“Ladies of the Lights” Showcases Female Lighthouse Keepers
“Ladies of the Lights” Presentation by Michigan Maritime Expert Dianna Stampfler Showcases Female Keepers of Michigan’s Historic Beacons
“Ladies of the Lights” Presentation Showcases Female Keepers of Michigan’s Historic Beacons
Michigan lighthouse historian and author Dianna Stampfler has announced a series of presentations of her popular “Ladies of the Lights” in honor of Women’s History Month. This program, which includes readings from newspapers and autobiographies, as well as countless historic photos, sheds light on the dedicated women who served at lights around the state dating back as early as the 1830s.
These were women before their time, taking on the romantic yet dangerous and physically demanding job of tending to the lighthouses that protected the Great Lakes shoreline. Given this was also a government job, their involvement was even more unique. In all, nearly 50 women have been identified who excelled in this profession over the years.
One of the most notable was Elizabeth (Whitney) VanRiper Williams who took over the St. James Harbor Light on Beaver Island after her husband, Clement, died while attempting to rescue the crew of a ship sinking in the harbor. She later became the first keeper of the Little Traverse Lighthouse in Harbor Springs, retiring after a combined 44 years of service.
There is also Julia (Tobey) Braun Way who outlived two husband keepers at the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse in Bay City, and some say who still haunts the place today. Anastasia Truckey served as the interim keeper at the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in the 1860s while her husband, Nelson, was off serving in the Civil War. Mary Terry served 18 years before she died in a fire at the Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba in 1886 – her death still shrouded in mystery 137 years later.
Stampfler has been researching Great Lakes lighthouses for more than 25 years and is the author of Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses (2019) and Death and Lighthouses on the Great Lakes (2022) both from The History Press. She has penned countless articles and been interviewed extensively about the lighthouses and their keepers. She is also the president of Promote Michigan.
The March 2023 program schedule includes:
- Tuesday, March 14 (6-7:30pm)
Chesterfield Township Library
- Wednesday, March 15 (10am-Noon)
Saginaw Valley State University, University Center
OLLI Class (Registration required: $20 members/$40 non-members)
- Wednesday, March 15 (5-6:30pm)
Harbor Beach District Library
- Tuesday, March 21 (6-7:30pm)
Livonia Public Library ZOOM
- Wednesday, March 22 (6-7:30pm)
St. Clair County Library, Port Huron
- Thursday, March 23 (7-8:30pm)
Novi Public Library Zoom
Stampfler will be selling/signing copies of her books following each presentation.
Stone Cold Fox: Lessons in Gold Digging
A perfect ten, Bea is a woman who knows her own worth and is willing to employ her beauty to achieve her ultimate goal—marrying not just a rich man, but a mega-millionaire. And she’s found her mark, the sweet, seemingly uncomplicated Collin Case. Sure he’s a little dull, but big bucks are big bucks and Bea has been in the game long enough that she’s getting tired of being the most beautiful woman in the room—it’s a lot of work to keep up, to ceaselessly laugh at stupid jokes, pretend the men she dates are the greatest lovers, the most scintillating, and as wonderful as they think they are.
““By the time I happened upon Collin Case,” she tells readers in “Stone Cold Fox,” “I had already dated more than my fair share of New York ‘somebodies’ with middling personalities and big-enough bank accounts. They were relatively easy to find when you looked like me. I spent hundreds of my hard-earned dollars on fresh highlights every four to six weeks. I mastered an authentic feminine titter for jokes that weren’t remotely amusing as I grazed nearly non-existent biceps with my perfectly manicured hands, an almond shape on each nail. And I regularly choked down liquid meals with organic ingredients on the regular to stave off a bloated belly and thighs that touch. I did everything I had observed as a child because ultimately it works. I watched her do it for years. But what I learned rather quickly is that dating men in that particular orbit is no picnic at all.”
But snagging Collin and getting a big sparkling diamond ring isn’t the hard part of her matrimonial quest. It’s getting his parents, the elite, snobbish, and oh-so-superior heirs to the Case family fortune, to approve of her. And then there’s the added roadblock, Collin’s longtime friend Gale. No match in the looks department, Gale has had a long-time crush on Collin and intellectually a match for Bea she’s determined to deep-six the couple’s wedding plans.
