| April 16, 2021 1:00 AM D.F. “Dave” Oliveria at CDA Press

Dr. Heather Branstetter didn’t plan to write a book about the notorious sex trade of Wallace, her hometown.

It was to be part of a larger project that included the labor wars and gambling raids that helped shape the Silver Valley. But the valley’s mine troubles were well chronicled. And the gambling raids could wait.

In the end, few others could have written “Selling Sex in the Silver Valley: A Business Doing Pleasure.” Certainly not an outsider.

“I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been born and raised here,” said Heather, the granddaughter of former, longtime Wallace councilwoman Joann Branstetter and daughter of retired Wallace attorney Mike Branstetter. “People were secretive and distrustful of the press, especially about the sex work. They didn’t want to talk to me much.”

But they did talk. And talk.

And Heather will talk about her seven years of research and writing, as the guest speaker of the Museum of North Idaho (Virtual) Annual Banquet from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 23. In her presentation, Heather will include a 17-minute documentary based on her book by director Delaney Buffett, daughter of singer Jimmy Buffett, titled “Wallace.”

Heather, a K-12 counselor in the Mullan School District who now holds her “Grandma Jo’s” Wallace City Council seat, tells Huckleberries she grew up hearing about the rumors.

“It was something we talked about in elementary school even before we understood what sex was,” she said.

“Selling Sex” (available at Amazon, $11.49 Kindle and $20.89 paperback) is neither sensationalized nor romanticized. It is divided into three sections: straight-up history, Heather’s commentary on the Wallace sex trade, and first-hand, oral history accounts.

Heather interviewed 100 people for her book, many of whom wished the Wallace sex trade was still around. Most believe the undocumented community claim that the sex trade prevented rape.

The oral histories were important.

“I wanted readers to get a sense of how they talked and thought,” Heather said.

“Selling Sex” examines the civic and financial contributions sex workers made to Wallace during its hard-drinking, hard-living days.

Dolores Arnold, the best-known madam, understood the importance of public relations and charity. She was known for her contributions to the needy and local schools. And she drove around town in a 1958 baby blue Cadillac Coupe with her standard poodle, Mikey, riding shotgun.

What’s next for Heather? She has been contacted about a possible TV series based on her book. And she has begun research for a book about the valley’s gambling raids. Stay tuned.

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