Rebecca Bain

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In his follow-up to the best-selling The Last Lecture, co-written with Randy Pausch, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow explores the friendship of 11 girls, now women in their mid-40s, who grew up together in Ames, Iowa.

The Girls From Ames grew in response to a piece Zaslow wrote about the enduring bonds of women's friendships. He received an email from Jenny Benson Litchman that gave a few details on how the girls met (three were born within a week of each other in a local hospital), what growing up together had been like, and how they still keep in almost daily contact with each other.

Intrigued, Zaslow took a year's leave from work to spend time with the "girls," hoping, no doubt, to find the key to what has kept them so close for so many years. Instead, he discovered what many women could have told him: the friends of one's youth are often the friends who matter the most. They are the ones with whom a million secrets have been shared, fragile dreams have been explored and countless pranks have been pulled. These are the friends who know the best and the worst about each other and, as English poet Robert Southey wrote, they are completely persuaded of each other's worth.

Still, it is extraordinary how these women (10 now, since the early death of one) have maintained such close contact with each other despite lives that have taken them all across the country (none lives in Ames today). They've shared the joys of marriage and childbirth, the pain of divorce, the tragedy of the deaths of children, the fears surrounding breast cancer. They've cried oceans of tears together and laughed so hard they've wet their pants. Or as Cathy says in The Girls From Ames, when asked why their bond remains so strong: "We root each other to the core of who we are, rather than what defines us as adults–by careers or spouses or kids. There's a young girl in each of us who is still full of life. When we're together, I try to remember that."

Rebecca Bain writes from Nashville.

In his follow-up to the best-selling The Last Lecture, co-written with Randy Pausch, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow explores the friendship of 11 girls, now women in their mid-40s, who grew up together in Ames, Iowa. The Girls From Ames grew in response to a piece Zaslow wrote about the enduring bonds of women's […]
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If it weren’t for wacky families, what would writers use for their literary inspiration? That’s a question that will never plague humorist Jancee Dunn, as she amply portrays in her new memoir, Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?

Dunn explores the paradox of the child/parent relationship with amusement and exasperation. This is a quandary familiar to anyone who has tried to drag a parent into the technological 21st century. Of course, as Dunn cheerfully chronicles, these children are then appalled when the parent embraces modern ideas, demonstrated in Dunn’s case when her 60-something mother decides to get a tattoo.

Most of Dunn’s vignettes are funny (occasionally hilarious), but she does tread solemn ground when she writes of her decision not to have children. An otherwise pleasant woman becomes incensed when Dunn confesses she and her husband enjoy their childless existence: “‘Don’t you think it’s selfish not to have children?’ This dishearteningly familiar argument never failed to amaze me. Why on earth was refraining from adding a child to a world with an exploding population and diminishing ozone layer selfish?”

Dunn’s humor confirms that if you can’t change things, it’s much better to laugh about them, especially if you can do so with others.  

If it weren’t for wacky families, what would writers use for their literary inspiration? That’s a question that will never plague humorist Jancee Dunn, as she amply portrays in her new memoir, Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? Dunn explores the paradox of the child/parent relationship with amusement and exasperation. This is a quandary […]
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Creating colossal challenges for oneself appears to be a firmly ingrained part of the human psyche, whether it’s Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reaching the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953 or Julie Powell cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking in 2002. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that writer Adrienne Martini decided to knit an impossibly complicated sweater as a way of taking charge of her life.

As a wife and working mother of two, Martini often felt as if she were being pulled in a hundred different directions and seldom of her own choosing. Knitting, which she took up seriously after the birth of her first baby in 2002, grounded her. As she writes in her new memoir, Sweater Quest, “Making stuff with my very own hands has enriched my life in innumerable ways. Both kids and craft have taught me how to deal with frustration so acute that I’d want to bite the head off a kitten. Both are great courses in expectation management. Both have given more than they’ve taken—and introduced me to a community that I otherwise never would have known.”

But with a closet full of the hats, scarves and gloves she had knitted since the birth of her first baby, Martini wanted a challenge that would truly push her to her limits. She found it in the Fair Isle sweater pattern “Mary Tudor,” designed by Alice Starmore. Undaunted by the fact that the pattern was in an out-of-print book in a discontinued yarn, she embarked upon her “sweater quest” two years ago. Her adventure brought her into contact with knitters from all over the world (knitters are an interesting breed of folk) and, of course, helped her discover a few things about herself in the process.

