Mystery Mondays: Judy Penz Sheluk – In Praise of Book Clubs

This week on Mystery Mondays, it is my pleasure to have author Judy Penz Sheluk as a returning guest. I’m a big fan and have read every one of her books!

Today she’s sharing some interesting insights into book clubs and at the end of this post, you’ll find a recipe that might make you happy 🙂

Judy’s latest release, Past & Present, is coming soon! Congratulations. Let’s cheer her on in the comments.

In Praise of Book Clubs

by Judy Penz Sheluk

BOOK CLUBS!

One of the things I enjoy doing as an author is visiting local book clubs, should they select one of my novels for their monthly read. Not all of those picks translate into sales—my town’s library has book club sets of The Hanged Man’s Noose and Skeletons in the Attic—but now and again someone will download an e-book copy or purchase another one of my books. I’ve also received paid speaking engagements as a result, most recently to a PROBUS group, where I was paid a speaker’s fee of $150 and sold about 20 books. Not a bad deal for an hour’s work.

But visiting book clubs isn’t about the money or getting speaking gigs. It’s about connecting with readers, getting their honest feedback, answering questions, and for a short time, playing the role of “Author Judy” before heading back to the solitude of my office.

Not all book clubs are created equal, however. Some offer tea and homemade cookies. Some really go all out, making book-themed related food and drink, like the Treasontini from the Hanged Man’s Noose (recipe attached). And one didn’t offer me so much as a glass of water (I’ve learned to bring my own). There’s also the occasional book club whose members heavily favor “literary” and “don’t really read or ‘get’ mysteries.” I’ve learned to take it all in stride.

pnp3My upcoming release is Past & Present, book 2 in my bestselling Marketville Mystery series. I’m already putting feelers out there for book clubs and I’ve decided to expand my horizons. If your book club is interested in reading it, or any of my other titles, I’ll find a way to connect with your group online. If you’re interested, you can email me at judy at judypenzsheluk dot com and we can sort out the details.

In the meantime, here’s some Shameless Self Promotion for Past & Present, including a blurb about the book. It’s on pre-order for $2.99 US / CAD (no nasty U.S. exchange) on Kindle (regular $5.99) and will also be available in paperback (if your bookstore or library doesn’t have it, they can order it from Ingram Spark). Release date is September 21, 2018. So without further ado:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

IMG_4117 copyAbout the author:An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, was published in July 2015, and is also available in audiobook. The sequel, A Hole In One, was published March 2018, with audiobook to follow Fall 2018.

Skeletons in the Attic, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her Marketville Mystery series, was first published in August 2016 and re-released in December 2017. It is also available in audiobook format. The sequel, Past & Present, will be released September 2018. Judy’s short crime and literary fiction appears in several collections.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors as a representative for Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.

Find out more about Judy at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

The promised Treasontini Recipe…

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Mystery Mondays: Debra Purdy Kong on Traditional to Self-Publishing

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Debra Purdy Kong. I first came across Debra’s writing when I read Opposite of Dark. I loved the book and reached out to Debra on LinkedIn and was very excited to hear back from her. She’s an author who is generous with her time and her advice, which you’ll get some of below.

As you can imagine, I’m happy to host Debra on Mystery Mondays again.

Debra is here to tell you what it’s like to transition from traditional publishing to self-publishing.

I’ve just preordered my copy of Knock Knock and only have to wait 2 days for it to arrive on my kindle!

Over to Debra…

Maintaining Continuity in Changing Times

Knock Knock, front coverThey say that the only constant in life is change. This is especially true for writers. Over the years, I’ve lost count of all the magazines and publishers I’ve worked with, but who no longer exist. When the publisher for my Casey Holland series let me and several other mystery authors go in 2015, I took it in stride and decided to continue self-publishing my series.

It took time to obtain all of my rights back, but I did, and then reissued the first four books in ebook format. I’m now delighted to announce that the 5th installment in my Casey Holland mystery series, Knock Knock, will be released on Wednesday, November 8th!

The decision to keep the series going raised new issues. I no longer had access to the jacket designer and editors who’d worked on the previous four books. I needed to find professionals who would help me maintain the editing style already adopted. But even then, there were questions.

For instance, I was never partial to my editor’s decision to use American spelling in a series set in Canada with Canadian characters. But changing this in mid-series didn’t seem right either, so I sent the editor I hired a detailed list of editing needs.

