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Sam Morgan thinks the sixth grade social studies assignment sounds like fun—find out something that happened on the day he was born and
interview three people about the event. On Sam’s birthday, almost twelve years ago on Halloween, the Big Spring Inn burned to the ground. It’s an
exciting subject, but it becomes more fascinating when he interviews an eyewitness who says it was arson. By reading back issues of the local paper,
Sam discovers a major fire occurred each year on his birthday. Halloween is only a few days away. Will the arsonist strike again? Sam and his neighbors Matt and
Jill investigate. Phantom horses, a missing police report, and a stakeout help the young detectives discover the secret of the Halloween fires.
Q & A with Veda Boyd Jones regarding The Secret of the Halloween Fires
Q: This is the second (The Baseball Card Mystery came first) in your Sam Morgan series. Why did you choose to use Sam, Jill, and Matt in another book?
A: I just liked these characters. I used my sons’ first names as the last names of the characters (Sam Morgan, Jill Marshall, and Matt Landon), and that was fun. They seemed to have good relationships. They live on the same street, so there’s no problem of having a parent step in and take one of them to the other’s house. These kids seem like normal kids; they joke with each other and get aggravated at one another, too.
Q. The setting in Neosho doesn’t match Neosho exactly. Why?
A. I used the Neosho where I grew up; the middle school was only blocks from the square, which is dominated by the county court house. I wanted the kids to be able to get around without car pools and parents getting in the way. Neosho has spread out, and the land where the middle school is now wasn’t even in city limits when I lived there.
Once you add parents dropping off and picking up, kids lose independence. Sam, Jill, and Matt get around on bikes, so they’re in charge of where they’re going, within reason.
Q. Was this story based on real facts?
A. Many suspect the old Big Spring Inn fire was arson. Not long after it burned, there was an arson fire every weekend for several weeks. Even the CRC was burned, and I believe it was proven as arson. Yet no one was ever charged with the crime.
My cousin Megan was killed in a car wreck when she was seventeen. A drunk driver did not cause the wreck, but I wanted to make the point of how deadly drunk driving can be. I combined the fires and Megan’s death and came up with the plot.
Q. Will you use the phantom horses in another book?
A. I don’t know. At the moment I’m working on another project, but I’ve always liked those phantom horses, so we’ll see.