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Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting, and gritty, persevering characters

The Story behind What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis

Welcome today to Mary Ellis, who shares with us a fun detail about the true hotel which inspired her latest novel, What Happened on Beale Street.

Here’s a little bit about the book:

What Happened on Beale StreetA cryptic plea for help from a childhood friend sends cousins Nate and Nicki Price from New Orleans to Memphis, the home of scrumptious barbecue and soulful blues music. When they arrive at Danny Andre’s last known address, they discover signs of a struggle and a lifestyle not in keeping with the former choirboy they fondly remember.

Danny’s sister, Isabelle, reluctantly accepts their help. She and Nate aren’t on the best of terms due to a complicated past, yet they will have to get beyond that if they want to save Danny.

On top of Danny’s alarming disappearance and his troubled relationship with Isabelle, Nate also has to rein in his favorite cousin’s overzealousness as a new and eager PI. Confronted with a possible murder, mystery, and mayhem in the land of the Delta blues, Nate must rely on his faith and investigative experience to keep one or more of them from getting killed.

Welcome, Mary. Tell us a little bit about the location that sparked your story.

Location, location, location…those are the watch words when selecting investment real estate, a vacation destination, or a good place to retire. Mystery writers know that setting is also crucial to a story. For my latest romantic suspense, What Happened on Beale Street, I chose the opulent Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. When two detectives arrived to investigate the death of a friend, they chose a hotel in the heart of the blues music scene. I visited the Peabody several times and stayed once during research. Although I renamed the Peabody to the Carlton since I liberally changed details to suit the story, this historic landmark offered inspiration on many levels. Their hundred-plus years in business have produced plenty of intriguing vignettes, and sparked my fictional subplot about hidden jewels, missing for fifty years. While a guest at the Peabody I took the concierge’s tour and learned plenty about the fountain, a veritable masterpiece in marble.

peabody lobbyBut truly the Peabody’s premier attraction is their resident ducks, which spend afternoons in the fountain and off-camera hours in the rooftop Duck Palace (also accessible to tourists.) Twice a day the tuxedoed Duck Master marches his mallards from the palace into the elevator. With great fanfare at the precise hour, the elevator door opens and the ducks march down the red carpet, up a ramp, and into the fountain—all to the cheers and applause of a multitude of fans. In the late afternoon, the march repeats in reverse after the ducks finish their workday. I was lucky enough to observe a duck-flock marching in single file with soldierly precision to the Duck Master’s commands. On another occasion, I viewed a new batch of trainees and saw a different show indeed. (Ducks remain for a short period and are then returned to the wild.) When the elevator doors opened the Duck Master herded a squawky, rambunctious pack down the red carpet who definitely hadn’t grasped the concept of single file. What an entertaining show! Although there’s no need to hunt for missing diamonds since my story is pure fiction, the Peabody Hotel in downtown is one of America’s must-see landmarks. Whether for a romantic getaway or a quick stop to see the famous ducks, you may just find your own brand of inspiration.


Wow, Mary, how interesting! Thanks for sharing with us.

Mary Ellis has written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, What Happened on Beale Street, is second of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, from Harvest House Publishers. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. She can be found on the web at: or!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236

Mary is also giving away a copy of the book. Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again!


  1. This sounds like an intriguing story! And what a great title and cover art. 🙂

    • And to answer the rafflecopter question – the most interesting hotel I stayed in was in Lucca, Italy. It was beautiful, old, and seeping with history!

  2. I haven’t stayed in any interesting hotels. Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  3. The most interesting hotel I ever stayed in was in Nellingen Germany back in the 70’s.

  4. The most interesting hotel to date that we’ve stayed in had a huge salt water tank full of colorful fish and coral. Almost like being under the ocean, it was really unique!

    Thank you for the author interview & book giveaway chance!

  5. We didn’t stay, but did stop by for a lunch at an allegedly haunted hotel in Marietta, OH. Thanks for the interview and giveaway. Looks like a great read! 🙂

  6. We stayed at a hotel in Amsterdam years ago. Our room only had a pull out bed and a shared shower down them hall. While my husband was walking me to the shower someone went in our room and stole our hairdryer. It was more of an interesting nightmare I think.