If Bea was an ordinary gold digger, it might be easy to root for Gale. But Bea was the pawn of her avaricious mother who married men and then discarded them, leaving Bea unsettled, sad, and afraid to trust. Everything is a challenging game to Bea, one that must be won. She’s afraid to forge connections, her guard is always up. She can’t help but analyze every nuance of a relationship in stark terms, planning her next parry and thrust. As she and Gale play their cat and mouse games, with Gale slowly unraveling the false identity and façade that Bea has built to protect her past—and it’s a doozy—from being discovered, Bea begins to realize she might lose Collin and her carefully created identity. She has to make choices—how much is it worth to protect what she has and hopes to have?
Author Rachel Koller Croft, a novelist and WGA award nominated screenwriter lives in Los Angeles where she has scripted projects for Blumhouse, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Comedy Central, among others. She is also a current nominee for a Writer’s Guild Award for her work on the Torn Hearts film starring Katey Sagal. Croft lives by the beach with her husband, Charles, and their rescue pitbull, Juniper. who lives in L.A., says she writes about bitches and glamour. And she sure makes it fun.
CrimeReads: 10 New Books Coming Out This Week ‹ CrimeReads
CrimeReads: 10 New Books Coming Out This Week ‹ CrimeReads. https://crimereads.com/10-new-books-coming-out-this-week-january-3-2022-2/
Bad Love Strikes
Who is Dr. Kevin Schewe and why is he winning all these awards?
Shelf Life is lucky to have Guest Blogger Kathy Tretter, co-publisher and editor of the Ferdinand News and Spencer County Leader, two award winning newspapers in Southern Indiana, to answer that question. The following is from her column which ran in the Ferdinand News.
Kevin L. Schewe, MD, FACRO, is the brilliant, rather dignified (but not stuffy) board-certified radiation oncologist serving Southern Indiana at Memorial Hospital and Health Care’s Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center in Jasper. For 35 years his work and focus revolved around saving the lives of cancer patients.
You can and should, of course, call him Dr. Schewe (rhymes with “chewy”), but for those who knew him when, his moniker is a tad less, ah, shall we say reverential?
“If history was taught this way in school, everyone would be a scholar and educating ourselves not only about our accomplishments but the horrors of the past that should awaken and give insight to the path of a better future. A rare gem!”
—David Holladay, MD, 5-Star
His wife Nikki, a radiation therapist, probably calls him Kevin, but his old friends know him as Bubble Butt!
Dr. Schewe discovered, rather late in life, that he possesses both a passion and a talent totally unrelated to the medical profession — and that talent is, quite literally, winning him accolades across the globe.
At last count he has been honored with over one-hundred international awards for his screenplay, Bad Love Tigers (he’s over 200 honors thus far) — not to mention raves for the four books he wrote on which the screenplay is based. Some of his awards include Best Original Story at the Cannes World Film Festival, Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Screenplay at the Vegas Movie Awards, Best Screenplay at the London Classic Film Festival and Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Most recently he earned the Best Screenplay Award at the East Coast Movie Awards.
A partial list of his wins appears at the end of this article and the scope is quite simply astonishing.
According to his publicist, “In less than six months on the international screenplay circuit, Kevin Schewe’s Bad Love Tigers generated momentum on its whirlwind sweep of the globe, finding acclaim at film festivals spanning from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and dozens of locations in between.” That quote came at the end of June after the screenplay had amassed, by that point, 83 awards, and the list continued to grow from there.
So how did this all transpire? It’s not every day someone wholly ensconced in a profession as intense as medicine suddenly clicks on his brain’s right hemisphere (creative side) to become a novelist and screenwriter, although the left (logical) side is responsible for language and probably had something to do with both his careers.
Here’s what happened.
Dr. Schewe is a history buff and reads everything he can get his hands on concerning World War II. He came across a true military history story that happened on a late afternoon in November of 1944, as the war in the European Theater was starting to wane. A brand new B-17G Flying Fortress (four-engined heavy bomber with a 104 foot wing span), known as the Phantom Fortress, landed at a British air base in Belgium. These bombers were a proud symbol of American air strength during World War II and there were several iterations, the B-17G being the last.