I also sent the new jacket designer images of the earlier novels. She did a beautiful job of capturing the essence of the series while providing a fresh look that I’m thrilled with.

Change isn’t always easy and sometimes continuity can be a challenge, but when you’re writing a series readers appreciate it, which makes everything worth the effort.

 

Who Is Debra Purdy Kong

Debra Purdy Kong, 2016Debra Purdy Kong’s volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired her to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Her employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for Casey Holland and Evan Dunstan mysteries.

Debra has published short stories in a variety of genres as well as personal essays, and articles for publications such as Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, B.C. Parent Magazine, and The Vancouver Sun. She assists as a facilitator for the Creative Writing Program through Port Moody Recreation, and has presented workshops and talks for organizations that include Mensa and Beta Sigma Phi. She is a long-time member of Crime Writers of Canada.

 

Look for her blog at https://debrapurdykong.wordpress.com/ More information about Debra and her books is at www.debrapurdykong.com You can also find her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebraPurdyKong & Facebook: www.facebook.com/debra.purdykong

 

Where to find out more:

Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls

Apple: http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv

 

Mystery Mondays: Dave Butler on MYSTERY WRITERS PAYING IT FORWARD

DaveButler_profilepicThis week on Mystery Mondays, I’m pleased to host author, Dave Butler. Dave lives a couple of hours from my home in British Columbia, Canada.

I’ve hosted authors from all over the world, and this is the closest one has been in distance. Kinda cool, I think.

And congratulations are in order. Full Curl was short listed for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada Unhanged Arthur Ellis award for best unpublished crime fiction. Now Full Curl is published by Dundurn Press!

So over to Dave…

MYSTERY WRITERS PAYING IT FORWARD

By Dave Butler

Paying it forward: “beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.”

 Coming to mystery writing from the world of business, I was ready for the worst. In the list of literary genres, mystery/thriller is second only to romance/erotica in sales (there’s a cross-over opportunity there, but I digress…), so I knew that the potential for fame and fortune was very high (😉). I expected that writers would jostle with each other in dog-consumes-dog, winner-take-all battles, that trade secrets would be held close to protective chests, that there’d be fisticuffs for the right to be noticed by a tiny pool of hungry agents and publishers, and that despairing writers would pounce on every opportunity to trip up competitors and then step over (or on) their cold corpses to get ahead.

And with many of us living lonely solitary lives, with long hours and little in the way of validation or gratification, I assumed that the potential was also high that I’d be interacting with people who were one rejection slip away from being basement-dwelling serial killers.

However, I was wrong. It has been a pleasant surprise to discover that it’s not like that at all (with the possible exception of the serial killer potential … that I’m still not sure about…). Instead, I’ve found writers, particularly in the mystery/thriller world, to be incredibly gracious, open and friendly, and welcoming to newcomers.

In my own situation, I was lucky to have Full Curl, my first novel, shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur Award in 2015. I had no idea what to expect when I attended the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis awards banquet in Toronto. While I didn’t win (way to go, Elle Wild!), I was immediately overwhelmed by how welcome I felt.

As an example, I shared dinner that evening with Ian Hamilton (author of the successful Ava Lee series). He was patient with my rookie questions, and kind in sharing experience and advice. In a Toronto bar later that evening, over a glass or two of Forty Creek whisky, he asked me the pivotal question that then played a role in a multi-book deal for me. “Why don’t you write a series?” he asked.

That same pattern has been repeated many times. I see it when I share a coffee with other mystery writers, when I read communications from the Crime Writers of Canada, and when I attend workshops and conferences. It’s almost as though “paying it forward” has become what we do in our genre.

One could argue that holding everything close to our chests might mean that we can grab more of the pie for ourselves. But I’ve realized that growing the genre, both in readers and writers, is good for all.

It’s clear that deciding to “pay it forward,” or not, is very much an individual decision. Perhaps it’s a moral and ethical responsibility, but it depends on your own perspective and your own experience. And it doesn’t mean spending so much time helping others that you miss deadlines, or lose the muse. But by sharing information on the writing life, on the business of writing, we all move ahead.

For me, there’s no doubt that I’ll “pay it forward” to recognize the kindness and generosity of those who have helped me. But at the same time, if I meet a writer who invites me in to see his/her pile of rejection letters, I refuse to go in their basement!

