Jennifer S Alderson Rituals of the Dead, Women writers, women's books

Rituals of the Dead featured Women Writers, Women’s Books website

I am deeply honored to see my article, ‘When Fiction is Perceived as Fact’ on Women Writers, Women’s Books website! This short piece provides insight into the inspirations for my latest novel, in particular Michael Rockefeller’s role in its inception.


When Fiction is Perceived as Fact

“My latest novel, Rituals of the Dead, came to be because I wanted to write a mystery about an Asmat bis pole. Considering the Asmat live in the Indonesian province of Papua, the setting for my historical mystery was easily decided.

The premise was simple: my protagonist – an art history student in present-day Amsterdam – would investigate an event that took place in Papua, before the Dutch government ceded their control to the newly-formed nation of Indonesia in 1963.

However, by setting my novel in Dutch New Guinea, I unintentionally mingled fact with fiction in the minds of many readers.

Bis Poles: Sculptures from the Rain Forest

The fictitious exhibition central to my story is based on an actual exhibition of Asmat artifacts entitled Bis Poles: Sculptures from the Rain Forest. I worked on this project in 2008 as a collection researcher for the Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics), Amsterdam’s only ethnographic museum.

Tasked with finding audiovisual materials, I searched through many fascinating archives and photographic collections for images pertaining to Asmat artifacts, as well as a number of legendary missionaries and anthropologists active in Dutch New Guinea. During my research I came across many bizarre stories about headhunting raids, brave missionaries, crazy explorers and daring anthropologists that stuck with me, long after the exhibition opened.

Two of the poles displayed in the Tropenmuseum exhibition were collected by American anthropologist Michael Rockefeller in 1961. They were later donated to the National Ethnography Museum in Leiden by his parents, to thank the Dutch government for their help in searching for their missing son. Another tantalizing tidbit gleaned from the archives was that Dutch missionary Reverend Gerard Zegwaard had an appointment to meet with Rockefeller after he returned from an acquisition trip upriver. The young American disappeared days later, resulting in one of the most famous unsolved mysteries of our time.

These historical facts provided me with a wild cast of characters and events that I used as the basis for a mystery about bis poles and artifact smuggling…”

Read the rest of the article now on WWWB’s website.


Or buy Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery now (paperback and eBook) via AmazoniBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble NOOKGoogle PlaySmashwords, or your favorite retailer. Audiobook will be released in June 2018.

This article was featured on their site in March 2018, the same month Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery was chosen as one of WWWB’s recommended reads of the month. It is also prominently displayed in their glorious library. Do stop by and take a look at the wonderful selection of titles.

Jennifer S Alderson, artifact mystery, rituals of the dead, when fiction is perceived as fact, Women Writers, Women's Books


How Archival Research Added Texture To My Novel

I am proud to see another article of mine on the WWWB website – ‘How Archival Research Added Texture To My Novel’. This one provides more insight into the inspirations for The Lover’s Portrait. You can read it here. The Lover’s Portrait was also a WWWB recommended read in 2017.

Happy reading, everyone!


Jennifer S. Alderson

Hello! I am the author of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series, the Zelda Richardson Art Mystery series, and Adventures in Backpacking novels. I love to write and blog about travel, art, museums, expat life, and great books. Thanks for stopping by!