As this colossus was coming toward the landing strip with no warning, the tower kept trying to radio the pilot, to no avail.
The landing had not been perfect. There was some damage to one engine when the bomber end-rolled in, touched down, spun around, dipped, and hit the runway, but it landed and came to a halt, the remaining three engines still turning.
Gunnery crews on the ground were scratching their heads trying to figure out what was going on. Was everyone inside dead? But then how did the bomber land? Was this a proverbial Trojan Horse, a trick of the Nazis?
Apparently British Lieutenant John Crisp drew the short straw and went out to the plane to investigate about half an hour later when no one disembarked.
What he found was surreal. No one was in the cockpit or anywhere else in the bomber. Parachutes were lined up along the fuselage, while a leather flight jacket and candy bars littered the floor.
As could be expected, an investigation ensued. The man who was supposed to be piloting the B-17G (on only its third mission) was later located and said he and the crew had been en route to bomb the Leuna Synthetic Oil Refinery — Nazi Germany’s second largest synthetic oil plant and second biggest chemical operation — when an engine failed. The B-17 was losing altitude and destined to crash, so the crew abandoned the mission and bailed out in the clouds.
But it didn’t crash — it landed on Allied soil and only one engine — the one damaged on landing — had failed.
Which, Dr. Kevin “Bubble Butt” Schewe realized made absolutely no sense. Why would the crew not have used parachutes and why would anyone depart without his jacket as the air outside would have been frigid? The only engine that failed was the one damaged during touchdown in Belgium.
Please note, B-17Gs were not drones, nor were they equipped to land themselves, so those facts alone would seemingly constitute a miracle.
This is where the whole right brain/left brain scenario comes in — this true tale lit an imaginative spark in Dr. Schewe. His mind then took a slight right to his undergrad roots as a physics major. “When I read this story it was like I was struck by lightening,” he recalls. He sat down and began penning the first novel, developing the characters based on his childhood friends with a couple of fictional personages added for good measure.
What resulted is a superlative blending of fact and fiction, and it’s highly tempting to give everything away.
But here’s a taste.
Dr. Schewe grew up in St. Louis (his Dad served under General MacArthur in World War II) and his friends did indeed (and still do) call him Bubble Butt. Many of those friends appear in the books and script — their nicknames intact as well. The protagonist is Bubble Butt, but with a different surname. The action happens in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which everyone who has read even a little bit of history knows was the epicenter for the Manhattan Project leading to the development of the atomic bomb.
The fiction is fascinating and partially based in reality, such as the discovery of exotic matter (a focus of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), also a necessary component of time travel (oops, getting close to spilling the beans).
The year is 1974 and Bubble Butt and friends accidentally come across a secret, cavernous vault known during WWII as the White Hole Project near the Oak Ridge complex. This dynamic group of young adventurers, known as the Bad Love Gang, use a time machine to travel back to the World War II era.
So there, you got it out of me.
One feature of the first book, Bad Love Strikes, will surely provide the soundtrack for the movie (if it gets made and surely it will). On the first pages Dr. Schewe gives a list of songs to play while reading every chapter, from “Born To Be Wild” in chapter one to “Shambala” in chapter 20. Each chapter also begins with a quote such as “Put your hand on a hot stove for one minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” — Albert Einstein. Or the one prior to the epilogue, “OK, I will admit that I am having some memory issues. I can do pretty good with the past, it’s the future I’m having trouble remembering …” — Larry W. Schewe, father of the author when his memory was beginning to fail.
According to his publicist, “Schewe’s Bad Love Tigers is a feel-good, action-adventure, sci-fi blend of Stand by Me meets Raiders of the Lost Ark or Back to the Future meets Goonies. The energetic and fun screenplay has strong appeal and great potential to attract an audience of all ages to the big screen. This incredible display of worldwide interest shows that Bad Love Tigers is already a global phenomenon, crossing cultures and borders and demonstrating its potential to be a feel-great-again, big-screen blockbuster.”
Which is why it has garnered so many awards.
So who exactly is Kevin Schewe, physician author and screenwriter, and where did he come from?
He moved to Jasper after the clinic at which he had worked in Colorado changed hands. He was extremely attracted to the radiology equipment at Memorial, noting some very generous donors made the Cancer Clinic at the Jasper-based hospital top of the line. The fact the move would allow for more time to write also appealed as Bubble Butt has plotted eight more books in the series.