Who is Dave Butler?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADave Butler is a mystery/thriller writer from Cranbrook, BC who is the author of the Jenny Willson mystery series (Dundurn Press). Full Curl, the first in the series, in on store shelves now.

He’s a forester and biologist living in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. His writing and photography have appeared in numerous Canadian publications. He’s a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal winner, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. When he’s not writing, Dave is professionally involved in sustainable tourism at local, national and international levels and he travels extensively. www.davebutlerwriting.com

Mystery Mondays: Will Macmillan Jones on What Makes a Mystery Successful

Demon_s_Reach_Front_CoverWelcome to this week’s edition  of Mystery Mondays. This week, author Will Macmillan Jones is here. You can probably tell by the cover, Demon’s Reach – 5th in the series – falls under the horror category.

Demon’s Reach will be released Oct, 20 2017 but you can pre-order now. Congratulation, Will!

The first in the series is The Showing.

Will is shares his journey in writing and along the way gives us his take on a successful mystery.

 

What makes a Mystery Successful

By Will Macmillan Jones

 Come on admit it: we all love a mystery. There’s the challenge of trying to outguess the author by picking up clues too early*; the sneaky pleasure of realising that you were right all along where other readers would have failed to identify the killer so soon – more commonly achieved on the second or third reading of a book, in my personal experience; the satisfaction in a decent denoument; and (hopefully) appreciation of the author’s skill in hiding the real villain of the piece until almost the last minute through careful misdirection.

It is the reason Agatha Christie was so successful. Many of her books have, with some justification, been accused of being formulaic: but all the factors for a satisfying reading experience are there in every book. Be it Poirot, or Miss Marple – the reader knows that the main character will uncover the truth, whether or not the perpetrator is ever brought to justice. In fact, the latter point is usually the least important (with the honourable exception of Christie’s book Nemesis, which is all about Justice, with a capital J), and the intellectual chase is the main point of the book.

This is where mysteries are a step removed from most crime novels, where the murderer is sometimes revealed early, to allow the reader to focus on the efforts of the Detective to uncover the truth. Wire in The Blood, a highly successful crime novel by Val McDiarmid (another successful novel transferred to TV by the way) is a great example, while Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels are more akin to a Christie style with the perpetrator hidden for as long as possible.

Next up are the new generation of ‘Cosy Mysteries’. I’ve read more than a few of these, and while the crimes involved are frequently less grisly than Christie’s favoured felonies, for me they feel like the direct descendant of the tradition of Miss Marple, where an innocent (for a given value of innocent!) and certainly non professional character with no real police connections both uncovers and then solves the crime, all in a quite genteel way.

 A successful mystery novel may, but does not need, to hide the malefactor. This is just as well for me, when we move a little outside the comfortable zone I have considered so far, then we can move over to some of the darker stories around. Stephen King is normally considered just as a writer of horror, but that really isn’t strictly true. The supernatural forms a significant theme in a number of his books – Needful Things is a great example, and of course his breakthrough book Carrie, but several are mystery stories in their own right – although the characters involved may not be human, or even alive. Bag of Bones is the example I’d chose here.

Then of course we meet Dennis Wheatley, an author both revered and reviled in equal measure, mostly by people who have never read his work. For the record, he always describes the Black Magic he portrays as fundamentally wrong, and something to be avoided at all costs – and Evil never triumphs in his work, which always seems to me to be fundamentally highly moralistic. But besides the mystery of the abuse thrown his way, there are the mysteries portrayed in his books.

When I decided that I needed a change from writing humour, another niche genre to horror and carrying its own rules and challenges (not the least of which is finding readers!), I knew that I wanted to write in the paranormal genre. Not Romance, of course, anything but that! I loathe sparkly vampires and not-very-hairy werewolves** who have other designs on attractive men or women than ripping their throats out. Besides, as my ex would tell you at great length if you were to ask her, I am one of the most unromantic people to ever walk the earth. My last publisher once invited me to a Romance Writers Convention, probably after reading my work Bass Instinct, which was written just after my ex and I had parted, an event that might have somewhat coloured my views on Romance. I digress. Sorry.

