Thursday, July 23, 2009

Maile Meloy

Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love, and the novels Liars and Saints, shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize, and A Family Daughter. Meloy’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, she was chosen as one of Granta’s Best American Novelists under 35.

Her new book is the story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman. It’s the fourth and last of the Sally Lockhart mysteries, all set in the 19th century with a plucky heroine who falls into the detective business. They’re as wonderful as Pullman’s His Dark Materials, with history (exciting, fascinating history) in place of magic. When I was a kid, I read all of the Trixie Belden mysteries, to my grandmother’s dismay—she thought I should be reading something more edifying—and I loved them. I hadn’t read many mysteries since, so I think Sally Lockhart has answered a deep, forgotten need.

In the first book, The Ruby in the Smoke, Sally is sixteen, and her father has disappeared under strange circumstances connected to the opium trade. In The Shadow in the North, Sally is twenty-two and a financial advisor (bucking public opinion in 1878) and is fitfully in love when she starts tracking a new mystery and a strange magician. In The Tiger in the Well, she has a small child, Harriett, whom someone is trying to steal from her. By the Tin Princess, Sally is too grown up and married to be the heroine, so there’s a new sixteen-year-old girl, Becky, to take her place. The books are classified as young adult, but they’re suitable for actual adults—and who doesn’t like a sixteen-year-old girl detective?

The books are also for boys, in a way Trixie Belden might not have been. I know one boy (who will remain unnamed here) who doesn’t want anyone to know that he loves the Sally Lockhart books, because they’re about a girl. But there’s no reason for embarrassment. They’re full of knife fights and sharpshooting and disguise, and also love and intrigue. They’re an absolute pleasure.
Visit Maile Meloy's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Family Daughter.

Writers Read: Maile Meloy (March 2008).

--Marshal Zeringue