Missing Mystery Authors: Update #6

The “Missing Mystery Authors” series is back! Thank you readers, for wanting to know what happened to your favorite mystery authors who, for whatever reason, haven’t published in a while.

Some authors are easy to find, while others are not. Fortunately, many still maintain websites and are active on social media so I can contact them. Often life circumstances put her or his writing on hold. Some are making a comeback with a new series. Sadly, some have left us for the great beyond. Others have seemingly vanished.

It’s always a treat when one of these “missing” folks gets in touch and we strike up an online friendship. Bonus is discovering yet another wonderful author who keeps my TBR list alive and well.

Read on!

Dicey Deere wrote the Torrey Tunet mysteries, set in Ballynagh, Ireland. Titles include The Irish Cottage Murder, The Irish Manor House Murder, The Irish Cairn Murder, and The Irish Village Murder.

Dicey Deere was the nom de plume for Harriet La Barre, a former Cosmopolitan editor. Under her real name, she wrote the following mysteries: Stranger in Vienna, The Florentine Win, and Blackwood‘s Daughter.

Ms. LaBarre passed away in 2015 at the age of 99. Read her obit here.

Earl Emerson, author of the Thomas Black series, featuring a Seattle-based PI. Back in March, I asked for information on this author. A reader informed me that he published a Thomas Black title in November of 2017. Somehow I missed that.

Cate Price wrote the Deadly Notions series, featuring Daisy Buchanan. When one of my loyal blog readers wrote: “I just read her third ‘notions’ book and checked to see if there were any more. Couldn’t find anything after 2015,” I emailed the author. Here is her response:

Hi Maggie!

Thanks for getting in touch, and I’m so pleased that readers are still asking about me 🙂

I had a contract with Berkley Prime Crime for a series of three books, as a writer-for-hire, which means that I don’t own the rights to the series, the characters, or even the pen name “Cate Price”. The series was well-received, but Berkley did not offer for more books, because at the time they were radically downsizing their cozy mystery line. So, as much as I had many ideas for more stories, and loved writing the “Deadly Notions” series, my hands are tied and I can’t self publish.

Readers have also asked what I’m working on now, but part of the contract was that I could never identify myself (my real name) to “Cate Price”. So I’m afraid that will have to remain a mystery!

Please thank your readers for their interest. It really cheers me up to think that people are still enjoying the books.

Best Regards,

Cate

It sounds like she’s between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Corinne Holt Sawyer In my last Missing Authors Update, I mentioned Corinne Holt Sawyer, author of the Angela Benbow and Caledonia Wingate series. Angela and Caledonia are “women of a certain age” who live in a retirement community in Southern California and bring killers to justice on a regular basis.

Soon after that post, I began a correspondence with the author. She lives in Southern California and enjoys the same lifestyle she gives her fictional sleuths. She keeps abreast of technology, but, in her words, “I’m not up to blogging.”

When I asked Corinne about her plans for continuing her series, this is what she told me:

After Donald Fine, my publisher, died, my agent had a battle with Penguin (which took over Donald Fine’s lists)…. because Penguin only wanted to do the book in paperback, but our contract with Fine specified hardcover edition first, paperback no closer than 10 months later (or words to that effect).

Agent and Penguin argued back and forth for a year before Penguin gave up and said they would just give us back our manuscript.   After that, agent couldn’t sell the 9th in the series to another publisher. And that was the end of it.

My agent is now too, alas, deceased. I could probably self-publish the 9th in the series, if I were into that. But at age 94 I don’t want to cope with any of the rigors of self publishing.   

I found the following about Corinne Holt Sawyer on Fantastic Fiction:

Very impressive! But is it totally accurate? Not according to Corinne:

Thanks for the link.   I had never seen that writeup and so went right to it…. and yikes!                 