Anyway, I had grown up reading some Dennis Wheatley novels that I had quietly removed from my Grandfather’s library without my parents’ knowledge, and worked out that while the settings of the novels were reliably Gothic and Magical and very dark, the story in each novel was fundamentally a mystery. A murder or an abduction perhaps? Illictly gaining money is always a motivating factor, is it not? Both in life (according to the lesser quality of newspapers) as well as mystery novels. These were in Wheatley’s books, I was delighted to discover when I started rereading them. As, inevitably, was the desire for Power. In fact, all the myriad of vices known to the human race could become the subject of a novel, viewed through the right prism. Just, of course, as they are in conventional mystery or detective stories. The paranormal just adds an extra dimension and offers an opportunity for the writer to deceive the reader in fresh and unexpected ways.

That was the great pleasure that, as a writer, I found in sailing blithely into the Paranormal Mystery genre. The joy for the reader is, in any mystery, accepting the challenge laid down by the author; and trying to discover the hidden secret of the novel from the clues laid out before the reader in the text. The joy for the writer lies in setting out these clues, and then using misdirection and red herrings to conceal the truth of the mystery for as long as possible. Hopefully to the final chapter. Adding the Paranormal into the mix gives the writer many, many more opportunities to have fun!

And of course, to offer the reader a few frights, chills and scary delights along the way. If I make you go to sleep with the lights on for a night or two, well that’s my bonus payment for the labour involved in writing the book, isn’t it?

*I have a friend, a well known author with an Amazon released film or two to her credit, who writes the first draft of a novel, and then rewites it to change the identity of the killer in an effort to prevent readers catching on.

** Ooops. Just alienated a huge potential audience, there, I suspect. But I’m a bit of a traditionalist and like my monsters to be more evil than your local Bank Manager or Traffic Enforcement Officer.

 

Who is Will Macmillan Jones?

fwrness 2Will Macmillan Jones lives in Wales, a lovely green, verdant land with a rich cultural heritage. He does his best to support this heritage by drinking the local beer and shouting loud encouragement whenever International Rugby is on the TV. A just turned sixty lover of blues, rock and jazz he has now fulfilled a lifetime ambition by filling an entire wall of his home office with (full) bookcases. When not writing, he is usually lost with the help of a satnav on top of a large hill in the middle of nowhere, looking for dragons. He hasn’t found one yet, but insists that it is only a matter of time.

When not performing as an oral storyteller and poet, he writes Dark Fantasy, fantasy he fantasises is funny, and books for children. Some of his pieces have won awards but he doesn’t like to talk about that as it draws attention to the fact that other pieces haven’t.

http://www.willmacmillanjones.com

Will Macmillan Jones is responsible for the ‘Mister Jones Mysteries’ collection of books, released through Red Kite Publishing. The latest, Demon’s Reach, will be released on 20 October 2017. They are available in both paperback and all ebook formats.

Mystery Mondays: Call For Guest Authors

Promoting Reading – Promoting Authors

Mystery Mondays began in July 2015. Authors from many genres who write with a hint of mystery have told you about their books, answered your questions about writing and shared their thoughts with you. Every Monday, you’ve been introduced to another author and maybe discovered someone you’re not familiar with.

Are you interested in guest blogging?

I am now accepting guest blog requests for the remainder of 2017 starting on August 28th (although some spots are books throughout the fall). If you’re interested contact me here.

If you’d like to participate, here’s what you need to qualify:

  • you are a published author – traditional or Indie or any other way that I don’t know about,

OR

  • you are about to publish and have a launch date within a week or so of the blog post,

AND

  • you want to promote other authors and spread success,
  • you write novels with a hint of mystery,
  • you are willing to engage in the comments section when readers comment on your post.

All I ask from you is that you follow my blog, comment on author’s posts and help share via Twitter and Facebook.  If you’re interested send me a message via my contact page.

The Requirements:

You’ll have to send me your bio, back text of your novel, author photo and book cover.

I’d like you to write something about yourself, your novel, your research, a writing tip or a publishing tip. Please keep in mind I am a family friendly blog.

I do reserve the right to edit anything I think might be inappropriate for my audience, which I will discuss with you first. I think anything under 700 words is great, but it’s your book so up to you.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you and sharing your novel with the Internet world.

Mystery Mondays:Kelley Kay(e) Bowles on How She Became A Mystery Writer

Welcome to Mystery Mondays. I took a break last weekend to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  The funnest part. A bear came by and checked us out at Happy Hour. He climbed a tree, so he could see us on our balcony. How Canadian is that?

We’re also celebrating the 2nd anniversary of Mystery Mondays. I’d like to take a moment and than all the wonderful authors who have contributed. You know who you are and you rock!

