Missing Authors: Update #5

The “Missing Author” 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. Thanks also for introducing me to some great new-to-me authors. I really enjoyed the late Graham Landrum’s The Garden Club Mystery.

Read on for the latest updates:

Barbara D’Amato, author of three series set in Chicago. Brian D’amato (son?) posts frequently on her Facebook page. But she does not. Curious.

Jane Haddam, author of the Gregor Demarkian series, set in Philadelphia.

I emailed Ms. Haddam on May 25, 2017, asking about her plans for the Gregor Demarkian series. Fighting Chance is the most recent  book in the series, and that was published in 2014. She didn’t respond. However, on January 9, 2018, she introduced the Georgia Xenakis series with Dead Letters.

She’s blogging and has a new Facebook author page. She’s experimenting with a GoFundMe page. Read about it here.

On March 11, she posted that she was in the hospital and not feeling well.

M.D. Lake, aka Allen Simpson, author of the Peggy O’Neill mysteries, set in Minnesota. I was corresponding with the president of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime a few months ago; she asked one of the chapter’s members to contact Allen. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m following up.

Ann Ripley, author of the Gardening Mysteries. She’s on Facebook. On February 26, 2017, she posted to a friend:

My agent is looking at a mystery I’ve written. If someone buys it, I’ll go out and drink a couple of margaritas.

I hope Ms. Ripley has had success.

Corinne Holt Sawyer, author of the Angela Benbow and Caledonia Wingate series, set in Southern California.

Here’s her bio from FantasticFiction, and it’s fascinating. Ms. Sawyer has an impressive resume. She last published in 1999.

She’s 94 and lives in a retirement community in Carlsbad, California. Very nice! Apparently she’s enjoying the upscale lifestyle of her fictional sleuths, hopefully sans murder!

Beth Sherman, author of the Jersey Shore mysteries. According to a mutual mystery author friend, Ms. Sherman is a college professor and publishes fiction and poetry in literary journals. She has been pursuing her PhD. Apparently she has moved on from mysteries.

Christine Wenger, author of the Comfort Food Mystery series.

She is publishing western romances, and has a new one coming out on April 3, 2018. Here’s her response to my inquiry about the status of her diner series:

Unfortunately, the series ended after IT’S A  WONDERFUL KNIFE. The publisher didn’t want it anymore. Darn it! I am writing bull rider books for Harlequin right now, but you never know. I might  publish more of Trixie and the gang  myself!!  

Thanks for writing. I appreciate your interest. And sorry for the delay in replying to you.


Updates from Previous Posts

Shirley Damsgaard, author of the Ophelia and Abby series, set in small town Iowa. Shirley accepted my Facebook request and she is a frequent poster. Earlier this year I sent her a Facebook message, asking if she planned to return to her series. She didn’t respond. But I followed a hunch and found this Facebook posting from Shirley on September 17, 2017:

Thanks for all the comments on my little survey! There were so many that I couldn’t reply to each one separately! And a special thanks to everyone who wants more Ophelia and Abby! It means more than I can say that there is still an interest in “the girls!” Even after all this time since the last release! I am trying to get back in the game so to speak and doing some rearranging in my life to make it more conducive to writing.

A little background on what set me pondering the short story-novella question. On Saturday, I had a terrific time attending a reading given by one of my “besties” and fellow author, Tamara Jones (totally unbiased pitch here…she has a new book coming out October 3rd, “Morgan’s Run,” and as one of her first readers, I can tell you, it’s really good! ?) Anyway, at the reading, I also met her publisher, Aaron Bunce, and as things usually go when those involved in the industry get together, the conversation turned to marketing and how to be successful. It brought to mind as to whether or not short stories and novellas could be used as an effective tool to help build a readership, but I wondered just how popular they are.

It seems from your comments, that most of you do enjoy them. AND several of you made important points….1. don’t leave you hanging at the end of the story; 2. Use the story to give you further insight into the series’ characters. The last point was something I really hadn’t considered while working on this current piece, but will now! Tink plays a more central role in this story and, thanks to your comments, I will definitely look at ways to let you all get to know her better!

Again, thanks for the input!

End of Shirley’s post

Shirley did publish a collection of stories, Shadow Tales, in 2011. It includes an Ophelia and Abby story.

Madelyn Alt. I get more requests on her whereabouts than for any other author. I don’t have any info on her beyond this post from 2016.

I’m having a tough time finding information on the status of the following authors. If you know anything, please leave a comment:

K.J.Erickson, author of the Mars Bahr series, set in Minneapolis

Lynda Robinson, creator of Lord Meren, chief investigator for Pharaoh Tutankhamun in ancient Egypt.

