How I Was Persuaded to Become a Mystery Writer

 by Alexia Forman

My husband Henry wrote three murder mysteries but had a problem. He has written hundreds of scientific articles that have been published and cited through a successful career in science. Me, I am a librarian, who has written about a dozen articles on topics in cataloging. What has this to do with the book I cowrote with Henry? It has to do with style. Henry wrote the first draft of our book, and he did it as a scientist. “Just the facts, Mam.” Very much like the television series Dragnet of our childhood. A good program, but not a style popular today. But, then came me.

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For four long, horrible years (1999-2003) we resided in Birmingham, Alabama. Why? They really know how to cater to the male psyche. And my wonderful and usually very smart husband bought into it when they offered him a department chairmanship and an opportunity to build the department as he wanted. So, we moved. I am sure that I have no need to describe my total disgust and hatred for this move. Even before we arrived there, I was hoping to get us out of this terrible situation as soon as possible. To keep in touch with family and friends back home, I started writing a Friday email. The recipients all knew how I felt about this dislocation, and I felt that if I wrote my unvarnished feelings each week, the recipients would soon tire of reading my epistles. So, I turned to humor, not jokes, but just a slightly different view of reality. For example, I might use “a structure that houses transients” instead of the word hotel. They are both the same, but one is not what you would expect to see. My “Jean Kerr” Friday emails became rather popular. Friends shared them and these people newly exposed to them wanted to be added to my list.  

My style of writing is the opposite of Henry’s: folksy and more detail oriented. Henry saw this and asked me to embellish his novel. Lay my style over Henry’s great story but sparse picture and you now had a great story to which anyone can relate. In Toxic Vengeance, scientists are poisoned in different parts of the USA. It takes fiery redhead police detective Cindy Firestone to spot a connection. She brings the case to the FBI where Special Agent Steve Jude recognizes her intelligence and enjoys her packaging. Together, they learn about the world of academic science, which most outsiders assume to be sedate. How wrong is that!

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

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HJ Forman was born and raised in New York City. In the latter part of a long and successful career as an award-winning academic biomedical scientist, he began writing mysteries. He is willing to admit that a small percentage of the inhabitants of academia are unworthy of admiration.
Alexia Forman, a proud Philadelphian, went from painting pictures with oils to painting them with words. In her long history as an academic librarian, she also discovered how academia mirrors the rest of society.
The Formans live in Southern California. They have one daughter of whom they are extremely proud and a tiny Yorkshire Terrier who is delighted to be the only real character in the book.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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