Which is why Sweater Quest is not just a book about knitting, although readers certainly learn a great deal of the history of the craft in its pages. It’s a reminder that the human race loves a challenge—indeed, thrives on the quest—to be able to say with pride, “I did this.”

Creating colossal challenges for oneself appears to be a firmly ingrained part of the human psyche, whether it’s Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reaching the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953 or Julie Powell cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking in 2002. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise […]
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Comfort food—even the words are warming and evocative, and most of us have familiar foodstuffs to which we turn when times get rough. However, when Paula Butturini’s husband, John Tagliabue, was shot by a sniper while covering events in Romania for the New York Times in 1989, Butturini knew that comfort food was only part of what would be necessary to help him recover. So the couple returned to Rome, where they had spent their happiest times together. In a new memoir, Keeping the Feast, she recounts the terrible struggle both had to regain some normalcy in their lives, and the role that food played in their recovery.

While it took two years for Tagliabue’s physical injuries to heal, it was the devastating clinical depression into which he fell afterward that nearly destroyed the couple. For years, Butturini’s husband was so depressed he often couldn’t speak. Once an outgoing, compassionate man, he became a shell of his former self, isolating himself from everyone but his wife and the psychiatrist he saw several times each week. Antidepressant drugs had no effect on his problem; for months on end, he only got worse, bedeviled by crippling anxiety attacks, uncontrollable crying and morbid introspection.

At her wit’s end, Butturini turned to the best cure she knew: “Just the magic of honest food—fresh and wholesome—simply prepared and eaten together three times a day, from ingredients that Italians have largely been eating for millennia. Italy still celebrates one of the most primordial rituals of the human community, the daily sharing of food and fellowship around a family table; what better place to take ourselves to heal?”

Butturini’s gratitude at having food as a lifeline to cling to is evident on every page of Keeping the Feast. It is a celebration of the human spirit, persevering in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and a paean to the restorative ability of food to bring comfort and peace to our souls as well as our bodies.

Rebecca Bain is a freelance writer and editor in Nashville.

Comfort food—even the words are warming and evocative, and most of us have familiar foodstuffs to which we turn when times get rough. However, when Paula Butturini’s husband, John Tagliabue, was shot by a sniper while covering events in Romania for the New York Times in 1989, Butturini knew that comfort food was only part […]
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On March 23, 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was still a new venture for American troops, 18 vehicles became separated from the rest of their army convoy. Following faulty directions, the group entered a hostile town, where they were overcome by militant villagers. In her new book, I’m Still Standing, Shoshana Johnson writes of the ordeal that followed.

Johnson, who is this country’s first female black POW, wasn’t even sure why she’d been deployed—she’d spent her career in the Army as a cook. Meals in the desert were either field rations or provided by a civilian dining service, so she had little to do once she arrived in Iraq. But in the attack that killed 11 of her fellow soldiers, Johnson and six male soldiers were taken prisoner. Johnson had sustained severe injuries to both of her legs; two of the others were also injured.

For the next 22 days, until they were rescued by Marines acting on a tip, the seven POWs were shuffled from cell to cell, building to building, town to town. They were often separated; their injuries were given only cursory attention; their meals were inadequate bowls of rice, sometimes with a piece of chicken. Worst of all, they had no idea if they would be released, kept in prison indefinitely or executed. The last two options seemed the most likely.

Johnson writes of the horror of this uncertainty, of the unending boredom of days with nothing to do but imagine the worst scenarios, of hostile guards—or even worse, a flirtatious one who would stroke her neck or try to hold her hand. She also includes the more mundane details of the prisoners’ grim existence: dirty clothes, the lack of bathing facilities or even toilet paper. But Johnson isn’t entirely censorious about her treatment by the Iraqis. Several treated her with kindness, even becoming protective of her. And she still wonders if the three policemen who were their final captors might have been the ones to tip off the Marines.

When she and her fellow captives were finally released and landed in Kuwait, a chaplain approached Johnson and asked if he could pray with her. “The chaplain took my hand to begin the prayer, but before he could even say the first words, I started crying. I was overwhelmed with how much I had to pray about. There had been days of sheer terror, days of utter hopelessness. So many awful things that could have happened didn’t. Instead there were times when I had been grateful for the kindnesses so many of our captors had shown. And now I was free and on my way home. It was overwhelming.”