To kick off the third year of Mystery Monday, we have author Kelley Bowles here to talk about how she became a mystery writer!

Kelley Bowles on Becoming a Mystery Writer:

I am a Pacifist. My whole family is a pack of Pacifists. Proof of our Pacifism, beyond the fact that I must gently deposit all spiders outside, is shown in a much-loved family story. My father, when he was 17, was taken deer hunting. This happened in 1950, when definitions of masculinity were, however right or wrong you feel this is, more clearly defined. Hunting is manly, and was considered a crucial rite of passage for many generations of men.

For my father, (who was in my opinion very manly, 

kg-19-2

but, you know—he’s Daddy) as soon as he picked up the gun and pointed it at the deer he put it right back down. “The deer and I made eye contact,” he said, “and that was all she wrote.” He never picked up a gun or raised a fist to another living thing, on two legs or four, ever again. Well, he did slam some guy’s arm in a door once, but that guy was trying to steal a camera from his office!

I, personally, have never owned or used a gun or even been in a fight, although I broke up a few during my 20 years of teaching. But I love murder mysteries. I’ve loved them since before I’d read every possible Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Encyclopedia Brown I could find, and I learned this from my father.

He was a voracious reader and a lifetime learner, who by the age of 32 hadn’t figured out what to do with his hundreds of college credits that had never turned into any kind of degree. He asked my mother, who was his girlfriend at the time, what he oughta do with his life. She said, ‘Well, how many books do you have?’ He said, ‘I dunno…five thousand?’ ‘Why don’t you open a store?’ was her response.

So he did—in 1966 he opened a used bookstore way before the idea became normal (I call him the ‘inventor’ of the used bookstore). He ran the bookstore for 40 years and always forwent some of his sales to bring his favorite books home to my mother, my sister and me. No question about it, the mysteries, thrillers and spy games were his favorites, and consequently became mine. Now I even write them!

The question then becomes WHY?

 Why does this family of Pacifists revel so in humanity’s worst behavior? This is a question people ask me, and I ask myself, all the time. I remember watching my dad fly through book after book, from Elmore Leonard to Clive Cussler to Agatha Christie, and he never slowed down and he never tired of the genre. I am more of a Harlan Coben Sarah Paretzky James Lee Burke kinda gal, but I feel the same way. And writing them? Fuggedaboutit. I practically salivate at the thought of solving the mystery, whether I’m writing my own or inhaling somebody else’s. None of us want to cause death or think too much about dying, but we love these stories about it SO MUCH! I think, for me it’s as much about looking at what good things people can do in the face of bad behavior as anything.

The cozy mystery series I write, called Chalkboard Outlines®, follows Emma Lovett and Leslie Parker, two high school English teachers in the fictional town of Pinewood, Colorado. They are way into Shakespeare, an obsession of many real or imagined English teachers, and his quotes and stories are integral to the books. Shakespeare, in my opinion, knew more about human nature than…anyone, really. It’s turning out to be a wonderful element for cozy mystery amateur sleuths who have more than a passing knowledge of him and his themes—the ladies can tap into his vast understanding of humanity when they’re searching for a killer (Shakespeare understands our love of the murder mystery, for sure!). I love seeing what good things Emma, Leslie and the other characters in the books try to do in the face of bad behavior.

I, also, was a high school teacher in an actual Colorado town. The high school setting is such a perfect place to examine this theme. I’ll be honest–sometimes it was tough to be a Pacifist there. J But as far school being this macrocosm of the larger society, with every possible character and event, outlook and reaction on display, it was a writer’s dream. Thomas Jefferson High School in my books is based on my Colorado school (and the one in Lake Tahoe where I landed my first teaching job), but when people ask me if the characters are based on real people, the answer is no. But also yes, because I draw from a huge pile of things that I’ve seen and experienced in this tiny universe. It’s the perfect place to continue my journey to answer the question of why this Pacifist is obsessed with murder mysteries!

I’m super excited to say the Chalkboard Outlines® adventure endures! The first book, Death by Diploma, published by Red Adept Publishing, came out in February 2016 and went #1 for Cozy Mystery on Amazon in August. Book 2, Poison by Punctuation, is under contract with RAP and will be released in early 2018. I am currently working on book 3, working title Strangled by Simile. I’d love to hear from other mystery lovers about their own answers to the question of why!

Kelley’s Mystery Novel: 

covernameEmma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends.

Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest.