“I plan to be here for the next seven years [until retirement],” he notes. Then with a cheeky smile adds, “Unless Stephen Spielberg calls.”
The 72 National and International Awards won (so far) by Bad Love Tigers (a partial list out of more than 200)
· Best Screenplay, Eastern Europe International Movie Awards (Izmir, Turkey)
· Best Original Story, Cannes World Film Festival (Cannes, France)
· Best Feature Screenplay, HALO International Film Festival (St. Petersburg, Russia)
· Best Feature Script and Best Action Screenplay, Top Film Awards Film Festival
· Best Feature Screenplay, Golden Nugget International Film Festival (London, UK)
· Best Screenplay, 52 Weeks Film Festival (Thousand Oaks, CA)
·Best Original Story, Cannes World Film Festival (Cannes, France) Vegas Movie Awards (Las Vegas, NV)
· Best Screenplay, Indo-Global 2022 Film Festival (Mumbai, India)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Masters of Cinema International Film Festival (Rome, Italy)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Stardust Films and Screenplays Festival (New York, NY)
· Best Feature Screenwriting, Red Moon Film Festival (New York, NY)
· Outstanding Achievement, Swedish International Film Festival (Arkiva, Sweden)
· Best Script Award for Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, London Film Festival (London, UK)
· Best Screenplay, The Gladiator Film Festival (Istanbul, Turkey)
· Best Screenplay, Inca Imperial International Film Festival (Lima, Peru)
· Best Unproduced Script, Indiefare International Film Festival
· Best Sci-Fi Script, Hong Kong World Film Festival (Hong Kong)
· Honorable Mention, Los Angeles Movie Awards (Los Angeles, CA)
· Best Feature Script, New York Neorealism Film Awards (Rome, Italy)
· Best Screenplay, London Classic Film Festival (London, UK)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Stardust Films and Screenplays Festival , Best Original Screenplay, and Best Poster, Golden Giraffe International Film Festival (Nice, France)
· Best Sci-Fi Short Script, Red Dragon Creative Awards (Dallas, Texas)
· Best Short Screenplay, Silver Mask Live Festival (Los Angeles, California)
· Best Script Written During Pandemic, Redwood Shorts & Scripts (Sunnyvale, California)
· Critic’s Choice Award for Best Feature Script/Screenplay, International Motion Picture Festival of India (Pondicherry, India)
· Best Sci-Fi Script, Mykonos International Film Festival (Mykonos, Greece)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Thinking Hat Fiction Challenge (Punjab, India)
· Outstanding Achievement for Feature Script, Luis Bunuel Memorial Awards (Kolkata, India)
· Best Feature Screenplay, South Film and Arts Academy Festival (Rancagua, Chile)
· Best Sci-Fi Script, Gold Star Movie Awards (Newark, New Jersey)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay Award, BRNO Film Festival (Brno, Czech Republic)
· Best Feature Screenplay, Filmmaker Life Awards (Hollywood, CA)
· Best Story Screenplay Award, The Madrid Art Film Festival (Madrid, Spain)
· Best Feature Screenplay, White Unicorn International Film Festival (Hong Kong, India, Japan)
· Feature Script Audience Choice Award, Black Swan International Film Festival (Kolkata, India)
· Best Feature Script/Screenplay, Indo French International Film Festival (Pondicherry, India)
· Best Script, New York Independent Cinema Awards (New York, NY)
· Best Script in a Feature Film, World Indie Film Awards (Chongqing, China)
· Best Script (Sci-Fi), Los Angeles Film & Script Festival (Los Angeles, CA)
· Best Screenplay for Young Adults, Bridge Fest Film Festival (Vancouver, Canada)
· Best Thriller Screenplay, Adbhooture Film Festival (West Bengal, India)
· Feature Script Outstanding Achievement Award, Royal Society of Television and Motion Picture (Kolkata, India)
About Kathy Tretter
Kathy Tretter with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb .
