Monday, March 27, 2017

Home and Drama: Reflections by Award-Winning Author Lori Rader-Day

By Lori Rader-Day

Home Is Where the Drama Is
My third novel, The Day I Died, is getting published soon and maybe it will surprise no one that it’s set in Indiana. Well, half of it is. Here’s how the book begins:

On the day I died, I took the new oars down to the lake. They were heavy, but I was saving myself the second trip. The blades rode flat along the ground, flattening two tracks through the wet grass.
It was morning. The air was cool, but down on the dock, the slats were already hot. I noted a lone fishing boat out on the water. Inside, two men hunched silently over their tackle, their faces turned out across the lake. Beyond them, mist rose off the water, nearly hiding the far shore.
This moment. This is what I return to.
Later, I will note the long crack in the new oar, just before my head goes under, just before the flume of blood rises off my skin under the water like smoke. I will come back to this moment and think, if I had just gone back up the steps to the house immediately. If I had just stayed up at the house in the first place.
If I had just.

That’s a prologue of sorts. You can read the first full chapter HERE, where you’ll see that the protagonist has survived whatever-this-is to find a home in a small town in Indiana with her son.
I love to write about home. “Home,” though, is a complicated word. Is it where I grew up? Or is where I’ve lived for the last sixteen years? That’s exactly the kind of thing the protagonist of The Day I Died, Anna Winger, thinks about, with one big difference: she can’t go back to hers. Or at least she thinks she won’t. And then there’s the current situation brewing inside her apartment with her son.
 Home makes good stories, because home is where the drama is.
My first novel was set in the surrounds of Chicago; the second back home in Indiana. This one is split between the place Anna lives now and the place she yearns for. I can already tell you that my next next book is set in Michigan; the protagonist is a transplant to Chicago, like me, merely visiting. I had to borrow the Michigan setting, but I was able to bring a Chicagoan’s hard glare to everything she encounters there. That makes the story easier for me to get inside of, the better for me but also the better for my reader.
But with that next work-in-progress drafted, now I have a moment to think: What’s next? The Sisters and Misters of the Speed City Chapter probably feel the same as I do: Ideas are easy. I had three ideas while I was brushing my teeth this morning. But which idea has legs enough to run for four hundred pages? How do I want to spend the next year of my writing life?
It’s really no wonder I so often write about home. Home is where I’d rather be, no matter where I am.
How do you decide the setting of your stories?

Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and the co-chair of Murder and Mayhem in Chicago.
Lori is also a member of the Speed City Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Friday, March 17, 2017

REVIEW: An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James is a Most Suitable Mystery

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (Cordelia Gray, #1) 
by P.D. James 

Reviewed by Stephen Terrell

This is one of the most enjoyable English murder mystery novels that I have read. Written in the early 1970s, Cordelia Gray seems a predecessor and maybe inspiration for Kinsey Milhone, the heroine of Sue Grafton's alphabet books and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, heroine of the "1 for the Money" series. 

The book opens with a young and a bit naive Cordelia pushing into her bosses office to find him dead, a victim of his own hand. He has left her a detective agency deeply in debt, a failing car, and an absence of clients. So when a wealthy scientist at Cambridge summons her to look into the apparent suicide of his son, she jumps on the opportunity. But her investigation soon leads her to conclude that the death was not a suicide at all.

The book is well paced -- something often missing in British novels. The plot is well constructed and the characters are fascinating. If you're looking for a cozy mystery to curl up with next to a fire, or something to enjoy at the beach, you won't go wrong with An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.