Though my name is spelled right in the headline, it’s misspelled throughout the column. Yes, I took my PhD from Birmingham, but it wasn’t “in the south” it was in England, where they’d moved their entire graduate division of their English Department 35 miles “off campus” to Stratford-on-Avon, where we lived and worked as a community of renaissance scholars (so to speak.). I’ve only  been in Birmingham, Alabama, once in my life…. and not to go to college there!        

I was never station manager of WNCT…  I was what they call “talent” with my own house-and-home program, and a magazine-of-the-air……  etc., etc.   For one year I was their continuity writer as well….. Boooooring job, I fear.

Where on earth do you suppose they got all that misinformation?   And why misspell my name throughout? How very strange…….

I immediately checked my own entry in Fantastic Fiction. It’s accurate but needs updating.

In The Peanut Butter Murders, Corinne’s sleuth Caledonia says “peanut butter” in lieu of swearing (talk about being creative!). When I told Corinne I enjoyed the story, she shared this little known tale:

Oh, here’s a P.S. about “Peanut Butter Murders” — and it makes self publishing look much better, since it wouldn’t have happened if I’d been self-publishing:

I intended that the book start with the little rhyme:

For obvious reasons — the framework story about the girl finding the body beside the railway tracks.

Some editor from Penguin, (she wasn’t MY editor, mind you) told Donald Fine (my publisher) that rhyme shouldn’t be included… it was too gruesome for my readers, who were obviously elderly and easily shocked.  (Oh, puh-leeze!  We used to sing that as we played hop-scotch when we were little kids!)  But,” she said, “I love the title, so keep the title and find another reason for using it.”  So I had to invent the “swear words” for Caledonia, who never used them in any book before or since…..   See?  It’s not so bad not to have a professional editor. They make a lot of mistakes, and they sometimes drive you crazy.

I’ve so enjoyed my correspondence with this delightful author, and loved her behind-the-scenes tidbits. Bonus: she likes my books!

Here’s Corinne Holt Sawyer’s bibliography on Stop! You’re Killing Me. Wouldn’t it be cool if she published #9?

In Memoriam

My friend Rosie researched her own Missing Authors and sent me the following:

Willam G. Tapply and Philip R. Craig William G. Tapply, who died in 2009, wrote some great mysteries about Stoney Calhoun, a Maine fishing guide. He also wrote mysteries featuring attorney Brady Coyne.

I liked a mystery series he co-wrote with Philip R. Craig. These “Brady Coyne and J.W. Jackson” mysteries used Martha’s Vineyard as the setting. Brady Coyne was still a Boston attorney, but his buddy J.W. Jackson (ex-cop) lived on Martha’s Vineyard, and that’s where the mysteries happen! Craig died in 2007 and has three posthumous mysteries released. Craig wrote many J.W. Jackson mysteries that were not collaborations. Those featured his J.W. Jackson character, so when Craig and Tapply cowrote, those mysteries were fun because the reader saw two separate familiar characters. Each author wrote other books/series, too.

Dorothy Gilman died in 2012. I loved her Mrs. Pollifax series. Of course she wrote other books, too. I’m looking at the summary of the Clairvoyant Countess now. See her bibliography on Stop! You’re Killing Me.

Elizabeth Peters’ (Barbara Mertz) Amelia Peabody series really got me hooked. She died in 2013. Her final book The Painted Queen was finished by her friend Joan Hess and released in 2017, and then Joan Hess died in November of 2017. Stop! You’re Killing Me lists the extensive bibliographies of both Elizabeth Peters  and Joan Hess.

◊ ◊ ◊

Posts from my “Missing Authors” series, in chronological order:

Missing Rochelle Krich

Discovering a Lost Author: John J. Lamb

Whatever Happened to Gabrielle Kraft?

Whatever Happened to (Name an Author)?

In Memory of My Favorite Mystery Authors (And Maybe Yours)

Those Missing Authors: An Update

Missing Author Found!

