April Showers-And April Memories

The last day of April, and the rain is pouring down. I’m trying to remember to sing the words to a song that was popular years ago – April Showers. I’m trying to remember that, according to the song, showers bring May flowers, but this isn’t showers. It’s a pound-through-the-umbrella downpour.

Okay, instead or looking forward to those flowers, I’m looking back to Aprils of past years.

Twenty-five years ago the Pennsylvania Super 7 lottery was at a then-record high $115,500,000 jackpot. Eventually, fourteen winners each received $317,524 per year for twenty-six years. They have one year more to go. (I don’t remember this story. I wasn’t into betting on the lottery.) I do remember the then-popular TV shows: “Alf” “Cheers,” McGyver,” and “Golden Girls.”

Fifty years ago the Ford Mustang made its debut locally, priced at $2,368. After sixty years in business, when the 91 year old owner retired, the Smithsonian accepted the fixtures of his pharmacy to create a “Gay ’90s Apothecary” at the museum. Movies showing locally were: “The Horror at Party Beach,” The Curse of the Living Corpse,” Cleopatra,” and “Muscle Beach Party,” (at the drive-in with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon). I probably didn’t see any of those movies. I was busy with a very young family of small children, and my husband was working three jobs.

Seventy-five years ago the local library got its very first bookmobile. Most of the county adopted Daylight Saving Time-but one town held out for regular time, however their banks and business opened an hour earlier to accommodate their customers. Popular radio shows were “Lum and Abner,” “Jack Armstrong” (the all-American boy-I do remember that one), “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Green Hornet.” These were all before I was married, so this was not my county. I definitely remember our bookmobile coming from Bellingham, Washington, and stopping at the bottom of the hill, after a thirty-mile trip.

Now, I have no personal memory of one hundred years ago. I’m old, but not that old. However, locally in mid-April it was Cleanup Week. Thousands of people including children painted, scrubbed, white-washed, and swept while wandering judges toured and awarded prizes. Another week some two hundred people attended an afternoon social honoring National Rally Day of the Suffragettes. The event began with singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Also during April, “The Last Days of Pompeii,” a silent moving picture was being shown – admission price ten cents.


Old News That’s Still New

I’ve been busy which is really not a good excuse. Everyone is busy this time of year—the holidays, visits, cooking, cleaning, bad colds—and I’ve had them all. Plus, I’ve been pouring over the proof of my new book and discovering lots of things that need to be changed. But I must take time out to write in my blog. And—I’ve found a good subject—the continuing realization that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Every Monday our local newspaper has a column of old news taken from papers 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Yes, our newspaper has been in business that long! (Well, the paper’s name has undergone a few name changes. It’s now a combination of the two previous ones put out by the same company.) Would you believe the local news 25 years ago was similar to one a fellow mystery writer based her first mystery on, and incidently, started my habit of clipping these columns? The author is Stacy Juba, and her book is Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. Her book centered around an unsolved murder. My local article tells of an unsolved disappearance of a 15-year old girl who left with a man “well known to her.” Foul play and her death were feared and she is still missing. Stacy, are you up for another plot? Or, since Stacy has several other books completely plotted and published, am I?

Not only was the 50-year-ago news of a huge snow storm with ultra-low temperatures one that I remember well, those ultra-low temperatures were repeated this year. Fortunately, the twelve-foot drifts weren’t. Of course, that affected the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show—both times. In fact, that happens so often, the frequent bad, cold weather for the same week is referred to as Farm Show Weather.

Now, 75 years ago the weather wasn’t really mentioned. That news was from 1939, a year still in the depression that started ten years earlier and wasn’t completely erased until the arms build-up to win World War II began after Pearl Harbor Day on December 7, 1941. Locally, 21 “relief chislers” had defrauded the government for a total of $1,408. One woman thought the government knew she had a job. Her husband was in jail and she had to walk ten miles to and from her job. Personally, I think I’d have let her keep the $100.10 she was overpaid. (There are certain facts in this story that remind me of today as well. Can you say “hard times for many?”)

Fortunately, the 100-years ago today story doesn’t remind me of current events. A man who owned the local store and ran the enclosed post office came down with “the dreaded” disease of small pox. Not only was his business establishment quarantined and closed, but his entire family was quarantined and two nearby schools were closed for two weeks.

Have you heard any old news lately that could have been said about yesterday as well? If my comments section is working, I’d love to hear it.

New Reads – Cozy Mystery and More

I love new books. Scanning the cover, turning the pages, following line after line of… Okay, I also love new e-books. Let me say, I love the plot, the mystery, the characters, the whole experience of letting myself live another life for a few minutes, or a few hours. So, when I hear about a new book written by one of my favorite authors, I’m ready to eavesdrop on a life that I’ve lived before. And, when I open a book by an author new to me, I’m ready to escape into a new reality. All this is prelude to introducing a short list of books newly published, or about to be published next month. Perhaps some of these will introduce you to a delightful new read.

The first book on my list is an anthology of short stories – The Least He Could Do and eleven other stories. When I asked for titles of new books from my Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter, I heard about this from the author of the title story, “The Least He Could Do,” Lynn Mann. Lynn’s story is suspense (and a good one). The others are a mix of genre’s, all a bit edgy. Available as e-book.  Amazon site here.  Smashword’s site here.

