lay dead ahead. Having just finished my 2019 book, “Haunted Monterey County,” I quickly set my sights on learning as much as I could about Tucson, since I’d never so much as stepped foot in the town. I’ve lived in Williams, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Cottonwood, but wasn’t quite prepared for the heat of southern Arizona. My research into the area quickly led to the seeds of Murder & Mayhem.
The history of any city is fascinating. How did it get rolling? What made the site a choice pick for those who came before us? And for those relocating to a new city, and a new state, what amenities are there? Being a reader of both horror and crime fiction, my search also included the darker side of the city. Tucson has plenty of that. Every city has a gritty side, a paranormal side, or something locals whisper about in the dead of night. Here that includes fires and floods, murders, and sinister plots.
The kernels for the book were laid bare after a simple Google search from the living room of my fog-covered home on the coast.
I started the work by saving links to all the sites I stumbled across. Much as I did with my book on Monterey’s ghostly origins, I looked at every source and every claim before drafting an outline that would later become the new book. I determined what stories made sense and had a traceable history. This includes tales featured on more than one news site, not to mention some of the stories heard from longtime Tucson residents.
After moving to town in late 2019, just as grumblings of a new virus circulated in the news, I started visiting as many of the locations as I could, from the Pioneer Hotel and the gravesite of Joe Bonanno to Pantano Wash and even Tombstone (not part of Tucson, but part of the area’s Wild West roots for sure). The lockdown and closures prevented continued expeditions for a year, in which I wrote the book. The pandemic delayed the book by a year as well, as the world had other things to worry about, but I am happy to report it’s now on track for release on Monday, Sept. 27th, online and at a bookstore near you.
True crime, haunting and frightful tales, have always fascinated me. As an Arizona reporter for ten years, and later as an author, I look for the bare bones of a story before delving deeper. It’s important to understand exactly what happened, or alleged to have happened, before asking why it happened. In fact, the why is often best left for the reader to ponder.
Arizona’s history of violence may not be any more gruesome than any other state, though it depends on the state, but it’s story is one that cannot be copied. Bad things have happened here, great things too, and we can all learn a thing or two from it.
I’m still figuring out where to find the best Sonoran Dog, but I’m also learning about the amazing Tucson Botanical Garden, the desert tarantula, the La Llorona of the Santa Cruz River, UFO sightings over the Old Pueblo, and where one might see a chupacabra. Tucson’s history is never boring.
Preorder Murder & Mayhem in Tucson here.
Patrick Whitehurst has worked in journalism and communications for over 15 years. He’s the author of five nonfiction books for Arcadia Publishing, two mystery novellas, and numerous short stories.