In fact, events after Johnson’s return to the U.S. were at times nearly as emotionally devastating as her ordeal in Iraq. Fellow soldiers became jealous of the attention the POWs received, and the Army refused to include PTSD treatment as part of her insurance coverage. She believes reporters even gave more coverage to Jessica Lynch (also captured by other Iraqis that day) because she was blonde and Johnson was black. It was distressing enough that Johnson left the Army; these days, she has returned to culinary school and also does public speaking, and she struggles with depression, guilt over living when her fellow soldiers died and anger at her treatment by the Army. Yet Shoshana Johnson proves with this book that she is, in fact, still standing.

Rebecca Bain is a freelance writer in Nashville.

On March 23, 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was still a new venture for American troops, 18 vehicles became separated from the rest of their army convoy. Following faulty directions, the group entered a hostile town, where they were overcome by militant villagers. In her new book, I’m Still Standing, Shoshana Johnson writes of the […]
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Near the historic seaside community of Gloucester, Massachusetts, lies a 3,600-acre woodland known as Dogtown. Once a colonial village, it was abandoned nearly 200 years ago—although “abandoned” might not be the appropriate term. Its history of pirates, witches, ghosts and unearthly forces has been a magnet ever since to those seeking a closer commune with all of nature’s forces. One such person is Elyssa East. Her book Dogtown is at once a memoir, a narrative of the region’s history and the story of the violent crime that occurred there in 1984.

Growing up in Georgia, East was fed on tales of“Revolutionary and Civil War heroes, and of plantation noblesse oblige.” As a child, she wanted to be like these people, but felt she never could. She believed, though, that there must be a region and a history to which she could belong. Dogtown, she thought, might be that place.

East learned of Dogtown (named for the 18th-century widows who kept dogs for protection) through the paintings of Marsden Hartley, an American artist who painted the giant boulders (many 20 feet tall) deposited there during the Ice Age. Suffering from his own personal demons, Hartley went to Dogtown in the summer of 1931. He fell under the region’s mystical spell and again found his muse. One particular painting, “Mountains in Stone, Dogtown,” captured East’s imagination. As she writes, “I began to wonder what kind of story a place named Dogtown would tell. I imagined that one day I would find this unusual landscape and the source of Hartley’s inspiration, as if doing so would complete some undone part of me.”

In Dogtown, East uses alternating chapters to chronicle her personal experiences, the town’s history and the grisly murder of schoolteacher Anne Netti in 1984. This brutal slaying put a curse on the region that, until recently, kept most people away. Only now, she believes, is Dogtown becoming cherished again.

East’s research is meticulous. If, at times, there is more historical information than necessary, it can be forgiven. She may not have found exactly what she was looking for in Dogtown, but she did find an abundance of material for a worthy first book.

Rebecca Bain is a freelance writer in Nashville.

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Anita Diamant’s novel, The Last Days of Dogtown.

Near the historic seaside community of Gloucester, Massachusetts, lies a 3,600-acre woodland known as Dogtown. Once a colonial village, it was abandoned nearly 200 years ago—although “abandoned” might not be the appropriate term. Its history of pirates, witches, ghosts and unearthly forces has been a magnet ever since to those seeking a closer commune with […]
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Karin Slaughter is known for her intricately plotted mysteries, which usually contain graphic depictions of violent crimes, most often against women. In Undone, she continues to alarm and enmesh the reader, this time with a villain whose aversion to and lust for the female sex causes him to blind his victims so they can’t see their fates, and perform an act of surgery (without anesthesia) which ultimately gives his pursuers a clue to his identity.

If readers can get past the harsh details of the crimes Slaughter depicts—and since she’s an international bestseller, obviously millions can—then Undone is just what the doctor ordered. The doctor in this case is Sara Linton, who in previous books has seen her police chief husband, the man she believes to be her one true love, murdered before her eyes. Trying to put the past behind her, she has moved to Atlanta where she is now head of emergency medicine at Grant County Medical Hospital.

Sara is on duty when the first victim is brought to the emergency room after being hit by a car while escaping her captor. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents Will Trent and Faith Mitchell, last seen in Fractured, are also first-hand witnesses to the arrival of the tortured and traumatized victim. Faith has fainted while at work and Will, her partner, has brought her to the hospital. Will heads out to the scene of the accident; Faith fumes because she has been left behind. However, she soon finds out she has some major problems of her own to deal with, specifically diabetes, which means a major lifestyle change and the possibility of being chained to a desk—a fate worse than death for Faith. Plus she’s pregnant by her now departed boyfriend.

