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Sunday, January 11, 2009
Introducing - - Ta DA! Pat Browning
Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and taught high school English before moving to California.
She was a longtime resident of the San Joaquin Valley before returning to her native Oklahoma.
Ms. Browning is a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1980s, her travel articles bore such exotic datelines as Tangier, Bombay, Budapest, Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Shanghai.
In the 1990s, Browning signed on full time as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel. While at the Enterprise, her lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. She was also a finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the
Japanese-American "Yankee Samurais" of WorId War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.
ABSINTHE OF MALICE is a reissue of FULL CIRCLE (published in 2001), and introduces the Penny Mackenzie mystery series. Browning is currently at work on the second book in the series.
LOOKING LIKE AUDREY HEPBURN
By Pat Browning
Agatha Raisin is Miss Marple in a garter belt. She’s feeling arthritic twinges that make her think of a hip replacement, but in LOVE, LIES AND LIQUOR (2006) she’s wearing flimsy knickers “in the hope of a hot date.”
What’s going on here? Forget that nonsense about 70 being the new 50 and 60 being the new 40. Sixty is what it is, and so is 70.
What’s going on is that some of our female amateur sleuths are getting older, if not always slower. M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin hasn’t mellowed a whit. She’s dealing with murder, jewel thievery and romantic entanglements when her hip starts to hurt. For a moment she feels old and sick. But not too old or sick to face someone holding a gun and snarl, “Fry in hell, you bastard.”
Agatha’s polar opposite is the 70-something Charlotte Graham of Stefanie Matteson’s 10-book series. A retired but still glamorous actress, Charlotte is aging gracefully and philosophically. In MURDER UNDER THE PALMS (1997) she’s visiting friends in Palm Beach when fate reunites her with a man she fell in love with more than 50 years earlier.
Their shipboard romance had lasted four days. He went on to become a famous bandleader. They find the old attraction is still there and it’s easy to pick up where they left off.
Quoting: “She had reached the point in life where now was what mattered. Because the next day, the next week, the next year, either or both of them might not be around. Maybe this was what Ponce de Leon had discovered when he’d come to Florida seeking the fountain of youth … (T)hat only by coming to terms with death can you really find life.”
Charlotte and her old flame work together to solve a couple of murders and a mystery dating back to World War II.
In DEAD MAN’S ISLAND (1993) Carolyn Hart introduced her 70-something sleuth, Henrie O, who is more cosmopolitan than Agatha Raisin, more driven than Charlotte Graham. Henrie O has “dark eyes that have seen much and remembered much …” She is, in the best old-fashioned sense of the word, a dame. Think Lauren Bacall.
When the TV movie of DEAD MAN’S ISLAND was cast in 1996, the top roles went to Barbara Eden and William Shatner. Now, Eden is cute and perky; Shatner is a good old boy; but really … Henrie O, a former foreign correspondent, and her first love, publishing tycoon Chase Prescott, are right out of an Agatha Christie novel or a dark 1940s movie.
Henrie O’s description of their meeting 40 years after the end of the affair:
“He still moved with that commanding grace, the easy, confident, predatory swagger of a panther – beautiful, dark, fascinating, and infinitely dangerous …
“I knew what he saw. A slender, intense woman whose fire for life has not been quenched, a woman who still loves to laugh but who knows the world is bathed in tears.”
These two attractive senior citizens are at the heart of a ripping good murder mystery, set on a remote island off the South Carolina coast – with a hurricane on the way. Hart really piles it on, and adds a couple of neat twists at the end.
There are other female sleuths on the shady side of 60, but these are three of my favorites. They seem to age in real time without turning into cartoons. They’re still the women they’ve always been, they’re just getting older, right along with the rest of the population.
In fact, coming on strong are the baby boomers, hovering between middle age and seniority. One example is my own character, Penny Mackenzie, who’s staring down 50. In my work-in-rogress Penny catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and wonders: “When did I stop looking like Audrey Hepburn? What’s next? Hot flashes? Chin whiskers?”
What’s next is a shower and a hot night in the sack, but this is about cozies. We take you only so far, then slam the bedroom door.
Cue Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs … “Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw ...
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw … WOO-LY BUL-LY, WOO-LY BUL-LY …”