Wyoming Arts Council

Christy Leskovar on Speaking of Writing

This week on Speaking of Writing, Julianne Couch will play an October, 2006 interview recorded with Christy Leskovar by KGLT radio in Bozeman, Montana, with their permission. Speaking of Writing will not be able to podcast this program on the Speaking of Writing site, but you can visit http://www.onenightinabadinn.com/ for access. Speaking of Writing airs each week on KOCA FM, 93.5, Laramie’s community radio station.

Christy was born in Butte, Montana, and grew up in Kennewick, Washington. In 1982 she graduated cum laude from Seattle University with degrees in mechanical engineering and French. She then joined Bechtel in Gaithersburg, Maryland. After stints in Kansas, Barcelona, and San Francisco, she transferred to Las Vegas. During a trip to her hometown of Butte in 1997, she learned the shocking news about her great-grandmother being arrested for murder. She ultimately left her engineering career to devote all her time to finding out what happened and writing a book about it. The research and writing took eight years. The result, One Night in a Bad Inn, was a finalist for the 2007 High Plains Best New Book Award.

“Fire ravages a Montana homestead, a dead body is found in the ruins, tragedy turns to mystery which turns to scandal.” So begins One Night in a Bad Inn, a lively tale of war, murder, and mayhem, courage and fortitude, set during one of the most turbulent eras in American history, and it’s all true.

Through this compelling story, we meet the beautiful Aila, the daughter of Welsh immigrants who lives a Dickensian life, orphanage and all, and grows up to be an impeccable woman of indomitable will, rejecting the debauchery and brutality in which she was raised and overcoming tremendous trials; her father, Arthur, the Welsh stonemason turned homesteader who loses all in a reckless scheme; her mother, Sarah, the bawdy boarding house matron, a debutante of the demimonde, who tries to drive her children into misdeeds and succeeds with Aila’s brothers; her husband, Peter, the handsome Irish miner turned soldier who goes off to fight with the 91st “Wild West” Division on the bloody battlefields of the Western Front in the First World War, he saves a man’s life and returns home a decorated hero.

The people are larger than life, some notorious, some heroic; the events, the times, and the settings are fascinating, much of it taking place in early twentieth century Butte, Montana—a bustling, cosmopolitan, industrial metropolis that could have been plucked from the northeast and dropped in the Rocky Mountains, a delicious melange of eastern sophistication amid a mining camp’s outlandishness. It is indeed a remarkable saga through which the reader learns some intriguing history through the lives of some very intriguing people.

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