Please welcome fellow Seventh Street Books author, Larry D. Sweazy, who’s taking over the blog today to talk about one of my favorite birds, which also features in his newest mystery, A Thousand Falling Crows (Seventh Street Books, 2016).
And now, over to Larry:
Something to Crow About
by Larry D. Sweazy
One of the reasons that I’ve always liked crows is that they are often misunderstood and feared. Most people think that all Native Americans believe that crows are omens of bad luck or harbingers of death, but actually, a lot of tribes consider the crow good luck. The Chippewa have a Crow Clan, as do the Hopi, and the Menominee, Caddo, Tlingit, and the Pueblo tribes. Of course, people once believed that when a person died a crow carried their soul to the heavens.
They have been used as symbols of death and war, and are the subject of superstition that reaches back to the dawn of time. From Oz to Heckle and Jeckle, crows have left an indelible impression of the bird in our modern-day minds, and hearts too, whether right or wrong, based on truth or fear.
In reality, American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are large passerine birds that can be found in all of North America. They can be determined from their cousin and fellow corvid, and sharer of myths, the raven, by their size, range, and call. There’s nothing like being out on a dreary October morning, after the cornfields have been harvested when the caws and excitement of a flock (yes, a murder) of crows meet your ears. The sound echoes for miles alerting friend and foe of their presence in a way very few other birds can.
Crows are common birds and are highly adaptable. They live in urban areas as well as rural. They use tools, have problem solving skills, and have been studied for their facial recognition abilities (http://news.discovery.com/animals/zoo-animals/angry-crows-memory-life-threatening-behavior-110628.htm). And they are omnivores, just like us. They will eat anything, including carrion, which gave the first peoples reason to fear and make up the stories about them that they did.
They are highly susceptible to the West Nile virus, and unfortunately I have witnessed the death of far too many corvids (blue jays are corvids, too) because of it. I have visited with a bird rehabber regularly for the last ten years, and this time has contributed greatly to my research of crows, and birds in general. Crows and their social intelligence, as well as all of their mythical attributes, have long fascinated me.
So, it should be no surprise that for my latest mystery novel, A Thousand Falling Crows, that crows would come to play a role as a Greek chorus of sorts. I didn’t set out to write them into the book, but I found myself at a creative crossroads, and finally decided to try and capture a crow’s point of view. It’s up to the readers to decide whether or not the crows add to the story or not. I think it does, and wouldn’t change the book for any reason. Not now.
I hope the next time you see a crow, you’ll look it a little differently. Crows are smart creatures who live alongside of us and contribute greatly to our world. Imagine a sky without the crow in it. That would be a sad, black sky, indeed.
Larry D. Sweazy is the author of twelve novels, including A Thousand Falling Crows, See Also Murder, Vengeance at Sundown, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil’s Bones, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA (Western Writers of America) Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013, and the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007, and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010, and won in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. He has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys’ Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies. He is also a freelance indexer and has written back-of-the-book indexes for over eight hundred fifty books in nineteen years, which served as inspiration for the Marjorie Trumaine Mystery series. Larry lives in Indiana with his wife, Rose, two dogs and a cat. More information can be found at www.larrydsweazy.com.