HOLD STILL is inspired by the true story of Evelyn Cameron, British gentry and Montana pioneer. In real life, she became one of the first photographers in the West. In my version, it’s her photography and her unstoppable gutsiness that get her into trouble. Though none of the novel’s events are from her life, the time, place, circumstances, and even what’s on the dinner plate closely follow her experience.
After growing up in a Victorian manor in England with a maid to brush her hair, Edith Macallan (Evelyn Cameron) and her bird-loving husband immigrate to a shack on the edge of the Montana Badlands in 1890. There Edith finds the freedom she craves. In the closest town, she finds a close circle of female friends – equally strong-willed if not precisely like-minded.
Edith’s husband, Ewan, is more interested in studying birds than money-making so Edith determines to use her fledgling skill in the new craft of photography to earn a few dollars. It’s not long before this innocent activity runs afoul of a local rancher, Jebediah Sessions.
Sessions is a narcissist given to violence against anyone who stands in his way or stands up to him, including his strange wife. He is determined to keep farmers and sheep from impinging on his free use of the open rangelands. (A conflict that continues to modern times.) Murder is his favorite method.
Edith’s photos of a murder scene lead to evidence against Sessions and make her a target. It’s the women of the town, particularly Edith, who become determined to be catalysts for justice.