Slaughter does a masterful job of weaving the personal lives of her characters with their professional responsibilities. Sarah is using her work as a doctor to keep from dealing with her husband’s death. Will, due to profound dyslexia, cannot read, a condition he is desperate to hide from his co-workers. Nor does he get much comfort at home, since his wife spends the majority of her time in other men’s beds.

Slaughter gives her characters tremendous depth of character, making them totally believable. Readers appreciate their quirks, share their angst, savor their interactions with each other. Slaughter says her fans often ask ,“Is this real?” It’s not hard to understand why—her writing makes it feel that way.

Perhaps that’s one reason why her books can be so unsettling. It’s disturbing to read about the truly evil villain at the heart of this fast-paced thriller. One cannot help but think, “What if that happened to me?”

For readers who like their suspense as gritty and violent as a real-life crime spree, Slaughter’s Undone is a sure winner.

Rebecca Bain writes from Nashville.

For readers who like their suspense as gritty and violent as a real-life crime spree, Slaughter's Undone is a sure winner.  
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Several years ago, Canadian writer Linwood Barclay was having breakfast with his teenage daughter when she posed a question guaranteed to give any parent heart palpitations. “Dad,” she asked, “Suppose you came to pick me up at my job, and found I’d never worked there?”

It was a scenario Barclay found truly disturbing—and equally irresistible. He took the idea and ran amok with it, creating a parent’s worst nightmare and a mystery reader’s delight with his new thriller, Fear the Worst.

Barclay is a well-respected author whose success has been much greater outside the United States. Too Close to Home was a number one bestseller in England, and also won the Best Novel category of the Arthur Ellis Awards, Canada’s top prize for crime fiction. Now with Fear the Worst, which Barclay calls his “best book yet,” the writer may finally receive similar attention and acclaim from readers in the U.S.

Tim Blake is a divorced dad with a lot of charm but no head for business. His only child, a 19 year-old daughter named Sydney, lives with him during the summer. The previous year, she spent those three months working at the car dealership where Tim is a salesman; this year, Sydney has taken a job as a desk clerk at the Just Inn Time, a cinder-block budget motel where the rooms are clean but the “complimentary breakfast” is free largely because no one really wants stale muffins and bad coffee.

Tim and Sydney have an altercation over breakfast which causes her to leave in a huff for work. But when she doesn’t return that evening, a worried Tim begins calling her friends, hoping the argument is the reason Sidney hasn’t come home. When Sidney’s not back by the next morning, now frantic, he races to the Just Inn Time to see if she’s shown up for work, only to be met with blank stares. No one has seen her, no one knows her, and no, Sydney doesn’t work there. Never has.

“When I got back to the house, it was empty.
Syd did not come home that night.
Or the next night.
Or the night after that.”

These events comprise only 14 pages of this 400-page book, which has all the twists, turns and thrills of a good roller coaster ride, compelling anyone who picks it up to keep reading. In addition to its intricate plot, one of the book’s best qualities is the balance between what is and what is not important when a child goes missing. In his quest to find Sydney, Tim discovers things about his daughter that might have sent him reeling before her disappearance: she drinks when she parties, some of her friends are “wild,” and she might be pregnant. But put in the context of her disappearance—and possible murder—they pale in importance.

“At least it would mean she was okay. That she was alive. I could welcome home a pregnant daughter if there was a pregnant daughter to welcome home.”

It’s not long before a pregnant daughter would be one of the best case scenarios Tim could possibly imagine. By the book’s end, some may feel Barclay has put too many twists and turns in his story; others may be disappointed by its fairly predictable conclusion. But the majority of readers will find Fear the Worst nearly impossible to put down, savoring every bit of this satisfying suspense novel right up to the very last page.

