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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.
www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick.
http://www.faysampson.co.uk

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Author Carole Shmurak on: Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter and Me

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ November 7, 2012

 

My guest today is Carole Shmurak , a fellow author from the brand new e-book 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, 52 Authors Look Back . Carole and I are doing a blog exchange today, both discussing Dorothy L. Sayer's influence on our lives. So after you read Carole's interview here you can read mine on her blog at   http://wp.me/ph91A-6d
                       

If you enjoy magazine columns and Chicken Soup for the Soul books, then you're sure to enjoy our collection of essays, designed to warm your heart, raise your spirits and compel you to examine your own life. Read about school days, quirky jobs, romance, raising a family, hard times, the writing journey, and find out what makes your favorite characters tick.Get a full listing of authors, essay titles and retailers here: http://ning.it/OknwVR

And now, to Carole and Dorothy L. Sayers:

When I was in my mid-20s, I happened upon an article titled, "Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter and God." It was by the scholar Carolyn Heilbrun, who would later become known as the mystery writer Amanda Cross. Up till then, I had read the usual childhood mysteries (I liked Judy Bolton much more than Nancy Drew, because Judy seemed more real) and, as an adolescent, some Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. But Heilbrun's article got me hooked. I devoured the Lord Peter books - I loved the use of language, the characters, the careful plotting and the clever use of clues. After I'd finished reading all of her mysteries, I started reading Sayers's essays on the history of detective fiction and, as a result, went back to some of the earlier classics of the genre like The Moonstone and Trent's Last Case. I tracked down books by Philip MacDonald and Anthony Berkeley, then worked my way through all of Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey, and Michael Innes. I still love those books.

As a reader, my attraction to the genre starts with the puzzle - I always try to solve the mystery along with the detective - but the puzzle alone is not enough to sustain my interest, which is why I've never been that fond of Agatha Christie. I need a protagonist that I find admirable or lovable or both. The joy of a mystery series is that I can keep returning to spend time with these old friends.

After I'd been reading mysteries for a long while, I began to ask myself if I could write a mystery. Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky had already made a big impact on detective fiction with their strong female detectives, and female detectives of every possible occupation and ethnicity had been appearing for over a decade. So I decided to write my own mystery, set in the world I knew best: academe.

 

          My detective, Professor Susan Lombardi, shares my work history: she's a former high school science teacher who is now a professor of education at a state university in Connecticut, but as Sue Grafton once said of her detective Kinsey Millhone, she's "smarter, younger and thinner" than I am. In her first appearance in Deadmistress, she finds the murderer of the headmistress of an elite New England boarding school. Steeped in Golden Age mysteries as I am, Deadmistress begins with a map and a cast of characters; it has a murder in a closed community, a small group of suspects, red herrings, and clues for the astute reader to pick up on. (Unfortunately, financial considerations required that the map be dropped from subsequent books and new editions, but I've kept the cast of characters throughout the series.)

In Death by Committee, the murder is closer to home, occurring in Susan's own department at Metropolitan University; and in Death at Hilliard High, Susan is called in to consult at an affluent suburban high school where some strange things are happening. When I came to write the fourth book, which became Most Likely to Murder, I knew I had to get Susan out of schools and out of Connecticut, but I wasn't sure where to send her: on a cruise with her husband? A convention of other educators perhaps? And then it came to me - Susan would go to her high school reunion!

Most Likely to Murder is my most recent release.

What high school class has a thirty-two year reunion? A class whose president has left the country, whose vice president is dead, and whose treasurer is in the Witness Protection program-in fact, Professor Susan Lombardi's class from Count Basie High School. Susan has misgivings about revisiting her hometown: she's leery of seeing her former high school sweetheart, now a high tech millionaire, and reluctant to get involved in a battle between her squabbling brothers. But when she does go, one of her "old gang" ends up dead, and Susan and her friends team up to find the classmate Most Likely to Murder.

 All four books reflect my interest in classic mysteries, and I hope readers will find Susan, as well as her family and friends, the kind of characters that invite the reader to return.

 Carole B. Shmurak, Professor Emerita at Central Connecticut State University, is the author of eleven books, including Deadmistress, which introduced professor/sleuth Susan Lombardi, Death by Committee, Death at Hilliard High and Most Likely to Murder. Under the pseudonym Carroll Thomas, she is the co-author of the Matty Trescott young adult novels, one of which (Ring Out Wild Bells) was nominated for the Agatha for best young adult mystery of 2001.

You can find Carole online at:

website, http://www.carole-books.com

blog, http://deathbycommittee.wordpress.com

Amazon page, http://amazon.com/author/carole

Facebook author page, http://www.facebook.com/carolemysteries. 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Reader Comments:

Thanks, Donna, for hosting me. I've received some nice comments on this post, though no one has left a message here yet.
-cshmurak, November 8, 2012

Congratulations Carole. Hope you have started another book.
-Pat Abbruzzi, November 8, 2012

Thank you for your great article, Carole. This is such a fun exchange. We're out west, so I get my promo out later than you. smile.
-Donna, November 8, 2012

I loved your list of great mystery writers. Makes my fingers itch to find and reread some of those classics.
-Sheila Deeth, November 8, 2012

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