Saturday, May 18, 2019

Guest Post: Marni Graff

Aline here.  I'm delighted to be able to introduce you today to Marni Graff.  She's the award-winning author of two series - The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and the Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries - as well as being the managing editor of Bridle Path Press.  She also writes the popular crime review blog,  And we had a much-loved mutual friend, though she knew her better than I did and and I'm very jealous of the coffee and biscuits!


The Genesis of a New Series

When your mentor and eventual friend is the celebrated Queen of Crime, P.D. James, her suggestion that your write a second series is one you don't ignore.

Studying Gothic Literature one summer at Oxford University, I took the train to interview the Baroness for Mystery Review magazine. I was researching Oxford as the setting for the first Nora Tierney English Mystery, The Blue Virgin, mostly written, when the octogenarian opened the door to her Holland Square townhouse. Warm and funny, I was thrilled to even be in the same room with my idol, much less in her home conducting an interview and snapping photos of her signing my copy of her autobiography to accompany the piece.

After an hour of answering my questions, James invited me to have coffee in her downstairs kitchen (Nescafe’ instant accompanied by Walker’s shortbread biscuits). That more casual conversation cemented what would be a fifteen-year friendship until her death in 2014, with letters, emails, cards, and tea time whenever I visited the UK for more setting research after that.

That day, James had me describe my plans for the English mystery series, featuring an American writer who lives in England, while we sat at the scrubbed pine table where I knew she often wrote her outlines and first drafts in longhand. Then she asked about the various nursing positions I’d held before turning to full-time writing. When I mentioned my years working as a medical consultant for a New York television and movie studio, her face lit up and her eyes glowed.

“Promise me one day you’ll write another series, one featuring a nurse who has that job.” James insisted readers would enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at a different world. I made that promise, and once I had The Green Remains and The Scarlet Wench in print in the Noras, turned my hand to fulfilling it. The first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery, Death Unscripted, is dedicated to James, the woman who’d been instrumental in suggesting the series.

Alternating the two now, I’ve just brought out the second Trudy. Death at the Dakota is set in
Manhattan‘s iconic Victorian apartment building. Home to millionaires and celebrities through the decades, famous tenants have included Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Carly Simon, and Rudolf Nureyev. In modern times its most famous resident, John Lennon, was murdered in its elaborate entryway in 1980. The Dakota’s board is notorious for those applicants it’s denied, too, who include Billy Joel, Cher, and Madonna. Yoko Ono still lives there, as does film critic Rex Reed.

When I was given the floor plan of the apartment that had once been home to Leonard Bernstein and his family, I knew Trudy would work on a TV movie filming at the storied building. In reality, the building only allows filming of its exterior —the supposed interiors used in films like Rosemary’s Baby were all soundstage replicas­­­­­­—but in Trudy’s world anything is possible.

Trudy’s assignment is to protect the film’s star, Monica Kiley, in the early stages of a dicey pregnancy. When Monica goes missing and another cast member dies, Trudy’s nose for murder finds her in the thick of things. At the same time, her NYPD detective boyfriend, Ned O’Malley, is involved in a murder investigation where the victim has been burned beyond recognition. Two victims and two killers challenge Trudy and Ned, when their cases cross paths in this mix of amateur sleuth and police procedural one reviewer has called “the new Nick and Nora.”

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