Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2 Paper Phoenix Feature and Excerpt



Author Bio:
I grew up on the Gulf Coast, in the Panhandle area of Northwest Florida. A land of salt marshes, pine forests, barrier islands, and moss-hung oaks, the Panhandle is nothing like the tropical image most people have of Florida. I used this backdrop, and the era of the 1950's, as the setting for Hurricane Season.
In time I moved on to other locales, and used them as settings for other mysteries: The San Francisco Bay Area (Paper Phoenix), France (Magic Mirror, A Temporary Ghost), Venice (Venetian Mask), and India (The Fault Tree). I have written seven mysteries, all of them originally published under the name Mickey Friedman. (I've now switched to Michaela Thompson, my original name, because many people seem to think Mickey Friedman is a man.)
Besides writing mysteries I have worked as a college editor, a reporter and columnist for a San Francisco daily newspaper, and a freelance writer and journalist.
The Florida Panhandle is still a big part of my life. My husband and I have a place on the beach near my home town, and we go there to vegetate every chance we get.

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First comes divorce, then comes murder… 

…or at least sweet thoughts of murder. Maggie Longstreet has plenty of them after slimy, ambitious Richard trades her in for a more recent model. She’s so depressed she can barely get out of bed when Larry Hawkins, a seemingly not-at-all depressed acquaintance, commits suicide out of the blue. Suddenly Maggie goes on high alert, remembering something her evil ex said about Larry—something highly suspicious. 
And from there, it's just a short segué to a bracing new development: 
“When some women get divorced they go back to school, I thought. Some do volunteer work at the hospital, or join communes and learn to birth calves. Some have affairs with inappropriate men. My new interest is burglary. Maggie Longstreet, former wife and mother, past president of the Museum Guild, now starting a career as a second-story woman.” 
Fortunately, Maggie isn’t alone in her adventure—a very attractive, much younger man proves a lot more fun than Richard ever was. In fact, the real delight of this witty, sly mystery is seeing Maggie come alive again after a suffocating marriage. Set in the’70s, it has a bit of that Mad Men feel of women on the brink of something big. And completely unexpected. 
You know Maggie’s going to be okay when she says: “I’d rather have had one of those cute little guns with a mother-of-pearl handle, but this (diamond pin) would have to do. I concealed it in my hand. At least now I was armed—or pinned.”

Excerpt:
Larry Hawkins, 35, editor-publisher of the People’s Times, a weekly newspaper devoted to local politics, was found dead this morning in an alley outside the Times offices at 1140 Cleveland Street, a police spokesman said. Hawkins, an apparent suicide, had fallen from his office window on the building’s seventh floor. A note was found, the spokesman said.
Hawkins, self-styled “gadfly” of the City’s political establishment, was a well-known local figure. The People’s Times began publication three years ago. Hawkins is survived by his wife, Susanna, and two sons.
I put the paper down. So Larry Hawkins had committed suicide. I must have seen him a hundred times, maybe more— a slender man about five feet four, with a Byronic profile and a tumbling, unkempt headful of black curls, a rather attractive air of grubbiness about him. Although he was known to feel that anyone connected with City Hall was a natural adversary, there were people who considered it chic to flaunt their liberal tendencies and hound’s-tooth cleanliness by inviting him to their parties. Perhaps they wanted to show they weren’t afraid to let a righteous radical journalist loose in their china closets, no matter how out of place he might look and be.
Why he attended these gatherings I don’t know, unless he was in search of stories. I doubt that was the only reason. I think he got some sort of thrill from swaggering into an impeccably dressed group wearing his dirty beige corduroy jacket, his patched jeans, and his cracked boots. His moral superiority was evident always. He showed it: in his contempt for all of us, the establishment he despised and excoriated week after week in the Times. After a perfunctory handshake for his hostess, he would usually station himself as close to the food and drink as possible, watching everyone with quick, dark eyes. And the next week, likely as not, one of his fellow guests would turn up in the pages of the Times as having given the City rest room contract to a toilet paper firm owned by his brother-in-law.
I wasn’t thinking about Larry now, but Richard. When I closed my eyes, I could see his long fingers curving around the telephone receiver, see his straight, navy blue, impeccably tailored back. I could hear his voice saying, impatiently, “Sure, I agree Larry Hawkins is a pain in the ass. . . .” I had stood in the doorway of the study, wearing the same salmon-colored peignoir I was wearing now. It was the end of October, and Richard was going to leave me.
Richard was nothing if not civilized, so he had waited until after I had my first cup of coffee, and told me over the raisin toast as we sat at the kitchen table having breakfast. Picking up crumbs and rolling them between his fingers, he broke out phrases like “better for both of us,” and well taken care of,” and “haven’t really communicated in years.” There wasn’t a word about his law student lady friend. I truly don’t remember the occasion very well, even now.
Once he said, “Can’t you understand, Maggie?” and reached out to touch my arm. I pulled back as if he had scalded me and knocked a jar of quince preserves off the table. Typical of Richard, to let other people make his messes for him while he watched, bemused at their clumsiness. As well as I remember, I hadn’t said a word up until then, except a polite “You are?” when he said he was going. After the preserves jar broke, it seemed extremely important that it be cleaned up thoroughly and immediately. While I got up for paper towels, the phone rang.
There’s an extension in the kitchen, but Richard said, vehemently, “God damn it to hell!” and went to answer it in the study— glad, no doubt, to escape the sight of me bending pathetically over the preserves. When the floor was clean, I looked around for him. I must have been in shock, because I had forgotten about the phone call, and when I didn’t see him it occurred to me that perhaps, having informed me of his intentions, he had simply left, not feeling the need for further elucidation. Dazed, I wandered into the living room and heard his voice coming from the study. I stood in the study door and saw Richard standing next to the desk, his back to me. His voice was irritated, emphatic. He said, “Sure, I agree Larry Hawkins is a pain in the ass. But you can absolutely take my word for it, we won’t have to worry about him much longer.” I turned around and walked back to the kitchen.
Now, I picked up the paper and read Larry’s obituary one more time. We won’t have to worry about him much longer. No. We certainly won’t.

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