Saturday, November 26, 2016

Guest Post: Author Ali Brandon :It's No Mystery Why I Write Mysteries

 Diane A.S. Stuckart/Ali Brandon
 Author of TWICE TOLD TAIL: Black Cat Bookshop Mystery #6
You can find Her and Hamlet at:


 By the time one has lived a decent number of years on this earth, one’s brain tends to experience the occasional bout of data overload. It’s at that point that—to continue the computer analogy—a person has to de-frag and re-sort her memories, deleting the superfluous in the process.

 But, while that delete function is happening, that’s also when odd memories tend to pop up from the mental ether. We’ve all experienced this. Snippets of random conversations, flashbacks of forgotten vacation spots, recollections of childhood adventures…experiences, good and bad, that we’ve long since consigned to our brain’s recycle bin and haven’t thought of in decades.

 But we all know that in computer terms, recycled doesn’t mean permanently gone. Sometimes while doing a mental search for a pertinent memory, you run across one of these cast-off memories, instead. That’s how I recently came to recall the YA book that I realized helped cement my interest in the mystery genre.
 I’ll digress for a minute to explain that I didn’t begin my career as a mystery writer. Rather, I got my start in the publishing business in the 1980s writing historical romances, penning five books with settings ranging from the Regency era to the Old West. I’d followed the adage of writing what I knew, with what I knew being the historical romantic sagas that I’d spent my high school and college years reading.

 But I always claimed that the reason I transitioned to the mystery genre was because my romances were filled with action/adventure.
 Moreover, they featured dead bodies, hidden treasure, and secret identities all mixed in with the requisite sex scenes. But that’s not the only reason I leaned toward mystery writing.

 As I dig back through the mental archives, I see that many of the books I read during grade school and junior high were mystery novels of some sort. (Though, full confession here, I’m probably the only mystery writer you know who has never read Nancy Drew.)

 I cut my teeth on Encyclopedia Brown’s practically unsolvable puzzles, along with the Bobbsey Twins books, the modern editions of which usually featured a mystery of sorts along with the adventure. Once I hit sixth grade or so, I graduated to the Trixie Belden stories, followed by Phyllis A. Whitney’s young adult mysteries. Most avid readers from my era will recall all these series. But, going back to where we started in this blog post, I bet I can stump you with the vintage title that’s been floating about in my recycles.

 Show of hands -- how many of you remember The Timber Trail Riders series…and, specifically, the book entitled, The Mystery of the Hollywood Horse? Not too many of you, I see. I’m not surprised, since I can’t even recall how I came to own that book. But I remember it as a great pre-teen mystery read. There were no dead bodies, of course, but the storyline included the puzzling disappearance of a valuable equine along with a fun look at the movie-making biz.

 Here’s the plot rundown: Our teenaged protagonist, Peggy—a proficient young horsewoman who belongs to the Timber Trail Riders Club—is staying for the summer in California with her aunt and uncle. She helps coach a teenaged actress who is playing a young Alexander the Great in a film about that famous conqueror, and who needs help with the dangerous riding sequences.

 Not only does Peggy end up riding stunt double (guess back in the 60s, they didn’t worry much about child labor laws and insurance risk), she finds the missing horse, Cinder, who is one of the movie’s major stars. On top of that, she even manages a summertime romance. 

Sound like any cozy mysteries you’ve recently picked up? I don’t recall if I ever read a second book in the Timber Trail Riders series, but I do know that The Mystery of the Hollywood Horse stayed on my personal library shelf until I went off to college. And it still remains in my memory banks as a fun read that crystalized my interest in the mystery genre. The children’s classics are all well and good, but sometimes it’s the off-the-beaten-path books that have the greatest influence on we readers and writers.

 Now, excuse me while I go online to find myself another copy of that book! 

 BIO: ALI BRANDON is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. This popular cozy series features Hamlet the cat and his transplanted-Texan caretaker, Darla Pettistone. Together, the pair work and sleuth out of Darla’s Brooklyn-based independent bookstore.

 Whenever a murderer is on the prowl, Hamlet and Darla are ready to pounce—and they always manage to collar the killer!

 The sixth book in the series, TWICE TOLD TAIL, hits the shelves on November 

A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Ali now lives in South Florida with her hubby, four dogs, and four very spoiled cats. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, a former board member of the MWA Florida Chapter, and a member of the Cat Writers’ Association.

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