Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Straight Chatting from the Library: P.M. Carlson

P.M. Carlson has stopped by The Library today as part of her virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. There's a Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post--you might win a $50 Amazon gift card. You can see the other stops on the tour here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2014/03/virtual-book-tour-maggie-ryan-mystery.html.


Do you have any tattoos?

Not yet. If I get one it’ll probably be a Mayan calendar symbol, 8 Junajpu, the day I was born. My US parents were living in Guatemala at the time, and I’ve always felt especially close to that little country. Junajpu is one of the twenty day lords, and in Maya mythology he’s one of the hero twin gods who defeat the Lords of Death after many adventures. For a tattoo I’d look at the carved stone stelae of the classical Maya to find a good Junajpu glyph to copy. The Maya religion teaches that we are all part male and part female (their priests are known as “motherfathers”) and that’s a comforting idea for a writer who has to write from the point of view of both genders. In divination they use the midline of the body in divination to distinguish male (right) from female (left) messages, so I’d get my Junajpu tattoo somewhere on the midline, probably forehead or belly.

What are you working on right now?

The Mystery Company/Crum Creek Press is bringing out all eight Maggie Ryan mysteries, which were written back in the 1980’s and set in the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I’m proofreading and double-checking a few facts, but mostly I’m having a great time rereading books that were based loosely on a lot of my real-life memories. It’s “Oh, I remember when I wore dresses instead of jeans to the theatre,” or “Right, no cell phones back then, so we had to go find a phone booth to call the cops.”

What do you think you’re really bad at?

I’m really bad at dancing. I flunked out of ballet at age three and went downhill from there. But I love watching good dancers, Mark Morris and Matthew Bourne and Broadway musicals and the amateur square dancers at our small town’s pavilion in the summer.

Any weird things you do when you’re alone?

I secretly dance with my dog. He’s better coordinated but I have a better sense of rhythm.

Tell us something about MURDER UNRENOVATED that isn’t in most of the summaries.

One of my favorite characters in MURDER UNRENOVATED is Julia, who is a Dorothy Parker fan (as I am). In Julia’s head, Parker comments on the problems she encounters. Julia is the kind of smart, tough older woman I admire, even though in the book she locks horns with Nick and Maggie almost immediately.


An Anthony Award nominee. A Macavity Award nominee.

Maggie and Nick hope to buy a lovely old brownstone. It looks like a dream house for a young couple expecting their first child, but problems show up. It needs renovation. There's a stubborn tenant who refuses to move out.

And then there's the corpse on the top floor. . . .


“Terrific characters, funny incidents, genuine suspense, and an absolutely right sense of period and place." -- Tom and Enid Schantz, THE PURLOINED LETTER


Nick and Maggie stood on the sidewalk looking up at Lund’s building. It was narrow, chocolate-colored, three tall stories above a raised basement. A third-story oriel window and a band of vestigial crenellation completed the rugged trim. Nick said, “A forted residence ‘gainst the tooth of time.”

An actor, Len remembered.

He said, “Well, shall we go in? Start at the bottom.” If he hit them with Mrs. Northrup first, they’d have time to see another place. He led the way through the iron gate under the tall front stoop and down a hall ringing with a radio preacher’s voice.

A sharp voice answered Len’s knock. “Who’s that?”

“Len Trager, ma’am. From Banks Realty.”

“Blast.” The door opened a few inches and a pair of shrewd eyes glittered at them. Len wished that she would simply refuse to let them in. That might give Lund grounds for eviction. But she snapped, “Well, come in!”

Unkempt gray hair, wrinkled face, alcohol smell. Her long cardigan was unraveling at the sleeves and her pink terry-cloth slippers were stained and burst at the seams.

Len led the way into the dark and smelly apartment. The radio preacher was requesting money now. “Thanks! Mrs. Northrup, meet Nick O’Connor and Maggie Ryan.”

Nick said, “Glad to meet you.”

Mrs. Northrup gave Nick a sharp unfriendly look, icily inspected Maggie, and asked, “You together?”


“Living in sin, eh? One of those libbers. No bra, I bet. Well, it’s your souls.”

Len said hastily, “They’re married. We’ll just take a quick look, okay?” The smell wasn’t just alcohol today, he decided. There was something rotting too.



P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

Author Website ~ Publisher Website ~ Buy the book in all formats


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great to see the Maggie Ryan mysteries featured on Straight from the Library today! Thanks for hosting.

  2. Replies
    1. So do I! My favorite mysteries to read have interesting characters with strong motives, so that at the end you may be following one possible murderer-- but there are others, and at the end suddenly the balance tips and one you'd discarded suddenly becomes the murderer. I try to do this as a writer too, but because I studied psychology, for me the joy of writing the story is learning about the people in it and the problems they face.

  3. Fun interview!


    1. Thanks! It was fun. Some of those questions I did NOT expect!

  4. Great interview, thank you.


  5. I love to see if I can figure out the ending. If I can't, I love the story.

    1. Yes, it's best when there's a surprise at the end. But it has to have good preparation, with enough clues that a reader CAN figure out the right answer, but with enough misdirection that something else looks like the answer up till the end. And I like to have characters that are full of surprises too.

  6. I enjoy trying to figure out what going to happen and the surprise in the end. Also this is a great excerpt and I would love to read your book. Entering under the name of Virginia

    1. Thanks, Virginia! Finding a place to live in New York City has never been easy-- getting a loan, fixing it up, getting along with the neighbors. And sometimes there's a lot more to a smelly old lady than you think...

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  8. It was fun to stop at Straight from the Library. Thanks for hosting!