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Blurb for Audition for Murder (Maggie Ryan, 1967):
Actors Nick and Lisette O’Connor need a change. They leave New York City for a semester as artists-in-residence at a college upstate, where they take on the roles of Claudius and Ophelia, two of the professional leads in a campus production of Hamlet. Threats and accidents begin to follow Lisette, and Nick worries it might be more than just petty jealousy. Maggie Ryan, a student running lights for the show, helps investigate a mystery steeped in the turmoil of 1967 America
About Audition for Murder:
"It's a triple pleasure, a sophisticated theatre story, a knowing campus tale and a topnotch suspenseful mystery, with excellent characterizations and honest plotting." -- Judith Crist
"An extremely well-written tale, with a plotline that offers a jolt per page." -- CF, Booklist
"Very literate, sprinkled with surprises and offering that rarity of rarities -- fully fleshed out characters." -- Bob Ellison, Los Angeles Daily News
Excerpt from Audition for Murder:New York City, late 1960s. Actress Lisette O’Connor suggests to actor husband Nick O’Connor that getting out of the city will help her fight her depression and drug addiction: Nick asked, “Will you want me to go with you?” “Yes. Oh, yes!” Her glance was frightened. It was awkward. His role in this musical was the best he’d had yet. He wouldn’t get reviewed, of course, this late in the run, but people in the business would hear about it. And it was obviously going to keep on running for quite a while, with a small but steady income. Money. Just like being a real person. Most importantly, of course, it was stage work. Nick did TV spots eagerly for the money-- hell, he waited tables for the money-- but TV had very little to do with his reasons for being an actor. Every night now, though, as he stepped through the little curtain made of streamers and began the opening song, he felt that intense communion with the audience, a sense almost of priesthood, as his voice and body communicated the fleeting yet eternal emotions of the play. Nick the witch doctor. Quitting when he had this fulfillment was unthinkable. But Lisette knew all that. She would not ask him to give it up lightly. “I had sort of an idea,” she said. “Oh?” “God, my head hurts.” They sat down on their mismatched flea-market chairs and she ate a bite or two, the fine skin between her brows furrowed. Nick squeezed lemon juice onto his fish and waited. “It’s something George was talking about yesterday,” she said. “There’s this college upstate. They’re doing some sort of special Hamlet and they’re hiring professional leads.” What have you got coming soon for us to look out for? Three more Maggie Ryan mysteries are planned for release soon. Murder in the Dog Days examines the stateside aftermath of the Vietnam war, Murder Misread takes Maggie back to her alma mater to solve the murder of a popular professor, and Bad Blood finds her at home in her Brooklyn brownstone helping a troubled teenaged girl and her mischievous cat.
Which Star Trek or Star Wars character are you most like? I’m old enough to identify with Obi-Wan Kenobi, someone who’s long been fighting for a better civilization. His battles were more dramatic, maybe, than my work in the struggle for voting rights for minorities, reproductive rights for women, a free press, help for victims of domestic violence or child abuse, support for veterans of our wars, equal pay for equal work. Obi-Wan and I know that we won some battles but that counterforces are trying to undo our hard work, and we’re ready to fight again if needed. Maybe someday I too will find a Luke Skywalker and a Princess Leia to help in the next round of the struggle. Fun fact: the first Star Wars release is important in one of the Maggie Ryan books (1977). What other countries have you lived in? Are any of them reflected in the Maggie books? Until I was ten, I lived in Guatemala, and I remain fascinated with that small, beautiful country and the indigenous Maya people who make up most of its population. In the Maggie Ryan series, my interest came out most clearly in Murder Is Academic, where a major character has recently returned from doing linguistic field work there and yearns to return. Later, when my boys were small, we spent a year in Paris. I enjoyed the city, the food, the history, and learning to cope with family life in a different country with a language I was still learning. When I thought about the experiences my detective Maggie Ryan might have had, a year as an exchange student in France seemed like something she would have chosen, and her experience there helped form her character. The Maggie books take place about forty years ago. How was the situation different for a woman like Maggie? Maggie and I were in grad school when feminism was taking up causes like equality in the workplace and reproductive control. We were realizing that our parent’s view that women should be nurses (but not doctors), grade school teachers (but not professors), artists (but not scientists), housecleaners (but not cops), etc. was way too narrow for the range of abilities women have. We were realizing that to compete in business or in the professions or in service jobs, we needed to be treated equally by employers and by banks who gave loans for housing and businesses. Child care was an issue because, although men were expected to get someone else to take care of their children so they could focus on their careers; women were blamed if someone else took care of their kids. These problems are far from solved, but at least now some universities are succeeding in educating women surgeons and engineers and astrophysicists, some men are stepping up to be more involved in raising their daughters and sons, and there are some anti-discrimination laws in place.
P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.
2-minute video chat (Audition for Murder):(Personal comments on the background of Audition for Murder)