Last week I mentioned the Mystery/Suspense novels I wrote while living in Venice, Florida. This week Mosaic Moments is featuring those five books, plus one set in neighboring Sarasota. As much as I appreciate my devoted Regency readers, I do wish a few more would be adventurous enough to try my contemporary stories and my futuristic series, Blue Moon Rising. For today, let's look at the stories set in the places you caught a glimpse of in last week's photos.
Venice, Florida, is a very special place. It has the only direct waterfront - no barrier island - for a hundred miles in either direction. For the purpose of my books, I called it "Golden Beach." The Myakka River became the Calusa (named after the Native American tribe that used to live in that area). Snook Haven became Bud's Fish Shack. And, as I recall, Casey Key (where we stayed last week) became Needle Key. But the descriptions of the area are all true. Even that ominous 12' chain link fence topped with barbed wire that has now been modified to something less threatening.
Basically, I put a lot of myself into these books, and I'd really like to see them have a greater circulation.
A killer gloats as he stalks Realtors in the Gulf Coast resort community of Golden Beach, Florida, where Claire Langdon, a sophisticated but vulnerable New England widow with a young son, now works in real estate. When she acquires a self-proclaimed protector, a half-Russian, half-Florida cracker/ex-fed, overcoming the cultural shock is almost as difficult as catching the killer.
Grace note: A remarkable number of incidents in Shadowed Paradise are true, or based on a true incident, including a serial killer on the loose. As for the cultural shock, I lived it when I moved from Connecticut to Florida's Gulf Coast.
Amanda Armitage has a problem. A highly skilled researcher, she has been assigned the job of assisting Peter Pennington, world famous newsman turned author, with his latest book. (A glorious vacation, she is assured. A whole winter Season in Florida.) Peter's project: international sexual slavery. Mandy's problem: Peter is the husband she hasn't seen in years. And guess what's going on just across the river? (Behind that ominous chain link fence.)
Grace note: Human trafficking is rife in Florida, as well as on a global scale. The towering chain link fence on the far side of the river was very real, though it has since been modified. The fire, however, did not happen until about two years after the book was written.
Want to get married in a hot air balloon? Have the bride step out of a Fabergé egg? Just call Fantascapes, the Halliday family business. Trouble in paradise? Call Laine Halliday, who travels the world smoothing out bumps encountered by high-end clients. But when Fantascapes is used as a front by the Russian mob, in action ranging from Florida to Peru to France, Laine steps into a whole new world of Protect and Serve.
Grace note: The building housing Fantascapes is exactly as described and still fronts the central parking area on Venice Boulevard (Main Street.) Many of the other places are exactly as described, including the fishing pier at Sharky's (which has now expanded upstairs to a high-end restaurant called Fins. (And the story of my part (inadvertent) in initiating the rush to hike the Inca Trail is a blog all by itself.)
Death by accident, old age, and strangulation. An elderly senior about to marry a con artist. A rash of burglaries. Only an artistic imagination could conjure these disasters into connected events. But costume designer Gwyn Halliday manages it, as she flees trauma in the big city only to discover that bad things can also happen in a sleepy Florida retirement community.
Grace note: While in Venice, I spent several years running a costume shop, for which I made c. 80-85% of the costumes. The two houseboats moored on the Intracoastal Waterway in Nokomis (just north of Venice) have long since been chased away, but I am grateful for their providing a portion of the setting for this book.
A Florida Highway Patrol officer investigates his brother's injury in a Medieval Fair tournament and discovers an astounding sub-culture in today's Florida - the Medieval re-enactment group, the Lords & Ladies of Chivalry. He also finds a Lady Knight, fighting her way out of years of abuse. Michael Turco and Kate Knight both have a great deal to learn before they can sole a crime and lay each other's ghosts and preconceptions.
Grace note: I was a member of the Florida branch of the Society for the Creative Anachronism for three years before writing this book. I was also "Roving Information" at the last few Medieval Fairs at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Believe me, the background of this book is authentic.
And twenty miles north of Venice in Sarasota, Florida . . .
Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art scattered over the museum's sixty-six acres, the creation of famed circus entrepreneur and art connoisseur, Richard Bellman. Although FBI Special Agent Rory Travis is struggling to recover from a severe injury and death of her lover, she can't resist the challenge of tackling this mystery. Her investigation brings two new men into her life and takes her into the close-knit circus community in Sarasota, Florida. Add an eccentric great-aunt and a friend who dives alligator-infested waters for lost golf balls, and you add whimsey to murder and intrigue in a deceptively beautiful setting on the shores of Sarasota Bay.
Grace note: I was a volunteer tram driver at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota at least once a week for three years, a job I truly loved. I hope some of that came through in the book, even with people being killed right and left.