Missing Authors: Update 2

“Missing Authors: Update 3”

“Missing Authors: Update 4”

“Missing Authors: Update 5”

Do you have a favorite mystery author who hasn’t written in some time and isn’t included in one of the above posts? Yes? Include the name(s) in the comments section and I’ll see what I can find out. It may take me some time but I will get back to you, either personally or in an upcoming blog post.

 

Breaking the Rules of Writing

Should an author ever break the rules of writing?

How would mystery/romance author Jenna Harte answer this question? Is she a rule follower or a rebel? Read on and find out!

Welcome, Jenna.

When it comes to writing, not only are authors expected to adhere to the rules of grammar, but also to the rules of plot and style expected in the genre. The question is, are they rules, or, like in Pirate of the Caribbean, guidelines? What rules should be followed and which can be broken?

Readers Should Be Able to Solve the Crime…Or Should They?
Mystery readers have certain expectations of the novels they read. One is the ability to solve the crime, which means getting all the clues and meeting all the suspects alongside the sleuth. Personally, I think this rule is paramount. Mysteries are like puzzles, and to put them together, the reader needs all the pieces. It’s frustrating and unsatisfactory to get to the end and realize the author left out a key piece of information.

And yet, I recently read a cozy mystery in which we met the murderer 85% into the book, and learn he’s the murderer in the next scene. All that the author provided was a possible motive for the murder, but no clues.

While this annoyed me, clearly the publisher and most other readers didn’t mind. The book has 120 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars on Amazon. And the few negative reviews don’t mention the fact that it’s impossible for the reader to solve the crime.

Mysteries are Told from One or Two Point of Views, and No Jumping POV from Within Scenes
Most mysteries I read are told from one point of view, usually the sleuth’s. Occasionally, I read one that might have two or more points of view, but almost always, only one POV is used per scene. In fact, in all fiction writing, the rule is to not head hop; jump from point of view to another point of view within a scene. The reason for this is that it can get confusing on who is doing the thinking or giving us (the reader) the narrative.

Last month, I read the first book in a popular mystery series because many people have been gushing and buzzing about the author’s writing. Imagine my surprise when the author would use three or four points of view within a single scene. This book has over 3,200 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

Cozies Don’t Have Intimate Bits
All mystery subgenres have rules, but the cozy mystery has the most. Technically, a cozy mystery involves a small-town amateur sleuth solving a crime. The story doesn’t have any swearing, violence, or sex. For die-hard cozy readers, this formula is exactly what they like. And what’s not to love? It’s fun to follow the antics of an ordinary woman who is thrust into an extraordinary situation (murder), without having to deal with harsh language, gore, or sexy bits.

I have to confess, I’ve broken one of the cozy rules. I’m a big fan of crime solving couples, ala Nick and Nora Charles, but part of what I love about couples is the romance. My books in the Valentine Mysteries involve Tess and Jack Valentine, who are an ordinary couple that keep falling over dead bodies and into bed.

What’s Wrong with Breaking the Rules?
Inherently, there is nothing wrong with breaking the rules. Writing a story outside the lines can bring something new and fresh to the style. The success of indie authors proves that readers are willing to read stories outside of what traditional publishing will take as long as the story is good and well-written.

With that said, there are some reasons to stick with the rules. For one, many of the rules provide clarity, as does the stick-with-one-POV-at-a-time rule. Most importantly, readers have expectations, such as the ability to solve the crime or there won’t be any swearing, violence, or intimate scenes. In my case, I’m upfront on what readers will find in my sexy cozy so they’re not surprised. Do I lose some readers? Probably, but also, I’ve found readers that, like me, enjoy sexy cozies.

My upcoming cozy mystery, Death of a Debtor, follows all the rules. While there will be a love interest, there is no swearing, violence (well…she does whap someone with a frying pan, but in her defense, he’s trying to kill her), or sexy bits.

To Break the Rules or Not?
There is an adage that you can’t please everyone all the time. This is especially true for writers. Sticking with the rules may increase the chance of getting published or making readers happy, but then again, it might just make readers feel they’re getting the same old thing. Breaking the rules can offer something new and different, but depending on what it is, might annoy or put-off some readers.

