When her mother ran out of mystery books to read, a Medora native decided to write a book series of her own that both she and her mother could enjoy.
The result was the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency book series.
The first book of the series is “Ghost Busting Mystery,” released under Vicky Phillips’ pen name, Daisy Pettles. The book is available now in e-book format online and in print through Amazon or your local bookstore. The book will be available as a download for 99 cents until the end of 2018.
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Phillips’ book series takes place in a fictional Indiana town with quirky rural characters and historical incidences of the kind she and her mother knew and loved while growing up in Jackson and Lawrence counties.
“It involved a process of imagination colliding with childhood memories,” she said. “You’ll not find a town named Knobby Waters on any Indiana map. It’s a fictitious composite of all the tiny rural towns I visited when growing up.”
Phillips places Knobby Waters in the same exact geographic location as the town that she grew up in, Medora.
“Like Medora, Knobby Waters has a brick plant, a tavern, a covered bridge, a lot of corn, melon and soybean farms,” Phillips said. “It also has a knobs or hilly area that overlooks sandy bottomlands, which flood often in the spring.”
Phillips said, like Medora, Knobby Waters is located on the East Fork White River. The town also used to have a plastics factory that until the late 1970s employed most of the population.
“Medora itself is famous for being the home of the longest three-span covered bridge in any one state,” she said. “Much of the action in the ‘Ghost Busting Mystery’ takes place around a mysterious purple Gremlin car that is camped on the banks of the White River by the Knobby Waters covered bridge.”
The stories she heard as a child about the Reno lost gold fed Phillips’ imagination for nearly 60 years. Her mind turned that lost gold into a subplot in “Ghost Busting Mystery.”
“In the book, there is a lot of speculation about a Civil War train robbery and gold shipment that went missing,” Phillips said. “This is my nod to the world’s first train robbery in Seymour, accomplished by the Reno Gang.”
Phillips, who turns 60 this year, decided to make her detectives senior women, ages 67 and 71. Short on retirement funds, the friends decide to sign on as private investigator trainees with the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency.
“Older women and rural characters aren’t well-represented in fiction these days, but the original small-town detective was Miss Marple of British fame,” Phillips said. “She was later Americanized as Jessica Fletcher in the ‘Murder She Wrote’ TV series.”
Phillips said she learned to read while sitting on her grandmother’s lap under an apple tree in Brownstown. As a child, she was fed a steady stream of books.
“My grandmother, Anabell England Dixon, loved books, and we would make up stories together, and she read to me every night after supper after watching Walter Cronkite on the news,” she said.
Phillips said her mother, June Shelton Phillips, also is an avid reader and used to take her to barn auctions around Jackson County and buy her boxes of old books for 50 cents a box.
“I learned Latin and how to set up a photography darkroom by reading those books, and Medora at the time did not have a library,” Phillips said. “I’d read everything in the bookmobile from the Seymour Public Library, so she kept buying mystery boxes of books for me.
“My mother lives in Bedford and has a great sense of humor and loves Indiana history,” Phillips said. “So I decided to create for her the fictitious town of Knobby Waters, Indiana, and I wanted to tap into nostalgic memories of the ‘60s and ‘70s in rural Indiana.”
Phillips was born in Bedford and raised in Medora, where her parents ran the corner gas station and ice cream stand.
“My dad, Dean Phillips, ran the Phillips 66, later Standard Oil, gas station on Perry Street,” she said. “My mom ran what was then called the Dairy Bar, also on Perry Street.”
Phillips’ book series are adult trade paperbacks but written for anyone who reads at an eighth-grade level and enjoys humor and mysteries. They are light beach or river reads with the stories told primarily through dialogue and action.
The second book in the Shady Hoosier Detective Series, “The Baby Daddy Mystery,” is due out Dec. 15 and at the editors now. A third book, “Chickenlandia Mystery,” has been outlined and is due out April 2019.
Phillips said she loves life in small towns and the kind of peace and quiet that only exist at the end of a long dirt road. She currently lives in the country outside Underhill, Vermont, on the western slopes of the Green Mountains with frequent visits back to Indiana.
“Reading was like riding a magic carpet for me. I was hooked from that very first word,” Phillips said. “If anyone wanted my attention, all they had to do was wave a book under my nose. Nothing else worked. That’s still true.”
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Q: How did you come up with your pen name?
A: My oldest sister, Ginger East, does gardening and suggested it as a play on words. The Shady Hoosier Detective Agency is written in the style of a southern farce or sitcom. The name suggests the tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted tone.
Q: What are some of the first books you remember reading?
A: The first books I remember reading with my grandma were “The Bears of Blue River” and “The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore.”
Q: What did you study in college?
A: I attended DePauw University, where I graduated Phi Beta Kappa. I loved studying everything and majored in psychology and practiced as a therapist and taught psychology courses before becoming an internet entrepreneur in the online education field.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I love doing anything that lets me create things. I’m a great carpenter.
Q: Why did you choose to live in Vermont?
A: I chose Vermont because it’s very tiny and woodsy and crammed full of unusual people doing all sorts of things.
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For information, visit daisypettles.com.
To buy books, visit amazon.com.
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“Reading was like riding a magic carpet for me. I was hooked from that very first word.” − Vicky Phillips