August 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Bibliomysteries: An Interview with Carolyn Hart

Today, we begin an occasional series at Fine Books where we conduct brief interviews with bibliomystery authors.  Lovers of antiquarian books and lovers of mystery novels find few reading pleasures greater than the bibliomystery.  A bibliomystery, for the uninitiated, is a mystery centered around books.  (More info here). 

I recently spoke with Carolyn Hart, author of the "Death on Demand" series, which just reached its 22nd entry this summer with the publication of "Death Comes Silently."  Hart has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.  Her series features a bookshop owner, Annie Laurance, who operates a mystery bookshop called "Death on Demand" on a South Carolina island. Laurance also, of course, moonlights as an amateur detective.

cgh2011.jpgNP: Could you tell us a bit about the Death on Demand series?

CH: In 1985, I had written seven books in seven years and at that point not sold any of them.  I decided I would try one more time. I set out to write the kind of book I love to read, a traditional mystery with appealing characters and (I hoped) a good puzzle.

I had written a few pages when I attended a meeting of the Houston chapter of MWA. Bill Crider, whose first book was coming out, asked if I'd ever been to Murder by the Book. I said no and asked what it was. His reply excited me: a mystery bookstore. I'd never heard of a mystery bookstore.
I took a cab to MBTB. From the moment I walked in, I was enchanted, mysteries, mysteries everywhere. When I came home, I decided to set my new book in a mystery bookstore. That gave me the chance through my protagonist to talk about wonderful mysteries of the present and the past. That book was Death on Demand, the first in the series. The 22nd in the series - DEATH COMES SILENTLY - was published this week by Berkley Prime Crime.
NP: What sort of research do you do for the Death on Demand series?

CH: I have a bookshelf filled with books about South Carolina, but the flavor and background are drawn from Hilton Head island as it was in the 1970s when my family first began visiting there. Of course, each book will require other reseaech. For SOUTHERN GHOST, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about South Carolina's famous ghosts. THE CHRISTIE CAPER was an exercise in pleasure as I revisted Agatha Christie's life and work.

147800197.JPGNP: What do you think makes bibliomysteries so appealing to readers?

CH: Readers love books so mysteries about books are an extra pleasure for them.

NP: What do you enjoy about writing them?

CH: Mysteries are socially important, intellectually challenging, and a bulwark of morality. I agree with Christie that mysteries are parables and thus they serve to reinforce moral teachings. Every time a reader chooses to read a mystery, they are reaffirming a commitment to goodness.

12515148.jpgNP: Are you personally a book collector? (And if so, what do you collect?)

CH: Not in the sense of first editions. I collect reading copies of mysteries of the past, including titles by Constance and Gwyneth Little, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Mary Collins, and Juanita Sheridan.

You can find out more about Carolyn on her website.  Her latest entry in the "Death on Demand" series, entitled "Death Comes Silently," is available now