Several years ago, Canadian writer Linwood Barclay was having breakfast with his teenage daughter when she posed a question guaranteed to give any parent heart palpitations. “Dad,” she asked, “Suppose you came to pick me up at my job, and found I’d never worked there?” It was a scenario Barclay found truly disturbing—and equally irresistible. […]
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Kathy L. Patrick first began lusting for a tiara when she was 12 years old, imagining herself waving graciously to throngs of admirers while being crowned winner of the Seventh Grade International Spelling Bee. Unfortunately for Patrick, she never made it past pneumonia. But several decades later she scored another way, winning her glittering crown and national acclaim as founder of The Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

Patrick seems an unlikely person to spark a book club phenomenon. She dropped out of college to attend beauty school and spent the next several years doing hair and makeup. But her love for books eventually propelled her into a job as a publisher's representative. When corporate downsizing ended that, Patrick decided to combine her two vocations, opening the world's only hair salon and bookstore. The idea of a beauty shop/bookstore tickled the fancy of The Oxford American, a literary magazine which featured Beauty and the Book in 2000. The publicity made her shop a success; Patrick decided her next project would be The Pulpwood Queens Book Club (named for the pulpwood industry in Jefferson, Texas). Patrick decreed tiaras and leopard skin were de rigueur for all club members. "We will crown ourselves 'beauty within' queens, as we are Readers, not fading Southern Belles," she told that first gathering. Today there are Pulpwood Queen chapters around the world.

The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life is written in a breezy, conversational style, with lists of Patrick's favorite books and recipes scattered throughout. It also chronicles her difficult childhood dealing with a narcissistic mother and angry father. If my mother had on her black cat-eyed glasses and didn't have on her makeup, it was always worse, Patrick writes. The truth was she was always nicer when she had her makeup on. Most of the time she just scared me half to death, just like my father. While her memoir lacks the literary cachet of such Patrick favorites as To Kill a Mockingbird or Prince of Tides, readers will appreciate how this plucky woman turned losing a job into such a literary success story. Or as she says, If life hands you a lemon, make margaritas.

Rebecca Bain lives in Nashville and does her best to devour at least one book per day.

Kathy L. Patrick first began lusting for a tiara when she was 12 years old, imagining herself waving graciously to throngs of admirers while being crowned winner of the Seventh Grade International Spelling Bee. Unfortunately for Patrick, she never made it past pneumonia. But several decades later she scored another way, winning her glittering crown […]
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The study of England’s 15th-century Wars of the Roses has been known to give British schoolchildren howling fits, trying to differentiate between the Lancasters and the Yorks, false heirs to the throne, the murdered princes in the tower, treacherous brothers, plotting earls and “my kingdom for a horse.” Needless to say, many Americans have found it even more confusing. How lucky then for present day readers that Philippa Gregory, whose The Other Boleyn Girl became a successful film and a #1 New York Times bestseller, uses historical facts to create a fascinating fiction about this period of time, The White Queen.

The title comes from the symbols each faction used in their battles against each other: the Yorks wore a white rose, the Lancasters a red rose. It wasn’t until Henry VII married Elizabeth of York in 1486 that the symbol of the monarchy became the two intertwined blossoms, signaling the end of the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth Woodville (the White Queen) married Sir John Grey in 1452; he was killed at St. Albans in 1461, fighting for the Lancastrian side. As legend has it (a legend Gregory heartily endorses), Elizabeth took her two fatherless boys to wait by the side of the road for arrival of the victorious Edward IV, hoping to petition him for the return of her lands. Regardless of how they met, there is no doubt theirs was a love match—the two married secretly in 1464, and over the course of the next 18 years, Elizabeth bore him nine children, seven of which survived infancy.

Edward crowned Elizabeth queen the year after their marriage, and she lost no time promoting her extensive Woodville family to positions of power. This won her no fans among the York nobility, who had helped Edward take the throne from Henry VI. Nor did the marriage sit well with his mother, the Duchess of York, or the Earl of Warwick, who was known as “The King Maker.” They were arranging a marriage for Edward with the daughter of the French king and both were furious to have their plans thwarted by this less-than-royal match. Warwick had long fancied himself the power behind the throne, and seeing Edward take control of his own life propelled Warwick to seek another possible royal puppet; in this case, Edward’s younger brother, George, who was eventually convicted of and killed for treason.

One of the joys of Gregory’s books, of course, is their ‘history made easy’ quality. It’s one thing to read in a ‘just-the-facts’ history book that Warwick captured Edward IV. It’s another to read of Elizabeth’s fear for Edward’s life, of her seeking sanctuary in Westminster Abbey to save herself and her children, of her constant worry for all their futures, of her fervent hopes for word of Edward’s well-being and her inexpressible joy at his release.

