The Things I Learn While Researching ...

Jack Patterson's picture

When I worked for a small newspaper in South Georgia, there was a cartoon in our breakroom that made me chuckle every time I saw it because it was so true. A blindfolded man stood in front of a cork board that had pieces of paper tacked to it containing different subject names — politics, law enforcement, military, education, homicide, farming, etc. Located in a newsroom, the man prepared to throw a dart and said, "Today, I will become an expert in ..." While this was one of the more maddening things about writing for a small newspaper where you needed to be flexible enough to bounce around to cover different sectors but never enough time to really master the field, it's one of the greatest pleasures I have in writing novels: all the research.

In writing the James Flynn series, Flynn is often investigating age-old conspiracies, which gives me an opportunity to learn about slices of Americana I never knew existed. For example, in my upcoming novel The Cooper Affair, Flynn is investigating the infamous D.B. Cooper who in November of 1971 skyjacked a plane headed for Seattle before getting $200,000 ransom money and parachuting out of the back never to be seen again. What I found interesting that led me down a crazy rabbit hole (and eventually became an important plot point — but don't worry, this won't spoil anything for you) was learning what kind of cigarettes Cooper was smoking on the plane. (Yes, I know. Smoking on a plane? It was a different era back then, though I still remember seeing people smoke on planes when I was a kid.) It was a brand I'd never heard of called Raleigh cigarettes.

As I started researching, I found out that Raleigh cigarettes were also known as coupon cigarettes. Each package or carton contained coupons that people could collect and redeem for different items. Similar versions of this go on today in our digital space where you get imaginary points that help you get discounts on certain items — but I had no idea this went on with cigarettes back in the day.

So, what did I do? I wanted to see these coupons for myself. And they weren't too difficult to find on Etsy. Pictured above, you can see a few of the Raleigh cigarette coupons that I bought.

I'd love to hear you thoughts about this:

Do you remember Raleigh cigarettes or other coupon cigarettes? Did you collect them? And if so, what was the best item you ever got from them?