Ultimately, interesting characters and a great story are the most essential components of a novel. The rules offer structure to craft a great story, but can be broken if it will make the story better.

Have you ever loved a book that broke the rules?

Jenna Harte Bio
Jenna Harte is a die-hard romantic, writing about characters who are passionate about and committed to each other, and frequently getting into trouble. 

She is the author of the Valentine Mysteries, the first of which, Deadly Valentine, reached the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. She is also the author of the contemporary romance series, Southern Heat. She has a new traditional cozy mystery, Death of a Debtor, which involves fairy tales, golf clubs, airplane repo, and murder, coming in February 2019. She’s a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Sisters In Crime.

When she’s not telling stories, she works by day as an online entrepreneur. She’s an empty nester living in Central Virginia with her husband and a wacky cat.

Get free books and excerpts, updates and more at Jenna’s website: http://www.jennaharte.com.

Links
Website: http://www.jennaharte.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jenna-Harte/e/B008SYXEZ8

Valentine 3-book Box Set: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07998MDQG

Death of a Debtor (page and pre order are there, but no book cover yet): https://www.amazon.com/Death-Debtor-Sophie-Parker-Coupon/dp/1603817565/

Southern Heat Romance Box Set: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074L82D4C

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennaharteauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenna_harte

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennaharteauthor/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgBosMCckiLpyXoprNBPmbQ/featured

My Summer in Movies

I’ve been catching up on movies this summer. As I watched the Oscars ceremony on March 4, I made a list of the ones I wanted to see. The list was long but I’ve made a big dent. Read on for some highlights:

Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age film based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman. Set in northern Italy in 1983, Call Me by Your Name tells the story of a relationship between a teenager and his professor father’s graduate-student assistant.

This film is so beautifully made that it’s inspired a theme tour in Italy. Click here for details.

Darkest Hour Should Winston Churchill give in to Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost, or should he bring his nation together and battle the enemy at staggering odds? And what about his political rivals at home? Churchill faces his Darkest Hour. This is a must-see film.

Disaster Artist The Room was a cult success, probably because it’s regarded as “The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies.” The Disaster Artist is the true story of writer/director Tommy Wiseau and the making of The Room. It’s a gem.

Going way back, The Grapes of Wrath won a couple of well-deserved Oscars in 1941. The Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers, face hardship in their Oklahoma home due to drought, economic downturns, bank foreclosures, and changes in agricultural practices brought on by the Great Depression, The Joads pack up and head west, lured by con artists who prey on them and other families, promising work and good fortune in California. The novel is considered John Steinbeck’s masterpiece. The movie is an excellent adaptation.

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story of a high-school senior and her turbulent relationship with her mother. I liked it but not as much as I thought I would.

Murder on the Orient Express With thirteen stranded strangers and one murder victim on a luxury train, Hercule Poirot races to solve the murder before the killer strikes again. From the novel by the legendary Agatha Christie. Worth seeing, especially if you don’t know the story. I’ve probably seen too many adaptations.

Phantom Thread is set in London’s couture world in 1954. Daniel Day-Lewis is a couturier. When a young waitress catches his eye and becomes his muse, his life is never again the same. Beautifully made, but there are some very odd relationships.

I hear this is Day-Lewis’s final role before retiring—say it isn’t so!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri When the police in Ebbing, Missouri make no progress solving the murder of a young local woman, her vigilante mother takes a unique approach in seeking justice. This movie is  dark and powerful, with plenty of raw emotion. Acting awards were well-deserved.

Do you have a suggestion for a good book, movie, or show? Let me know.

 

The Unanticipated Joys of Research

By Ellen Byerrum

What if clothes were haunted like houses or locations?

Could a dress be toxic enough to kill?

How would someone dispatch a villain in a dying velvet factory?

