Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Secret Identities

Months ago I posted about having a new identity as "Herbie's Mom." At the time, I said it would be cool to have a secret identity, and I still believe that.

Well, this month I got a temporary secret identity. It was fun to be undercover, but it's time to make it not-so-secret and to announce some cool news.

My cool new un-secret identity? Christy Evans, Mystery Writer.

And the news? I am currently writing the third book in Christy Evans's new series for Berkley Prime Crime. The first book of the Lady Plumber Mysteries, SINK TRAP, is already in production and will be released in October. Book two, LEAD PIPE CINCH is turned in, with a tentative release of February 2011, and CRAWL SPACE is due next month for release in June 2012.

This is a new genre for me to write, but it's actually taking me back to a genre I have loved all my life. SINK TRAP is dedicated to my Uncle Darrell, and his enabling my mystery addiction.

I can't remember a time when I couldn't read and always assumed my mother taught me in self defense. After all, you can only read The Little Engine That Could, or the latest Humpty Dumpty Magazine so many times before you run screaming. Teach your kid to read, you're spared many hours of the same story over and over.

Mom, however, refuses to take any responsibility. She says I taught myself when I was about three - not that she wasn't relieved, but she still blames me.

Anyway, there I was at three, four and five, devouring anything I could get my hands on. I quickly went through all the beginner books and started in on bigger and better things. In the process I discovered Nancy Drew and read every one of them in the course of a few months. (It was a long time ago, there weren't as many titles as there are now, okay?)

From Nancy Drew I moved on. I read the Walter Farley Black Stallion series before I knew what a series was, and sampled many others. We didn't have a school library, but the public library - a branch of the L.A. County system - was only a few blocks away and the teacher walked the entire class to the library every couple weeks. I of course went back several times in between.

By the age of ten I had finished with the children's section and was beginning to explore the adult section in an effort to feed my growing addiction for words, sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters.

Uncle Darrell wasn't really my uncle - he was my mother's uncle. He was nearly fifty when I was born, a life-long bachelor who lived with his widowed father, my great-grandfather. We always visited Grandpa and Darrell after church on Sunday afternoon, and those are some of my favorite memories.

Darrell never treated me like a child. When he and his two sisters did the vocabulary quiz in the Reader's Digest I was allowed to join in. He encouraged me to play chess tournaments at his local club, and I don't think he ever said I couldn't do something because I was too young. Or because I was a girl. For obvious reasons, I adored Uncle Darrell.

I don't know if Perry Mason was an appropriate read for a ten-year-old girl, but Uncle Darrell thought it was. When I picked up a Perry Mason mystery one Sunday afternoon and started reading he offered to lend it to me since he was finished reading. He told me I could bring it back the next week.

From that moment on I was hooked on mysteries. Where I had liked Nancy Drew, I loved Perry Mason. I didn't want to be Della Street when I grew up, I wanted to be Perry Mason. Every week I would trade Uncle Darrell the book I had finished for a new one, which I would eagerly dive into the minute I got my mitts on it and not come up for air until I reached the thrilling courtroom conclusion where the bad guys were trapped and Perry emerged victorious once again.

Nothing lasts forever, and eventually I ran out of Perry Mason. But by then I knew where the mystery section of the library was and I could find other writers. Earl Stanley Gardner is gone, and so is Uncle Darrell. But the love of mystery they instilled in that ten-year-old girl lives on.

And now, much to my delight, I get to write a mystery novel - actually three mystery novels! - and send them out into the world for other readers to share. I can only hope that someone, somewhere, will fall in love with my heroine, the way I did with Perry Mason.