Active in her community, Kathy Tretter is President, Editor/Co-publisher at Dubois-Spencer Counties Publishing Co., Inc., is former Chair of the Spencer County Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Hoosier State Press Association and remains on their board. An award winning editor, Tretter was the winner of the 2014 Rotary Club of Jasper’s ATHENA International Leadership award. The ATHENA Award, an international honor, recognizes women who have demonstrated excellence in professional leadership, community service, and the mentorship of future women leaders and also have been active in community service and show professional excellence.
Tretter is also the editor of Santa’s Daughter, the autobiography of Patricia Yellig Koch, who an nductee into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame and founder of the Santa Claus Museum. The museum’s mission is to preserve the history of the community of Santa Claus and the attractions that helped build “America’s Christmas Hometown.”
Article: The Best Noir Fiction of 2022
The Best Noir Fiction of 2022 https://flip.it/fcHesx
The Best Book and Song Pairings from Taylor Swift’s New Album, Midnights
Didn’t get a ticket for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour? Don’t despair. Think of all the money you saved when jamming out instead to Midnights along with a good book instead. The librarians at Libby, an app for borrowing ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more that let’s you borrow from your local library for free, went track by track to come up with pairings to go along with the new album, check out that list here.
The best part? Unlike a $700+ floor seat and hours of Ticketmaster torture, these books are free. So instead of a credit card, just whip out your library card.
Give credit to Joe Skelley (see his bio below) who works for Libby.
Midnights Book/Song Pairings
♫ Lavender Haze
📚 It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
Piper Bellinger is an Instagram wild child with a trust fund and a penchant for riling up the paparazzi. A lot of people make assumptions about her, including Brendan—at first. Both characters show that there’s more than meets the eye and they don’t give a darn what people think if they’re meant to be together.
📚 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
No spoilers here but IYKYK—this song fits the bill.
📚 New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Jokes about Jacob Black and Renesmee aside, this song captures the vibe of the franchise and the era of the books and movies so well. Whether it evokes Bella’s four-month depression (Hello, One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving / And life will lose all its meaning), Edward feeling like “a monster on the hill” and a danger to his love, or truly the “covert narcissism” disguised “as altruism” from just about every Cullen, this song has the Twilight franchise covered.
♫ Snow on the Beach
📚 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Addie makes a deal with the devil and lives forever, but is forgotten by everyone she meets. That’s until she meets a man who remembers her name. A lot of her life and loves feel like snow on the beach: weird but beautiful and, often, impossible.
♫ You’re On Your Own, Kid
📚 I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
With lyrics like, I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out and I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss down to the repetition of You’re on your own, kid, you always have been, this song evokes so many of the feelings Jennette describes throughout her book: navigating life with her mother, being forced into Hollywood and just doing her best to survive.
♫ Midnight Rain
📚 The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers by Adam Sass
Micah is the “Prince of Chicago.” He runs a popular (anonymous) Instagram filled with drawings of his numerous, imaginary boyfriends. He’s got it all, but knows he’s so much more than that. When Boy 100 turns into his very first boyfriend, he finds that love is so much more than what’s been living in his head. He has to fight the hurt as he tries to make his own name while Boy 100 is chasing the fame.
📚 Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Auden spends a lot of nights reading or walking around town—basically doing anything but sleep. She runs into a fellow night owl, Eli, and they form a friendship as they both try to work through their stuff. These lyrics match perfectly:
Good girl, sad boy, big city, wrong choices. We had one thing goin’ on I swear that it was somethin’ / ‘Cause I don’t remember who I was before you painted all my nights / A color I’ve searched for since.
♫ Vigilante Sh*t
📚 Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
There are so many strong, powerful and amazing women in literature who could absolutely “draw the cat eye, sharp enough to kill a man,” but from the jump, this song evokes thoughts of sticking it to The Capitol. Whether dressing for revenge, or taking down the corrupt system from the inside, Katniss Everdeen and her crew are up to some vigilante sh*t.
📚 Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy has a way of capturing the attention of everyone in the room when she walks in. She shimmers and shines, but there’s more to her than meets the eye.
📚 Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Isla is a hopeless romantic who might finally have a chance with Josh, a guy she’s had a crush on forever. But they have a lot of obstacles to overcome in this sweet and intense romance.
I’ll be gettin’ over you my whole life.
📚 It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover
We could totally imagine “Karma” as Lily’s anthem as she navigates the tricky dynamics of her ex, Ryle, and the feelings she has for Atlas as they meet again as adults. Lily deserves her second chance at love despite the others that keep trying to bring her down.
