Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (, and the historical time period in which she lives.

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I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

No new blog this week. Happy Thanksgiving to all and welcome back next week for part two of Safari Planning
Suzanne Arruda

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Going on Safari – Part 1

SAFARI. To most people this means an expedition of sorts out into the bush country to either hunt or photograph wild animals. The word simply means “journey.” So if a man needed to leave his village and walk to another village, perhaps a day’s walk away, he was making a safari. The concept caught on with the settlers who managed to take along far more than the average African native did on any journey.

Elspeth Huxley gives a good account of the planning and preparation that went into a pre-WWI safari. She writes of her mother roasting chickens and making marmalade to contribute to the foodstuffs and also preparing homemade lotions to heal insect bites, prevent sunburn, and stop wounds from becoming infected. Rather a handy lotion to do all that.

Settlers needed a lot when they went away, something I’m reminded of whenever we decide to go camping. Besides tents, cots, and food, there was a need for tables and chairs, tin bathtubs, bedrolls, lanterns, lantern oil, clothing, ammunition, cooking pots, dinner plates and dinner ware. Obviously, this was too much for a pack animal to carry.

Natives were hired to act as porters, carrying the goods. But porters must be fed. If meat eating Africans were hired, part of the problem was solved as long as someone in the safari was a decent shot and there was game around. Not all tribes consumed meat on a regular basis, however. The Kikuyu, while eating the occasional goat, lived mainly on produce from their gardens and grains. This meant the necessity of bringing along food for the porters and more porters to carry the food for the porters. Longer trips sometimes necessitated hauling supplies ahead by ox-cart and leaving caches to be picked up along the way.

These earlier safaris were taken either on foot, or on horseback. By Martin and Osa Johnson’s time, the automobile proved its usefulness.


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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave

While this blog is supposed to be about Jade’s time, I wanted to break from it to talk about a mystery writer/fan conference I attended this past weekend. The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave is held early in November in the “Little Apple”, Manhattan, Kansas. It’s a good conference; large enough to feature a lot of talented writers and small enough that you can get to mingle with them more than at the big conferences.

I sat on a panel with Warren Bull, M.E. Cooper, Will Thomas, and Eleanor Sullivan (moderator) to discuss HOW DO I MAKE IT SOUND LIKE I WAS THERE: Researching. As a panel, we were primarily writers of historical mysteries. Any mystery needs to put the reader in the place and class of people, but historical writers have to move readers out of time as well. We all agreed that sensory perception is important and one way to do this is to take a reader through an ordinary task.

For instance, cooking a meal will be very different based on the time and location and the character’s social standing. Do they draw water from a creek, a well, a tap? Is it cooked in a fireplace, over coals outside, atop a wood burning stove? Going through getting dressed with a character can be equally enlightening. Since we live in ordinary situations, it’s one of the better ways of leaving our own time and experiencing a new place and time.

Each of the panelists differed on our favorite way of conducting research. Several tap into expert re-enactors of their preferred time period. Another writer found paintings of a time period to be very enlightening. I like sitting down with old books and maps. My special favorite is a magazine of the period and the ads. Then I compare that “wish list” of available material goods to those mentioned in memoirs.

So the next time you’re drawn into a historical book, spend a moment and see if you can detect at what point the author really made you feel like you were there. It’s what we strive to do.


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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Osa Johnson Earns Her Name

The public is always fickle about what it likes and dislikes, and the Johnsons soon found that films about cannibal headhunters had lost their draw. People craved films about animals instead, so Osa and Martin next traveled to Africa to film wildlife. Now, Osa’s role changed. Not only was she an integral part of the movies, but her ability as a marksman became essential to feed their crew and to protect Martin’s life while he filmed charging elephants, rhinos, and lions.

But this skill didn’t come all at once. African light was different, and Martin had to learn how to compensate for it during filming sessions. It seemed to have a similar effect on Osa’s ability to shoot. Distances were mis-judged, and heat ripples played havoc with accurately getting a bead on dinner. The status of the safari headman and gun bearers rested on the shooting ability of the hunters, in this case, the Johnson’s. It didn’t help when Osa and Martin found themselves in a ravine with buffalo and ran away when they thought the animals intended charging.

The Protectorate’s chief game warden, Blaney Percival, set the Johnson’s up with John Walsh, a hunter who supplied game to the Nairobi restaurants to help them find animals to film. This proved expensive and the Johnson’s needed to eventually go it alone. But practice helped and, while Martin became better with the camera in the African light, Osa became a more proficient hunter, providing their men with meat.

Martin liked to film action and sometimes got too close to his subjects. If the animal could retreat, it did, but sometimes they charged. That was where Osa came in again. Most of the time, firing in the air altered a dangerous animal’s course. Once, she ran shrieking after an elephant and chased it away, a stunt not highly recommended. But sometimes there was no choice, and Osa’s sure shooting brought down an elephant or a lion before it mauled Martin. It was when she brought down a charging elephant just yards from Martin that their African crew named the petite Osa, Memsahib Kidogo, or “little missus.”


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