These may not be the nicest of questions, but they are among ones I’ve asked myself when writing my Crime of Fashion Mysteries. I wrapped these ideas into the plots of three of the books, but not without looking further into these queries and their answers. While imagination plays the largest part in crafting a story, I also like to get it right, or at least have a realistic place to jump to the realm of make-believe.

That’s where research comes in. It can be one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. The hands-on research, that is, the kind that lifts you out of your chair and away from your desk.

Sure, there are a lot of facts at your fingertips via the Internet and Google. And like everyone else, I use my computer for finding information and checking details. However, the web is no substitute for leaving your comfort zone and meeting people, asking questions, or just walking around in the location about which you want to write. In the shoes of your characters, so to speak. However, in my case, it might also be in their dresses.

Where did my question about haunted clothing come from?

I once had the strangest experience of putting on one of my vintage 1940s suits and feeling very strongly that I was supposed to wear Chanel No. 5 with that suit. Chanel No. 5?! Was that a memory left behind by the original woman who owned the suit? Did she wear Chanel No. 5? I don’t particularly care for that fragrance, it’s a bit too sweet for me. But my husband thoughtfully bought me the perfume anyway. I haven’t tried saying, “Honey, the suit wants a diamond necklace to go with it.” Not yet, anyway. Unfortunately for my jewelry box, the suit only wanted the right perfume.

Nevertheless, the idea of a haunted garment—in my case a haunted shawl—started rumbling around in my brain, and I knew there could be a fascinating story there. There’s not a lot of information on the web about haunted clothes, and haunted clothing doesn’t seem to be a common occurrence, either in experience or literature. That question, however, led to one of the most delightful interviews I have ever had. I made an appointment and interviewed two gracious experts in the Costume Collections at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

They had no tales of ghostly garments, although they had one item they called the “bad luck” bridal gown. (The bride died shortly after the wedding.) However, they offered me wonderful information about the collection, which has over 30,000 American garments which date from as early as the 1600s. I was able to view shoes, hats, dresses that the public will never get to see. I was so lucky and so grateful for their insights and I used some of that information for my ninth book, Veiled Revenge.

Deadly dyes and deadly dresses

Though not haunted, a deadly dress is something I explore in Lethal Black Dress, the tenth book in the series. I first heard about a dye known as “poison apple green” in a college class on the History of Costume (Liberal arts rock!) The toxic dye could be absorbed through the skin.

Years later, I worked my way through the literature on the phenomena and found that there were beautiful and brilliant blue and green colors that came from “Paris Green” dye. The dye was toxic, made from copper acetoarsenite, and was used in fabrics and paper, wallpaper and even candy wrappers. Unfortunately, when wet it released an arsenic gas, which could be absorbed through the pores. Some people believe that Napoleon died from arsenic poison emitted from his Paris Green wallpaper on the very humid island of St. Helena.

I consulted a doctor and asked whether such a dye really could kill someone. We tried out various scenarios while she pondered it and concluded, “Sure, why not?” That’s the beauty of fiction. Once you decide something is possible, you can wind yourself down a twisted trail of diabolical suspects and deadly plots, along with Paris Green dye.

And what about that velvet factory?

When I was a working journalist in Washington, D.C., a coworker told me the last velvet factory in Virginia (and the last dress-grade velvet factory in America) was going to close down, and that she knew the manager—I knew I had to see it for myself. I immediately called the manager and asked if I could tour the facility. I explained I was a reporter and a mystery writer, and he remarked, “Well, there are a lot of ways to kill people here.” Words that warm the cockles of a writer’s heart.

I took a day off work and traveled to the small economically depressed Virginia town.

Bolts and bolts of shimmering fabric contrasted dramatically with the dangerous steel equipment required to manufacture it. Velvet is woven with two backing sheets at once, so that a razor-sharp blade must slice through the weave to release the soft velvet in the middle, creating two pieces of fabric. The circular blades used to cut it were at least six feet high.

Making velvet was not automated. Workers had to carefully pull and attach the material on racks with sharp steel teeth to stretch it and dry it. The velvet was then wound onto the teeth of giant spools to be dyed in massive tanks. Each step carried its own hazards.