♫ Sweet Nothing
📚 Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read follows January, a romance author who doesn’t believe in love anymore, and Augustus, a literary author who’s a bit of a cynic. A romance, yes, but you’ll need the tissues ready!
All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothin’.
📚 Before the Devil Breaks You, Diviners Series Book 3 by Libba Bray
This is such a magical and spooky series by Bray, filled with love and mysterious powers. There are so many moments in this book that feel like they only happen when all the stars aligned, and the love story of Theta and Memphis is surely one of them. From their chance meeting during the raid of the Hotsy Totsy club in Book 1, to discovering Theta’s past in Book 3, this pair absolutely embodies “the first night that you saw me nothing was gonna stop me.”
After you soak in the new album, head over to the Libby reading app to find the perfect book match.
About the Author
Joe Skelley has always been a lover of reading and passionate about the library. His love of libraries brought him to OverDrive where he works on the Events team, working with the Digital Bookmobile and co-hosts the Professional Book Nerds podcast. Joe loves thrillers, magical realism and the broad spectrum of YA. When he’s not working, Joe loves to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch YouTube, get too involved in a DIY project and (most importantly) play with his Boston Terrier, Roscoe.
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Smile Beach Murder
When Callie Padget is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore—the same one where she found comfort after her mother died.
In fact, the anniversary of her mother’s infamous death is approaching. Years ago, Teri Padget tumbled from the top of the lighthouse. As islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy, devastating news strikes: the lighthouse has claimed another victim. Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.
The police are calling it suicide, but Callie does not believe Eva jumped any more than she believes her mother did—especially because Callie knows that before her death, Eva had dug up a long-forgotten treasure hunt that could have put a target on Eva’s back.
In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial art’s instructor, Toby Dodge. But when another death rocks Cattail Island, Callie must face her fears alone. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.
SMILE BEACH MURDER is an all-new mystery series featuring Callie Padget, a former reporter turned bookshop clerk in the Outer Banks, who is pulled into a deadly web of secrets when a mysterious fall at a lighthouse echoes a tragedy from her past. When the police rule the fall a suicide, Callie has doubts. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before authoring the Outer Banks Bookshop mystery series, Alicia Bessette worked as a reporter in her home state of Massachusetts, where her writing won a first-place award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. A pianist, published poet, and enthusiastic birdwatcher, she now loves living in coastal North Carolina with her husband, novelist Matthew Quick.
Bessette has lived in the Outer Banks for years, adding authenticity to her depiction of island life, characters, and gorgeous setting. Jamie Brenner, bestselling author of The Forever Summer, praises: “What could be better than a beach-read mystery? Lay out a towel, pour yourself some lemonade, and escape in this Outer Banks whodunnit with charm to spare.”
An Honest Living
“Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.”
Anchored in life by little except a few friends, a love of books and cinema, and his nascent law practice—a downward slope from his previous position with a prestigious law firm—we never learn the name of the narrator in An Honest Living, Dwyer Murphy’s first novel. Even his clients seem unsure of who he is, and when one gives him a going away present with his name misspelled, our narrator can only ruefully observe “they were only off by a few letters.”
A guy like this makes a perfect patsy and that’s what happens when Anna Reddick hires him to determine if her husband is selling off her valuable collection of rare books. It seems easy enough. Staging a meeting with Reddick’s husband at the Poquelin Society which he describes as “a scholarly society dedicated to the art, science and preservation of the book, whatever that meant,” he quickly scores the proof he needs.
Case solved. Ha! As it could be that easy in a neo-noir novel set in a time and place where everyone seems to have a secret to hide and nothing is as it seems. And that applies also to the people the detective meets. It turns out the woman who hired our detective is not Anna Reddick.
Now, one of the noir fundamentals dictates that there’s a femme fatale, the kind of dame a hero shouldn’t fall for, but of course, always does. And that dame is the real Anna Reddick, a successful author and heir to old New York money. She hires and beguiles our detective to investigate the disappearance of her husband. Marital strife, a possible suicide or maybe murder, theft, and mystery—why wouldn’t you fall for a woman like that?