Mary Stanton (pseud. Claudia Bishop), a prolific writer of mysteries set in Upstate New York and Savannah, Georgia.

Earl Emerson, author of two series set in Washington State: Mac Fontana, ex-firefighter and arson investigator; and Thomas Black, bicycling-enthusiast private eye. The last Thomas Black story was published in 2015.

Barbara Taylor McCafferty (pseud. Tierney McClellan) and Beverly Taylor Herald, twin sisters and one time prolific authors of several series.

Jean Hager, wrote three series set in Oklahoma and Missouri

Sharon Kahn, creator of Ruby Rothman, a rabbi’s widow in Eternal, Texas

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”

Do you have a favorite 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.

Some authors are easy to find, while some 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, I find that some have left us for the great beyond. Others have seemingly vanished.

Find bibliographies for the above authors on Stop You’re Killing Me, a great resource for mystery lovers.



WAR and PEACE: My Thoughts on Tolstoy’s Saga

War and Peace is a masterpiece. It’s Leo Tolstoy’s epic, epic account of the history of the French invasion of Russia and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Russian society as seen through the lens of five Russian aristocratic families. It clocks in at 587,287 words.

Why I read it

Call it a personal challenge, my bucket list book. Over the past year, I’ve received a series of nudges from the good reading angel who sits on my shoulder:

  • Author Gayle Bartos-Pool wrote a thoughtful post, prompted by a TV news story about teachers who no longer wanted to teach the classics. She makes a good case for keeping the classics alive and offers examples of the authors we would do well to discover, or re-discover—Alexandre Dumas, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury. E. Phillips Oppenheim. She doesn’t specifically mention Leo Tolstoy or War and Peace, but that’s the title that buzzed through my mind as I read her post.
  • War and Peace is all about Trump. Who Knew?” Naturally the title of Fred Hiatt’s article in the Washington Post intrigued me. Now I won’t comment on our leader but, love him or hate him, understanding him could only be helpful. Mr. Hiatt states that War and Peace is not only about Donald Trump, but that it can guide us in responding to his presidency. Interesting reading.
  • About a year ago my sister told me she was reading it. Sibling rivalry, perhaps?
  • I remembered how I loved Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
  • It’s a classic.

Why I didn’t read it sooner

  • It’s, well, long. I’ve read other long tomes—The Fountainhead, Middlemarch, the aforementioned Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Gone with the Wind, and Atlas Shrugged—but that was before I took up the pen and turned out my own much shorter tomes, giving me less time to read. The idea of devoting two-plus months to one book didn’t appeal.
  • I did try to read War and Peace back in the seventies but quickly got bogged down by the long Russian names that all seemed with start with K.
  • I would have to abandon my runaway TBR list.

Still, the good reading angel persisted …

It was time.

I started War and Peace on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23, 2017) and read THE END on January 29, 2018. Okay, I’m a slow reader, plus I took a break a couple of times to review a book as a favor for an author friend.

What do I think of it?

I won’t offer a literary critique. That’s been done many times.

I will say that it’s magnificent. Tolstoy uses his characters to explore issues of life and death, seeking higher meaning and purpose in both. Some characters are likable, some are not, but they’re all well-developed and compelling. Unlike with my first attempt in the seventies, I didn’t have a hard time keeping track of them. They are not consistently named—a character may be addressed by his/her first name, nickname, various surnames, or title. And my seventies memory tricked me about the names starting with K. I didn’t find that pattern this time around.

The story of the French invasion of Russia and its effect on the country is fascinating. The aristocratic families, with their drama, intrigue, and romance captivated me.

It’s easy to read. The chapters aren’t long, but there are plenty of them. Interestingly, despite the title, there is little peace.

The downside: I guess I’ve mentioned that it’s looooonnng. The plot dragged at times. Tolstoy now and again abandons the characters and lapses into tedious ramblings on philosophy or military strategy. I’d rather read a story from the point of view of the characters. The man really needed a good editor.

As for the president, do I understand him better? Let me think about that one.

As I approached the last pages, I got a catalog in the mail from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and learned of an upcoming exhibit: Napoleon: Power and Splendor. What timing! I’ll be there. June 9-September 3.

A while back I wondered how War and Peace measured up with other long books. The Blah Story (interesting title) by Nigel Tomm is 3,277,227 words and Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past is 1.5 million words. And no, I have no plans to tackle either. With a word count of only 587,287, War and Peace is a mere novella.

Do I recommend that you read War and Peace?

Definitely. Despite my harping on the length, I heartily recommend this classic and sweeping saga of history and romance. On February 2, the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter. Perfect time to get started. If you’re in a warmer climate, camp out under a tree with the beverage of your choice.

