On the Prowl: Staring at Colors under the Harvest Moon

Welcome to the Harvest Moon edition of On the Prowl.
I’ve been in a lot of rabbit holes since we were last together. We’ll get into equinoxes, world times zones, the prime meridian, and the beginning of the mystery genre. Hope you enjoy!

Picking up from last month, the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox is called the Harvest Moon. Most years, the title goes to September’s full moon, but not this year. Before we get into the Harvest Moon, follow me down the rabbit hole of the Equinox. Here’s the what-you-should-know-as-a-human-living-on-earth: an equinox is a day that is closest to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. There are two: one in spring and one in fall. Here’s something to share when you’re in a gathering and need something to say: there is an exact time for each equinox. This is the time when the sun passes across the earth’s equator. This year, the autumnal equinox was September 22, with that magical crossing happening at 9:31 EDT. Check out this video from National Geographic. It does a nice job explaining equinox and shows how it was built into ancient structures like Machu Picchu.

October’s moon is the Harvest Moon. Well, October’s first moon. We have a treat this year with a second full moon on Halloween. But this first moon will rise on October 1 and be visible after sunset. According to The Farmer’s Almanac, the timing of the moon rise increases the amount of light down here, extending the time farmers could work in the fields.

It’s About the Who Dunnit

I’ve been curious about when “mystery” became a genre. Why? I have no idea. I get curious about a lot of things. This is just one. Being impatient, I did some quick internet searching and found the term seemed to come into use in the first part of the 1900s, reflecting a style of writing that began popping up about 50 years earlier. I have begun searching for these first stories, wanting to see how they are different than what we have today and how they were different than other stories at the time. Right now, I’ve completed 4 stories and DNF (Did not finish) 3 stories.

My working theory is that mysteries shifted storytelling from a something happening to a narrator to a narrator as a removed person. Many of these stories of murder and mayhem, the narrator is either the person who did it or the person who it was happening to, which puts the stories more in the horror genre. The stories themselves COULD BE mysteries if they were told with the narrator being the cop / coroner / neighbor who investigated.

Take Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cat. The story is told by a man in prison the evening before he goes to the gallows. He tells of being tormented by a black cat, which (spoiler) leads to him killing his wife, hiding her body, and being caught. It is an engrossing story, a perfect pre-halloween read, but there is no “who dunnit”. It is a really good horror story. Here’s a link to it on Gutenburg

Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, for contrast, the murders of a woman and her daughter are read about by our hero C. August Dupin and his unnamed assistant/narrator. The victims lived on the 4th floor, the rest of the house was vacant. The murders happened at three in the morning. The equivalent of a year’s salary was left in the room as was jewelry and other valuables. All the doors were locked from the inside. This story is all about the “who dunnit”.

If the story of the Black Cat was told by the Police Officer who when looking for the missing (cause she’s dead) wife, the story would have been a mystery. They questioned the husband three times because they caught the break they needed. We would not have known the backstory, so it likely wouldn’t have been anywhere near as cool, but it would have been a mystery.

It was popular at the time to have continuing storylines that ran in magazines. In my mind, these were pre-television soap operas. It’s easy to see why mysteries would not fit this model. Once you know who dunnit, the story is over. It’s hard for a writer to make a living on it. Horror stories could run much longer, building the suspense and intrigue. Some of my DNF were in this category. The writing was fine, the premise caught my attention but stories were just coming in bits too small for me right now.

Below is a list of the stories I’ve been reading. These are all available for free. I’ve included the link to the documents through The Gutenberg Project.

Edgar Allan Poe, The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Allan Pinkerton, The Somnabulist and the Detective
The Lock and Key Library (short stories, mix mysteries and others)
Not Mysteries
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (A “who is she”, not who dunnit)
Thomas Hardy, Desperate Remedies (A tragedy, soap opera) 

Welcome to Mysteries To Die For

This is a podcast where my piano player/ producer/ son Jack and I combine storytelling with original music to put you at the heart of mystery, murder, and mayhem. Episode art is by Shannon. You can find Mysteries to Die For on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Stitcher.

We are busy working on Season 2, which will feature adaptations of the story that started the mystery genre. All of the stories were written in the 1800s, They give us a glimpse into everyday life and the hotbed topics of the day, along with murder, mystery, and mayhem. Episodes begin dropping in January.

Episode 1: The Thinking Man. Two women are brutally murdered. They were in a bedroom on the fourth floor with the windows and doors locked from the inside. No money or valuables are taken. After a clerk is arrested, August Dupin takes an interest is the “impossible crime.” This is adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Episode 2: Desperate Measures. Everyone liked George Gordon. He was a head teller at the bank who was murdered in cold blood for money in the vault. The heads of the Mississippi bank send for the famed Chicago detective, Allan Pinkerton. No costs are to be spared in the search for a killer. This is an adaptation of Allan Pinkerton’s The Somnambulist and The Detective.  

October Lady

Use the clues to find a word related to the harvest, then use the numbered positions to discover who our October Lady is. Answers are at the bottom. 

Time of year that begins with the equinox:  1 _ 2 _ _ _
Tool used to cut crops:  3 _ _ _ _ 4
When there are no crops to bring in:  5 _ 6 _ _ _
The kind of belt that carries crops:  _ _ _ 7 _ _ 8 _
Old school way of harvesting: by 9 _ _ 10
Cutting of grain: 11 _ _ _ _ _ 12

10 4 6 4 2 4 11,   12 8 10 10 4 3 3    8 5   2 9 4  9 1 11 7 4 3 2


BOWED HEADS for Ben and Patrick. For the hundreds of words I’ve written in this newsletter, I can’t find any to write here. The end came far too soon.

WELCOME TO THE PACK Susie’s little pup.

A SCRATCH OF THE EAR for virtual conferences and all the creative ways people are finding to keep rooted in normal. 

It was a quiet month for wolf calls. If I missed celebrating your big moment, drop me a note. 

Look out for the Next Edition of
On the Prowl
October 31, 2020
Where we’ll be haunting the Hunter’s Moon

I hope you have a brilliant October. See you in 30 days.