No examination of Elizabeth’s life, fictional or otherwise, could ignore her brother-in-law, Richard III, nor the death of her two sons in the Tower of London. History, written primarily after Henry VII seized the monarchy, paints Richard as the villain, and there’s no denying he stole the crown from 12-year-old Edward V. But Gregory raises the possibility (as did Josephine Tey before her, among others) that Richard was innocent of this crime. Why, Richard posits in The White Queen, would he commit such a heinous crime when it gains him nothing politically and damns him in the eyes of the people? As Gregory tells it, both Richard and Elizabeth lay the crime at the feet of Henry Tudor. Indeed, one wonders if Shakespeare had not painted such a black picture of Richard III in his plays (plays written under Tudor rule), whether or not history might have treated Richard more leniently.

Regardless, all the people in this important and fascinating time in British history come marvelously alive in The White Queen. Indeed, compared to the intrigue, drama, murder and political machinations of 15th-century England, life in the 21st-century seems a delightfully quiet place in which to live.

 

The study of England’s 15th-century Wars of the Roses has been known to give British schoolchildren howling fits, trying to differentiate between the Lancasters and the Yorks, false heirs to the throne, the murdered princes in the tower, treacherous brothers, plotting earls and “my kingdom for a horse.” Needless to say, many Americans have found […]
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When readers fall in love with a character, it can be excruciating to have to wait a year (or more) for the next book in the series to be published—think of the crowds of people who flocked to stores at midnight to get the latest Harry Potter.

That might be one reason for the interesting back-to-back publication of three new mysteries by Laura Caldwell: June brought Red Hot Lies this month’s offering is Red Blooded Murder and Red, White & Dead will hit bookstores in August. So readers charmed by the series’ feisty, red-headed heroine, Izzy McNeil, won’t have to wait long for their next fix.

Izzy bears a definite resemblance to her creator: both she and Caldwell have red hair, law degrees and live in Chicago. And yes, feisty is applicable to both, too. Speaking by phone from her office at Loyola University’s School of Law, where she is a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Caldwell’s pleasure in her character is evident, dubbing her “the younger, taller, hotter and cooler me!”

“I guess what you’re supposed to do in life is go minute to minute, and that’s kind of what I’ve been doing with Izzy. It just started clicking, and moving, and I loved the character, and I loved writing those books. I’m writing a nonfiction book right now [about her work with Loyola’s Life After Innocence Project], but I’m ready to go back and start on number four.”

Caldwell certainly puts Izzy in some real pickles. In the first book, Red Hot Lies, Izzy’s biggest client is murdered, her fiancé disappears with the deceased man’s money, and her employer suggests she take an “indefinite leave of absence.”

This “fresh start” scenario is a topic Caldwell herself finds intriguing, and she continues it in her next two books. Red Blooded Murder puts Izzy in a new career, working as a reporter for Trial TV until the brutal death of a colleague places her under suspicion for murder. And in Red, White & Dead, Izzy dashes off to Rome to search for a vital piece of her personal history . . . and escape some Mafiosi killers in the process.

Caldwell is fascinated by the myriad ways people regroup—or not—after the life they thought they knew gets yanked out from under them. “Unless you live in a hole, that happens to everyone throughout their life. Someone dies, you’re in a car accident, or someone breaks up with you, you lose a job; there are a million examples, and I’m always fascinated with how people respond. So that’s why Izzy, in the beginning of book one, everything she really identifies herself with gets pulled away from her. . . . It was fun to be along for the ride as an author.” While Caldwell has no intention of putting Izzy in the backseat, she has created characters in all three books she’d like to play a more prominent roles in future books.

“I really am hoping to have different characters step forward now. I want Maggie [Izzy’s best friend] to play a bigger part. I also think Izzy’s mom is a fascinating character and based on what happens in Red, White & Dead, she’s got a lot of stuff to deal with, too. . . . So what I’m hoping with this series would be that all these characters would be fleshed out enough that as one develops or changes, it does affect other people.”

One word of warning: Those captivated by Izzy McNeil in Red Hot Lies may want to ration out Red Blooded Murder and Red, White & Dead. After this series jump-start, it will be a year or more before the fourth book in the series is released. That kind of wait could have frustrated readers wishing they’d been a little more judicious and a little less greedy. 

Rebecca Bain writes from her home in Nashville.
 

When readers fall in love with a character, it can be excruciating to have to wait a year (or more) for the next book in the series to be published—think of the crowds of people who flocked to stores at midnight to get the latest Harry Potter. That might be one reason for the interesting […]

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