And what am I reading now? Short stories. Really. And there’s that TBR list.



The Land Down Under: An Encore

A while back I posted about my Australian kick, specifically my vicarious enjoyment of the Land Down Under via books, film and TV. Since that post I’ve discovered more crime dramas, one filmed in Australia and one in New Zealand.

In Janet King, a fast-paced legal thriller/political drama, the title character is a senior crown prosecutor. Is this show ever dramatic! Just when you think the drama reaches its peak, it gets ratcheted up again. And again.

Janet King is filmed in Sydney, but it’s not clear (to me, anyway) if the setting is actually Sydney or Canberra. According to the license plates, they’re in New South Wales, so either city is a possibility for the setting.

Glen and I have watched two series so far (to Australians a series is what Americans call a season) and look forward to the third.

For more information on Janet King, see this Wikipedia article.

Recently, Glen discovered The Brokenwood Mysteries, a New Zealand police procedural series set in one of those seemingly quiet small towns where murders are routine. Filming talks place in the greater Auckland area.

As I explained in my original article, I am woefully ignorant about Australian geography. I’m even more so about the lay of the land in New Zealand.

The characters in The Brokenwood Mysteries are well-drawn and quirky enough to be interesting without being cartoonish. They reveal tidbits about themselves in each episode, but never too much. The stories hold our interest. As for the country music—note to director: a little goes a long way.

The main character is Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd, played by Neill Rea. He uses the same “Just one more thing” tagline that Peter Falk made famous in Columbo when he never left a suspect or person of interest without a parting question.

As of this writing, we’re in the middle of the second series (season).

Again, Wikipedia is my trusted source. See their article about The Brokenwood Mysteries.

I’m eagerly awaiting Season 4 of the Doctor Blake Mysteries. And I understand that Jack Irish is another great detective series from Australia.

Where Do Writers Write? In the Tub … Where Else?

Where do writers write? Have you ever asked yourself that question?

If you’re like me, the answer is “No.”

But last year I saw two movies with scenes of writers pecking away at manual typewriters and conducting business by phone all while soaking in the tub. The first was Clifton Webb in Laura and the most recent was Bryan Cranston as Trumbo (both great movies). Apparently the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo actually did prefer the tub for cranking out his screenplays.

The blog AnOther featured a post, “Where Writers Write,” stating that poet Rod McKuen and the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie, also found themselves at their most creative in the tub. Christie munched on apples while immersed.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with bringing the first bathtub to America from France. It is said that he read and wrote in the tub. See “Benjamin Franklin and the Bathtub” in The Daily Tubber.

According to the blog Postcripts, French playwright Edmond Rostand, creator of Cyrano de Bergerac, also wrote in his bathtub. Ditto for Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita. See the post, “The Work Habits of Highly Successful Writers” on Postcripts.

Each to his or her own. I’d rather work in my comfortable, and dry, bed.

This article on BookRiot lists inexpensive essential items to enhance reading and writing in the tub (plus keeping printed and digital materials dry).

A Tribute to Linda Palmer and Melinda Wells

An actress, a playwright, a wildlife photographer, a screenwriter, a producer, former vice president of production at Tristar Pictures, a professor at UCLA, and novelist, her cat is named ‘Magic.’

This is how the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) described the extraordinary Linda Palmer. I know her as the author of two cozy mystery series. One features Morgan Tyler, a soap opera writer living and working in New York City. She pens the second series, set in Santa Monica, California, under the pseudonym Melinda Wells; her sleuth, Della Carmichael, showcases her love of cooking both as star of a cable TV cooking show and as owner of a cooking school.

The Della Carmichael series includes lots of intriguing recipes. I haven’t tried them yet—but I will! First up will be Della’s “Gangster Chicken” Cacciatore.

I first read the Della Carmichael series and looked for more books by Melinda Wells. That’s when I found that she and Linda Palmer were one and the same and that she had passed away in 2013. And so I started on the Morgan Tyler series and have one to go.

Both series are cozy, but with a definite bite. The sleuths enjoy warm relationships with their many friends, but can be as snarky and feisty as anyone. Cat and dog owners will love the descriptions of the pets. There’s lots of derring-do and hair-raising situations. At times, Ms. Palmer makes the sleuths TSTL (Too Stupid to Live), but that’s a minor point.

If you haven’t read these short and finite series, do yourself a favor and seek them out.

For bibliographies, visit Stop! You’re Killing Me.

Read UCLA Extension’s tribute to Linda Palmer.

Read a tribute from one of Linda Palmer’s students.