Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries

photo of author jo dereskeTurns out my favorite librarian in the universe will be making an appearance at our very own Green Lake Library this week. Okay, make that my favorite fictional librarian, created by Northwest author Jo Dereske, who will be reading from her popular Miss Zukas mystery series and discussing writing mysteries (she has a new series in the works) on Thursday, March 13, from 6 to 7:45 p.m.

Wilhelmina (Helma) Zukas’ independent spirit, intelligence and resourcefulness make it impossible for this librarian/sleuth to resist solving murders and setting things straightcatalogue of death book cover in her beloved Bellehaven (think Bellingham/Fairhaven). I love the local setting, witty style and crisp writing that comes through in each of the ten Miss Zukas mysteries (which the New York Times called “a loving sendup” to the librarian stereotype). I was delighted when Miss Zukas returned, after a three-year break, in Bookmarked to Die and Catalogue of Death. The 11th title in the series comes out in April.

Author Jo Dereske (who is also a librarian) gives us a bit of insight into Helma Zukas — as well as some excellent reading suggestions — in part one of a two-part interview:

How does this amateur detective benefit from her librarian background?

Well, as everyone knows, library folk are sharply observant, and relentless researchers. Miss Zukas understands patterns and anomalies and she does not give up. She has a book and she knows how to use it.

Those who don’t yet know Miss Zukas may have some preconceived notions based on her profession. What do you wish people knew about Helma Zukas?

When I began writing the series I wanted to respond to two things. I’d been told: “Nobody would ever publish a book about a librarian.” The other was the way librarians were viewed as dull stereotypes by the Continue reading “Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries”

Modern Scotland: A unique view of a people

chryscamposkilt.jpgBeing of Scottish descent on my mother’s side of the family (the Crawford Clan), I eagerly await and devour each fictional window of modern Scotland from Alexander McCall-Smith. Although best known for his delightful tales (beginning with the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) set in Botswana, he also brings today’s Scottish folks alive in two series set in Edinburgh: the light mysteries featuring Isabel Dalhousie, an ethics philosopher, and the crazy quilt of characters living in or otherwise connected to the 44 Scotland Street apartment building.

Beyond being a wise and hilarious writer, McCall-Smith is a voice in the wilderness as he muses about the socially dark side of consumerism, celebrity worship and the global economy. For me, and for many, I think, it’s impossible to make it through one of his books without shedding a few tears and laughing out loud. Treat yourself!

Craig

An old master dies

winterpeople.jpgThe dowager queen of suspense, prolific author Phyllis Whitney died earlier this month (February 8, 2008) from pneumonia. She was 104 years old. In 80 years she wrote more than 100 short stories and 70 novels in four genres — adult, children’s mystery, young adult and nonfiction guides to writing. She published her last book when she was 94. She also received many prestigious awards, served as president of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and in 1988 earned MWA’s Grand Master Award, a lifetime achievement award for mystery writers.

Whitney said she stayed young by writing fast-paced, cliff-hanger tales of suspense. Maybe in high school you read The Winter People, and swooned in terror with Dina, or maybe years later you discovered Amethyst Dreams, a riveting tale of Hallie’s frantic search for her closest friend Susan.

According to her Website, Whitney did exhaustive research for her novels, always writing from the viewpoint of an American visiting the country for the first time. She ascribed her success to persistence and an abiding faith in her abilities. “Never mind the rejections, the discouragement, the voices of ridicule (there can be those too),” she wrote in Guide to Fiction Writing. “Work and wait and learn, and that train will come by. If you give up, you’ll never have a chance to climb aboard.”

Let’s honor the mystery queen, climb her train and rediscover her voluminous work.

~ Susan