Not only did I get a glimpse of what it would be like to work in such a factory (and how someone might meet their fictional fate there), I saw what closing the factory, the economic impact, meant to that small town. The factory once had a hundred weavers, but that function had been sent to England and the weaving room was now silent. Other departments were likewise decimated. When I visited there were just a handful of workers left.

It was a lot for me and my character Lacey Smithsonian to consider. That research was crucial in writing Shot Through Velvet, the seventh book in my series.

Ellen’s tour of the velvet factory

I am currently working on and researching a prequel to my series, which is set during World War II in Washington, D.C. It features Lacey’s great-aunt, Mimi Smith, when she was a young woman working for the wartime Office of Price Administration. In researching it, I have spent time visiting various D.C area locations, including Chinquapin Village, a housing development for Torpedo Factory workers. It was located in Alexandria, VA, but dismantled sometime after the war.

Research has a way of bringing things to life that otherwise might just be a heading on an outline. One question can lead you to people who have amazing insights, or to locations that can open up a whole world. It can make a story bigger and more involved. I recommend it.

Ellen Byerrum is a novelist, a playwright, a former Washington, D.C. journalist, and a graduate of private investigation school in Virginia. Her Screwball Noir Crime of Fashion mysteries feature Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant fashion reporter in Washington, D.C., “The City That Fashion Forgot.” Lacey solves crimes with fashion clues while stylishly decked out in vintage togs.

Her most recent Crime of Fashion mystery, and the 11th in the series, is The Masque of the Red Dress. What do Russian espionage, Washington DC, and the theatre have in common? Spies, lies and a dangerous red dress.

Two of the COF novels, Killer Hair and Hostile Makeover, were filmed for the Lifetime Movie Network.

The Woman in the Dollhouse is Byerrum’s first suspense thriller. She has also penned a middle-grade mystery, The Children Didn’t See Anything, the first of stories starring the precocious 12-year-old Bresette twins, Evangeline and Raphael.

Under her playwright pen name, Eliot Byerrum, she has published two plays with Samuel French, A Christmas Cactus and Gumshoe Rendezvous.

You can find Ellen Byerrum on her website at www.ellenbyerrum.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllenByerrumBooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EllenByerrum

Ellen Byerrum’s Fashion Bites on YouTube: https://bit.ly/2OeYMPF

Buy The Masque of the Red Dress on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LJUrCm

 

 

 

Melodie Johnson Howe: Images of a Writer

Let’s give a big welcome to Melodie Johnson Howe. Her journey from childhood to career as a Hollywood actress to career as a mystery author is fascinating. As is her series featuring Hollywood actress/sleuth Diana Poole.

My mother dropped my brother and me off at the movies. Before she drove away she said, “Enjoy yourselves, your father and I are getting divorced.”

In the darkness of the theater my brother nervously gnawed at his thumb as if it were a chicken leg.  He couldn’t forget her words.  Somethings she said were  true. Somethings were not.  Reality was no excuse in our family.

I was enveloped in the drama of the movie.  It’s a drama that couldn’t hurt me. I loved being lost in make-believe.

Summer. Massillon, Ohio. I stood in my uncle’s home library. Ten years old. Short blonde hair. Long gawky legs. My family and I and were visiting from Los Angeles. My parents didn’t get divorced. The sun streamed in through a big paned window.  I’ve never been in a house that had a room just for books. I pulled one from the shelf titled, For Whom the Bell Tolls. A man named Hemingway wrote it. I opened it and begin to read.

My mother, who had the ability to appear from nowhere, swept in and grabbed the book from my hands.  “You’re too young to read this.”

The quiet room is suddenly full of adults. Talking.

My father, a sly grin on his face, said, “Oh, let her read it. She’s not going to understand it.” He had the ability to stand up for me and let me down at the same time.

“She understands enough,” my mother snapped. Face knotted.