As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Mondays: Jacqueline T. Lynch on The Scene Of The Crime

Today on Mystery Monday, we have Jacqueline T. Lynch, author of Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red.  She has also published short stories and non-fiction books. Today we’ll find out a bit about the “Cozy Noir” genre.

The Scene of the Crime: Postwar New England by Jacqueline T. Lynch 

cybr_printI love “cozy” mysteries and love classic film noir. In combing the two genres for a mystery series, I chose not a sinister Gotham or a fog-shrouded San Francisco, or a sun-bleached and cynical Los Angeles in which to set my characters and stories like those old film noirs. I chose Connecticut in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

I write in a variety of genres: nonfiction history (predominantly New England), classic film criticism, a biography of actress Ann Blyth, as well as novels, and plays.

My Double V Mysteries series protagonists are a young widowed heiress and an ex-con.  They are implicated in crimes in the first book, Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red, and join together to prove their innocence, and in later books become hired sleuths.  I’m currently working on the fifth book in the series, set in a summer playhouse on the Connecticut shore in 1951.  The Double V name comes from their surnames: Juliet Van Allen and Elmer Vartanian.

The books are written in what I suppose I would term “cozy noir.”  Much like 1940s noir films (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, etc.), grim crimes and crime-solving situations are presented without strong language or sexual scenes.  There is a bit of humor here and there, but for the most part the couple cautiously navigates the series subplot: a tenuous romance.  They each carry a lot of baggage from their pasts and are wary about becoming too close — but they’ll get there in time.

New England is my home and I am more familiar with this part of the country, but as with many historical novels, the era, I think, is even more important to the tone of the books than the geographical setting. Books enfold us an intimate sense of time travel, but it is perhaps easier for some readers to become lost in the Middle Ages or in the Regency period than in the 1950s, where we must actually be more familiar with the history of that period to immerse ourselves in the story and believe it. We may accept tales of knights and lords and ladies without really knowing much about everyday life in those olden times; but though the middle twentieth century is not as distant; in terms of technology and cultural events it might as well have been a millennium ago.

In the post-World War II years New England found itself at a crossroads. The population was shifting; wartime industry lured thousands to our nineteenth century mill towns, who then left the cities for the new suburban world being carved out of our farmland. In the 1950s, a good deal of that industry began to head south. New interstate highways seemed to aid the exodus, skirting cities, or else piercing through the heart of them. The 1950s saw the heyday of the great downtown department stores in Hartford, Connecticut—the duo’s home base—and summer theatre in the country towns.

Times were changing, and though we reached for the promise of a great future to wipe away the memory of war and Depression, we were also afraid of letting go of the past. Elmer, who had spent the war years in prison and feels guilty for having missed serving in the war, and missed his daughter’s childhood, is baffled by ballpoint pens, frozen orange juice concentrate, supermarkets, and a nuclear age that makes him feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. Juliet is his guide, and ours, to this strange new world. The fads and even great events of the day: backyard bomb shelters, drive-in movies, and vanquishing polio will have a place in future books in this series—and crimes to be solved around them.

The first book, Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red, is about a museum heist, a missing child, and a murder introducing the recent ex-con and even more recent widow.

In Hartford, Connecticut, 1949, Juliet Van Allen, an administrator at the Wadsworth Atheneum, a prestigious art museum, discovers that her avant-garde artist husband is having an affair with another woman. Juliet’s husband is murdered, and she is the prime suspect. Elmer Vartanian, recently released from prison, is coerced into helping scout the museum for a heist by a gang that has kidnapped his daughter.

Juliet, the rebellious only daughter of a wealthy financier, and Elmer, a lower-class ex-convict who has educated himself in prison, must partner to solve their separate crises, compelled to work together while dogged by the scandal-monger newsman, the shrewd police detective, and scrutinized by the even more judgmental eye of Hartford’s elite in world where Modern Art meets old-fashioned murder.

 Who is Jacqueline T. Lynch?

JLynch photoJacqueline T. Lynch’s novels, short stories, and non-fiction books on New England history and film criticism are available from many online shops as eBooks, audiobooks, and paperback. She is also a playwright whose plays have been produced around the United States and in Europe, and has published articles and short fiction in regional and national publications. She writes Another Old Movie Blog on classic films, and the syndicated column Silver Screen, Golden Years.

Website:   www.JacquelineTLynch.com

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Jacqueline T. Lynch

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