WHY IS THIS WOMAN HERE?
My character Rebecca Schwartz, I mean. I do know she’s not a real woman, but she’s incredibly vivid to me. Over the years (I’m almost 300 years old), I’ve written four detective series and countless short stories—so I’ve invented pretty many protagonists. Rebecca was my first and they should all arrive like this one. It was like one of those first pregnancies that works out so well you actually think the next time will be easy.
Here’s the story: I was a reporter at the time, general assignment at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I desperately wanted to be a mystery writer. I was working on a mystery with a friend, but it just didn’t seem like I had enough time to write. So I took a leave of absence and went to Key West, where I knew no one. Wow, what a luxury! Who has all day and all night to write? (Who with a job, that is?) I quickly finished my part of the collaborative novel, and that left me alone with a runaway imagination and no one to talk to.
So what did I do? I went to the beach. And while lying there, something like the Big Bang occurred in my head. Well, not exactly—I didn’t dream up a whole novel in a nanosecond, but when I got up from my nap, I knew more about Rebecca than I’ve ever known about any of my characters, no matter how hard or long I worked on them.
Here was the first part of the process: I thought about what I’d like to write a mystery about. I already had some notes involving a woman who comes home to find a body on her living room floor. Why that grisly scenario? Because of the runaway imagination I mentioned. I imagined such a thing almost every time I unlocked my door. (Okay, writers aren’t average everyday people.)
So next two questions: who’s the woman and who’s dead?
The woman, I knew, had to be the sleuth. I didn’t want to write about an amateur detective (too cozy), a PI (too hard-boiled), or a cop (too hard). So what, then? A professional woman with a need to investigate. Of course, you’re thinking—a reporter. What else? Certainly should have been! But I discarded that idea (too personal.) A lawyer, maybe. Sure, a lawyer—and the dead person could be a criminal of some sort. How about a hooker? That would be a nice irony—how does a hooker get dead on a woman’s floor? Great idea, I thought, because I happened to know a number of hookers—members of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), a hookers’ union. She could be their lawyer. How about if a feminist lawyer found herself in the awkward position of defending a hookers’ union? Lots of laughs there, I thought.
Done! Occupation and political stance established. Now for a name—I gave her my favorite female name—Rebecca—but to me that’s so pretty it needed something sort of blunt to go with it. A name like Rebecca Brandywine or Rebecca Chastaine would be fine for a Regency heroine, but I needed something like Schultz to even things out. Only I didn’t think of Schultz—I thought of Schwartz. Even better. And because all the Schwartzes I knew were Jews, and so were most of the lawyers I knew, she became Jewish. Okay then! I knew her whole family.
And the rest just poured out—in an hour I knew every garment in her closet, every stick of furniture in her apartment, every single member of her family and who their friends were. That was the Big Bang part. No doubt it was caused partly by familiarity with a particular kind of blog tour urban female that I happened to hang with. But even more, I think, it came of taking that leave of absence and emptying my mind. In, other words, it came of boredom! The mind will fill a vacuum, bless its heart.
BLURB: Rebecca Schwartz, nice Jewish lawyer with a few too many fantasies, is happily playing the piano in a whorehouse when she suddenly finds herself assigned to make sure a near-naked state senator escapes a police raid. That dirty job done, a lovely evening turns even more delightful when she’s picked up by the cops and spends the next two hours at the Hall of Justice. Could this day get any worse? Of Course! Guess who arrives home to find a dead hooker on her living room floor?
Handsome Parker Phillips, Rebecca’s new beau and the most attractive man she’s met in ages, is arrested for the murder. (Worse, she suspects he might actually have done it.)
On the plus side, another very attractive man is following the case--reporter Rob Burns of the San Francisco Chronicle, a possible ally. And there are other possibilities.
Fans of Janet Evanovich, Joan Hess, and Elizabeth Peters will get a kick out of this one.
REVIEW RATING: 4 LIGHTNING BOLTS
Review: I'm going to go a little corny, and make a bit of a parody of a Taylor Swift song. No, don't groan, come on! I knew you were trouble when I started reading... Okay, fine. I won't sing, or make a parody.
What I will do is tell you that Death Turns a Trick, featuring Rebecca Schwartz, is a mystery, adventure, comical, and so much fun! I'm one for cozy mysteries with plenty of things to guess about- that's what I got. Rebecca always lands in trouble, from what it seems. But she's got a good head on her shoulders, and add in her stubbornness and unwillingness to let go until she's figured out what she wants, and you've got a great mystery heroine.
I enjoyed the book, and will most definitely be looking for more from Ms. Smith, especially if Rebecca is front and center.
New Orleans author Julie smith is a former journalist and the author of some 20 mysteries, including two series set in San Francisco and two in New Orleans. Her 1990 mystery, NEW ORLEANS MOURNING, won the Edgar Awaed for Best Novel. DEATH TURN A TRICK is the first book in the Rebecca Schwartz series.
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