My aunt asked if anybody would like iced tea.

My uncle, the lawyer, so pale he looked like he needs to be colored-in with crayons, said, “I have an appointment downtown. I’ll take her to the library and she’ll pick out a book that’s appropriate for her.”

Appropriate. My heart sank. Mother pulled me from the room. I looked back at the book now lost among the others on the shelf.

In the public library I ran my finger along the spines of the books. Most were about boys doing daring deeds. Nancy Drew!  But I’d read her. I wanted something else … something … adult.  And there it is!  A bright red book titled, My Dear Wife. That sounds adult.

I opened it. No pictures. Only chapters.  The print was bigger than Hemingway’s book and not so jammed together. I began to read. A young pretty woman and a handsome young man have just wedded. But before they can consummate their marriage the American Revolutionary War breaks out and he must go fight.  Consummate. I whispered this new word. I had no trouble figuring out its meaning.  My heart raced.

The young woman decides she must do her duty for the war, too. She becomes a spy. Hiding messages in the hem of her skirt she crosses enemy lines to give them to George Washington. And all the time searching for her husband.

Alone in bed that night, I finished the book.  And felt the abandonment of having to leave this brave strong woman and the Revolutionary War. It was the same feeling of abandonment when I walked from the darkness of the movie theater into the daylight. My mother waiting for me.  Years later when I became a writer I knew that I’d learned how to create suspense and strong women characters from reading My Dear Wife. The power of a book.

Melodie in the movies

Ten years later, a motion picture agent “discovered” me at a cocktail party. I was put under contract at Universal studio I spent my days learning to act on the job. At night I drove to UCLA extension to learn the craft of writing. With the setting sun in my eyes, I sped along Sunset Blvd. The sky streaked with lurid cheap colors. The palm trees darkened into lurking shadows and the mansions turned sinister. I was in the land of Raymond Chandler. A land that felt right to me. California noir.

My two loves had come together in my life: movies and books. But they didn’t mingle well. I quit acting.  People called me crazy to walk away. And it was crazy. Any giant leap you take is. I wanted to create my own world of make-believe.  And so I did. I wrote about angry mothers, strong women such as Clare Conrad, the female version of Nero Wolfe, and Diana Poole, an actress.

I found myself in make-believe.

 

Melodie with City of Mirrors

Melodie Johnson Howe always wanted to be a writer. But born in Los Angeles, she was “discovered” at a cocktail party, and put under contract to Universal Studios as an actress.  In her first acting job she was shot dead in the titles of a TV movie. They covered her with a sheet and carted her off to an ambulance, with only her blonde hair showing. Over the next few years she acted in such movies as The Ride To Hangman’s Tree co-starring with James Farentino; Coogan’s Bluff with Clint Eastwood; Gaily, Gaily directed by Norman Jewison; Rabbit Run with James Caan; and The Moonshine War, co-starring with Alan Alda.  During this period she also went to UCLA Extension at night to learn the craft of writing.  After quitting acting she wrote her first mystery novel, The Mother Shadow, which was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe Award. The second mystery novel, Beauty Dies soon followed.  Turning to the short story form she created a new character Diana Poole, an actress verging on middle age. The stories were published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  Two have been nominated for the Barry Award. They are now collected into one book, Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories.

Melodie at Malice Domestic

City of Mirrors, Howe’s first novel to feature Diana Poole brings her acting life and writing life together.  As The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said, “City of Mirrors is slick and smart with a “Chinatown” vibe, only funnier and with an insider’s view of Hollywood, a place that “has the attention span of a coked-up executive producer,’ a place where people live in ‘Technicolor’ and then ‘fade to black.’”

Hold A Scorpion is the latest Diana Poole novel.

 


Visit Melodie Johnson Howe on her web site (includes her buy links)

Melodie Johnson Howe’s Facebook Author Page

MysteriousPress.com publisher of the Clare Conrad/Maggie Hill books and Shooting Hollywood: the Diana Poole Stories