Please welcome Marilyn Larew, author of Aftermath.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Being on a long, lonely beach with only seagulls for company, under a high blue sky with a few fluffy clouds, walking through ripples as the tide goes out, and finding some seashells. That would be a very good day
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
I make a pretty good spaghetti sauce with meat and barbecued chicken.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is the book that has influenced me the most in my life. As for the authors who inspired my writing, that varies with what I’m writing and what I’m reading. I’m reading Margaret Fraser’s Dame Frevisse series right now and looking at how she uses conflict. I’ve looked at Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series to stretch my “nice” to a little bit “naughty.” I like Michael Pearce’s Mamur Zapt series for the way he treats westerners in the Muslim world.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I tried to listen to music while I was writing once, but I found that I wasn’t paying any attention to it, or if I paid attention to the music I wasn’t paying attention to my writing, so I stopped.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Aftermath takes place in Baltimore, so the chocolate must be Rheb’s, a Baltimore institution for many years. And it would be chocolate with sea salt, because Anne is a bit salty.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Aftermath is one of my drawer books. A number of years ago I was stung by a yellow jacket and hauled off to the hospital in an ambulance. I found the ambulance experience very interesting, and I decided to write a book featuring an EMT and an ambulance. Then I had to fill out plots and subplots. I had just finished teaching a History of the Vietnamese war course, and I wanted to write something about the results of the war, so I added Glenn Rowlandson, a Special Forces veteran who has gone missing. Because I thought it needed something personal, I included a case about a former client who is trying to kill Annie. About 50% of the way through, I stopped writing and put the manuscript in a drawer. Actually, not really a drawer. I just put the file away. I had a dim vision of where the book had to go, but I couldn’t figure out how to write it. After my latest Lee Carruthers book, I turned back to Aftermath, and, with the help of Lourdes Venard, my fabulous editor, I took some things out and put some things in and finally was able to write the conclusion, which takes place in Laos.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Lee Carruthers has a degree in Islamic studies and is a specialist in criminal money, so the themes I visit with her are money laundering, Islamic society, and terrorists. For Annie, I’m writing in the 1980s, in the wake of the Vietnamese war, and it’s the results of that war in Baltimore that I write about.
Tell us about your main character.
Ann Carter – Annie – is a private investigator working in Baltimore in the 1980s. She’s divorced and has a daughter, Elizabeth, a lawyer with the Federal District Attorney’s office in Baltimore. Her relationship with Elizabeth is always tenuous, because Elizabeth doesn’t like Annie’s job. The job has made Annie a little hard on the outside, because you can’t work as a PI any other way, but it takes its toll on her. She also has a perverse streak in her. In high school she took mechanical drawing instead of home ec, and she passed it, barely, and learned to cook later, but not very well. She has a tendency to do things because people tell her she can’t.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I think Annie regards Sam Spade as a role model. She mentions him several times in the course of the book. She has Mrs. Peel’s aggressiveness, if not her grace. And she has Bess Crawford’s intelligence, skill, and sturdy good sense.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Dashiell Hammett, Margaret Frazer, Ross MacDonald, Dorothy Sayers, Georges Simenon, and Agatha Christie.
What’s next for you?
I’m returning to the third Lee Carruthers story, which takes place in Hong Kong during the democracy demonstrations. It was shoved aside when Aftermath came out of the drawer.
Marilynn Larew is a retired historian who taught for many years in the University System of Maryland. Besides American history, she taught the history of the Vietnamese war and the history of terrorism, topics she uses in her writing. She lives in southern Pennsylvania in a 200-year-old brick farmhouse with her husband Karl, also a historian and author. She has also written The Spider Catchers and Dead in Dubai. She belongs to the Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and the Chinese Military History Society.