There are layers to this droll, atmospheric novel including the inside jokes the author wants us to get. If you’re wondering about the Poquelin Society, don’t bother trying to join. It doesn’t appear to exist, at least according to a Google search. But there was a French playwright and actor named Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, though he was better known by his stage name, Molière.
But the biggest of the wink and nods is for movie buffs familiar with the 1974 Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway movie Chinatown, directed by Roman Polansky. The plot of An Honest Man is an homage to this great noir classic and the book echoes many of its plot components. The book’s title derives from a conversation Nicholson had in the barbershop scene Chinatown.
But Chinatown is all Los Angeles in 1937 and the story revolves around water rights, incest, and murder. An Honest Living is New York through and through from the scenes that our detective spies from the G Train and the window of his brownstone or the streets he walks littered with trash and 24-hour diners. It’s Manhattan before the financial meltdown—urban, somewhat gritty, and unhomogenized.
Murphy has taken that time period and our knowledge of the looming crisis and created a compelling mystery set in a world of jaded hopes and ambiguous relationships. There’s the overwhelming sense that the other shoe will drop and when it does, it will come down heavy on our somewhat hapless narrator.
Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.
This review previously appeared in the New York Journal of Books.
Published by Viking Books, it is also available in audiobook and Kindle formats.
The Marsh Queen
Far from the marshland where her family grew up and that claimed her father’s life, Loni Mae Murrow has found a quiet niche where she creates intricate life-like drawings of birds for the Smithsonian. It’s a rare talent and a job that Murrow, who started drawing at an early age, loves. But there are undercurrents in her job and life starting with a new administrator talking of budget cuts and disdaining Murrow’s need to return home to deal with her aging mother. Making it all more complicated is that she also is confronted with her brother and his controlling, avaricious wife both of whom seem more intent on cashing in on what little money there is in their mother’s portfolio than in helping her. Murrow has just a short time to take care of family business and to sort out messy family entanglements. If she doesn’t return in time, she’ll no longer have a job.
But the pull of her mother’s needs, a compelling job offer from a good friend, veiled hints at mysteries unsolved along with her realization that her father’s death may be less straightforward than it seemed at the time jarringly jeopardize the peace and tranquility that Murrow has achieved. She finds herself deeper and deeper into the place of her youth and the marshes, both of which she thought—hopefully–she had left behind for good.
Author Virginia Hartman convincing portrays the beauty of the marshes, creating an atmosphere of serene beauty but also one full of surprises and ultimately danger in The Marsh Queen (Simon & Schuster). She also conveys how easily Murrow falls into the patterns of her father who knew the waterways so well he could navigate the countless channels and inlets without a map. Hartman’s love of this landscape, full of unexpected wonders, is inherent in her writing.
“Early morning steam rises from the water,” Hartman writes about one of Murrow’s forays into the marshland. “I paddle to a different part of the swamp today, where the Cypress trees grow, as my dad used to say, ‘keepin’ their feet in the water.’ The canopy is high, like a cathedral, and I glide through the landscape of light and shadow. Ferns cascade from the trunks and pink lichen like measle spots and the Cypress knees stick up from beneath the surface like the hats of submerged gnomes.”
This enchantment of the waterways with all its many unexpected scenes of flora and fauna is something Murrow finds she shares with Adlai, the seemingly gruff proprietor of the canoe shop where she rents her canoe and paddles when she goes in search of such birds to draw as the purple gallinule. Her mother had married down so to speak when she chose Murrow’s father. It is a choice that Murrow ultimately must make as well—to leave a dream job of working at one of the most prestigious museums in the country and life in a bustling cosmopolitan city to return to the backwaters of home.
But first she must follow, however unwillingly, all the clues that keep presenting themselves regarding the past. It’s a matter of connecting the dots to find out what really did happen to here father all those years ago. And if she doesn’t accomplish that soon enough, then there’s more at risk for Murrow than just losing her job. It may mean losing her life.
The Marsh Queen is also available in hardcover, on Kindle, Audible and as an Audio CD.
This review originally appeared in New York Journal of Books.
About the Author
Virginia Hartman has an MFA in creative writing from American University and is on the faculty at George Washington University. Her stories have been shortlisted for the New Letters Awards and the Dana Awards. The Marsh Queen is her first novel.
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