The next three books are all cozy mysteries from authors with series I know and love. The first is Lowcountry Bombshell by Susan Boyer. Her first book, Lowcountry Boil, won the Agatha this year for best new mystery, so you know this one will be good. Short intro — Liz Talbot thinks she’s seen another ghost when she meets Calista McQueen. She’s the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe. Born precisely fifty years after the ill-fated star, Calista’s life has eerily mirrored the late starlet’s–and she fears the looming anniversary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers. With the heat index approaching triple digits, Liz races to uncover a diabolical murder plot in time to save not only Calista’s life, but also her own.  Amazon site here. Publisher page here.

Little Black Book of Murder by Nancy Martin is the newest from The Blackbird Sisters series, one of my favorites. It stars Nora Blackbird who may have been to the manor borne, but these days money is so tight, she can’t afford to lose her job as a society columnist. Short Intro — If anything can bring the blue-blooded Blackbird sisters together, it’s a murder investigation involving high-society events, glamorous people, and the disappearance of a genetically perfect pig that may or may not be basking in the sun at Blackbird Farm. They’ll all have to pull together this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucolic estate for a cramped walk-up. Available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook.  Amazon page here. Author page here.

Rhys Bowen, the author of Heirs and Graces, writes three series that I adore. This title is the latest in the Royal Spyness mysteries that take place in 1930s England. Georgie’s posh education didn’t land her a job, or a husband, but it does convince Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowager Duchess to enlist her help. Short intro for this historic mystery — As thirty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch may not be the most sophisticated young woman, but she knows her table manners. It’s forks on the left, knives on the right–not in His Majesty’s back… Available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. Amazon page here. Author page here.

I also have two mysteries from authors who are new to me. I’m looking forward to enjoying their new series. Auld Lang Syne is by Judith Ivie. Short intro — This is number six in The Kate Lawrence Mysteries. It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and Kate finds herself at her 35th high school reunion, where she is confronted by The Mean Girls, circa 1978. Worse yet, she’s put on a little weight, and her high school steady is expected to show. Should auld acquaintance be forgot? If only that were possible. Available in paperback and e-book. Amazon site here. Publisher page here.

The second of the new-to-me mysteries is Armed  by Elaine Macko From the cover photo of a young woman’s arm, I suspect this Alex Harris series is ‘armed’ with more humor than gun play. Short intro — When Alex Harris, owner of the Always Prepared staffing agency, stumbles over the body of Mrs. Scott, nothing will ever be the same. Along with her sister and partner, Samantha Daniels, and their assistant, Millie Chapman, the Winston Churchill-quoting, M&M popping Alex probes and plods through clue after clue trying to unravel secrets before the murderer strikes again and really ruins Christmas. Available in paperback and e-book. Amazon site here. Author page here.

What are your favorite cozy mystery series? Leave a comment and tell me. I’d love to hear about new ones.

Look for my new YA mystery soon – publication date tentatively scheduled for October 2013. In the meantime, the links to my two mysteries and one true adventure non-fiction are on my Books page here.

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make connections. Sometimes the connection is between a newspaper article and a story I’ve read. Sometimes it’s between a whispered confidence and a past event. Sometimes, such as this time, the connection is between two mystery series by two different authors.

Besides the Irish cop connection, these series are cozy, historic, and by authors I’ve actually met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the early 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve murders. Both include a good bit of accurate historic detail.

I met Victoria Thompson a few years ago at a conference where I bought one of her Gaslight Mystery books. I’ve been buying, and reading them ever since. However, I began reading the Molly Murphy Mysteries before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same elevator at the Malice Domestic Conference this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mysteries.

Now that I’ve mentioned the similarities between the two series, let me tell you the differences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mysteries, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becoming a midwife. She married and was a young widow when the series begins. Among the real historic issues involved in the mysteries are medical problems, including those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the poverty of so many of New York’s citizens of the time. One among the continuing characters is Sarah’s neighbor, an extremely superstitions woman who sees signs of danger if a crow flies by, or almost anything else. Sarah has the advantage of knowing the wealthy people, old friends from her former life, and especially her mother to help in learning things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Malloy, welcomes any help Sarah can provide. The two are attracted to each other, but so far, have too many other things going on to do much about it.

Molly Murphy, the heroine of the Molly Murphy Mysteries, arrived in New York from Ireland, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for protecting herself. She takes a job at a detective agency. When the detective is killed, she takes over the role of detective. Throughout the series, Molly meets historic people such as Harry Houdini and Nellie Bly. Her neighbors are two flamboyant women who introduce Molly to their well-known friends, so many historic events contribute to the mysteries. Daniel Sullivan, the Irish cop, does not welcome help from Molly on his cases, nor does he want to hear about her detective work that may be connected to his. However, their personal relationship advances from romance, to distance, to rejection, then back, and to marriage.

Do you like to make connections such as this? Do you know of any other mysteries that could be connected in some tenuous fashion? Let me know below in the comments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a couple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Victoria Thompson’s Amazon author page is here. A recent Facebook entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Amazon author page is here. Her Twitter account is here.

News From The Past

Does your newspaper publish weekly reminders of our past? Mine does. One week they tell us what happened 25 and 75 years ago. The next week they give us the latest from 50 and 100 years ago. (They’ve been in … Continue reading