Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Serendipitous Discovery!

By Kathryn Lane

A week's’ worth of newspapers, yes, old-fashioned printed versions, beckoned me on the coffee table. I confess that in the midst of downsizing and moving, I’d been too busy to read them.

Working my way through the papers, I hit serendipity! An article about the changing car culture.

Ford's 1896 Quadricycle

What was serendipitous about that? It covered a topic I’d mentioned in my May newsletter.

First, I should explain that I ask my newsletter readers to submit their favorite quote to me, promising that I will use it in a future newsletter.

This month’s quote was: “My friends are my estate”, submitted by Ann McKennis, a fabulously supportive fan of my work. Instead of analyzing why an introvert like Emily Dickinson would write these words to a friend in a letter, I explored the idea of friends.

So I wrote about the lifelong friendship of inventors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. In 1896, Ford introduced his quadricycle. It ran on gasoline. Edison congratulated his friend, but told him to “keep at it”, predicting electric cars were the wave of the future. It also inspired Edison to work on an electric version.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford 

As a writer, why are cars important to me? Authors use them in novels all the time. Think getaway cars in a robbery, luxury vehicles villains use to impress women, and forensic investigators recovering evidence from cars involved in homicides. Vehicles often break down on dark, isolated roads in crime stories. The list goes on.

Cars are important in real life crime as well. John Dillinger, the infamous criminal, made the Model A Ford synonymous with a gangster’s choice in driving during the 1930s. Then Bonnie and Clyde used a 1934 Ford 730 Deluxe Sedan, a car later riddled with bullets when they were killed.

The Bonnie and Clyde Car

I marveled at the coincidences of stumbling upon a great article about electric and gasoline cars, especially since Edison and Ford were mentioned. Plus, I learned something new: in the early 1900s in New York City, there were more electric cars than those that ran on gasoline.

So what happened? According to Daniel Yergin, Edison put money, effort, and his personal prestige into developing an electric vehicle, but Ford’s gasoline Model T won the hearts of car buyers. Almost a century later, General Motors introduced a mass-market electric vehicle. In 2008, Tesla introduced the stylish Roadster.

Fiction writers will follow the trend. Electric cars are here to stay. The infrastructure to support self-driving vehicles is under construction. I’m anxious to see authors using self-driving cars for getaways. Of course, institutions that villains can rob may be all online, making the getaway car obsolete.


Are you using electric cars in your novels?

Kathryn Lane started out as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.



The Nikki Garcia Mystery Series: eBook Trilogy https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GZNF17G

 Photo credits:

Quadricycle: "1896 Ford Quadricycle Runabout, First Car Built by Henry Ford" by The Henry Ford is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford by Tom Raftery is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND-SA 2.0

The Bonnie and Clyde Car "DSC_0081" by Jay Bonvouloir is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Newspaper Article: Wall Street Journal, Weekend Edition ─ April 24-25, 2021; “The New World of AutoTech” by Daniel Yergin.

Kathryn’s books – designs by Bobbye Marrs


  1. Cool topic. I'm not a car person, but some of my characters are car people, so, yes, I'm interested in cars and how they are portrayed in literature. I haven't read or written about an electric car yet, but I know they're both a'comin'.

    1. Like you, Saralyn, I have not read or written about electric cars in a novel, the're a'comin'. Writing this blog has made me think I need to bring in a character with an electric car!

  2. Cars in my mysteries? Electric: a Tesla, owned by Carter Chapman. Gas-guzzlers: a Rolls Royce (Carter's) and Samantha Newman's old shoebox of a car she dubbed The Ferret, for its ability to get in and out of tight spaces. Good luck with the move!

    1. Gay, you take the prize on cars in literature! I usually have functional ones. I'm going to rethink cars after writing this blog! Thanks for the good wishes on the move. Moving is tough, yet exciting!

  3. Kathryn, I love how we think we're on to something new when it's been around for a long time by the very geniuses that latched onto them in the first place. Edison and Tesla's history is fascinating. Edison had the money and the politician's behind him, else we might be using very different power component. I'm still not a huge fan of self-driving cars as automation has its drawbacks. I believe recently Lyft and Uber have veered away from the idea. Aren't you glad you picked up those articles?

    1. Isn't that the truth?! When GM launched electric cars in the 1990s, I was amazed and wondered why no one had thought of them earlier. But of course, people had, they just did not make a fancy Tesla of the 19th Century era. The article was fantastic - serendipity for my writing persona!

    2. Ha! And I'm sure you will put it to great use! Very well done, Kathryn.

  4. Thank you, Donnell Ann! That's part of the fun we have as writers!!