Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Diane A.S. Stuckart

Diane A.S. Stuckart is the author of various romances, short fiction, and mysteries, including her current Leonardo da Vinci mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
The one unfortunate part of becoming a published author is discovering that reading is no longer the beloved pastime it once was. Especially when you're reading in your own genre, you can't help but analyze technique, critique plot, poke at characterization...all the while trying to enjoy the actual story. That means that, whenever you find a novel that you don't deconstruct--at least, not until afterward--the book must be pretty darned good.

I've recently read a couple of books that fall into this category. The first is Papa's Problem by Patrick Kendrick. A period piece mystery set in Key West, it features a loud, bullying, obnoxious Ernest Hemingway who finds himself suspected of a prostitute's murder. I've never been much of a Hemingway fan, but that didn't matter since the book's main protagonist is an upstanding retired Scotland Yard inspector named Emmet MacWain. MacWain is a different sort of sleuth...old school in values, yet determined to use the latest investigatory techniques to get the job done. Kendrick gives us a fast-moving plot, intriguing characters, and well-researched look at Depression-era Key West, adding up to a novel that held me to the very end.

Another period piece mystery I read recently and thoroughly enjoyed was Robert Fate's Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues, his follow-up to Baby Shark. Being from Dallas, I immediately felt at home in the world of Kristin Van Dijk--a.k.a. Baby Shark--and her various colorful colleagues and adversaries who've staked out the plains of North Texas as their stomping grounds. This time around, Kristin (who is now officially a private investigator) and her mentor/colleague Otis are trying to track down a missing oil heiress. Just as there's nothing subtle about their methods--bullets fly, knives slash, bodies fall--Fate's story-telling is equally no holds barred. It's nice to see a butt-kicking female protagonist who can always get the job done, but who realistically collects her share of physical and psychological scars each time out.

Of course, I don't limit myself to fiction. And, like everyone else, I like to pull an old favorite off the shelf every so often. Recently, I reread Jess Stearn's 1960s classic, Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation. Published back when yoga was still considered an esoteric practice, instead of being offered in every YMCA and fitness center, this book is part memoir and part how-to. I first read it when I was a kid, borrowing my mom's copy (which I suspect she bought only because one of my aunts went through a yoga phase about that same time). The book sparked a lifelong interest in yoga for me, to the point that a few years ago I finally took yoga teacher training to earn a 200 hour certification. Reading it now, what strikes me most is its emphasis on age. A forty-year-old person was termed middle-aged, while someone over fifty was considered darn near decrepit. In addition, there's a certain poignancy to Stearn's account, knowing now as we do the dismal fate that would eventually befall his lovely guru, Marcia Moore (her death detailed in one of Edna Buchanan's true crime anthologies).

Finally, I'm almost finished reading The Turin Shroud by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. Originally published in 1994, this copy is an updated revision taking full advantage of the Da Vinci code hype, since the authors' contention is that Leonardo da Vinci himself faked the sacred relic that is the Shroud of Turin. I picked up this book because I saw the situation as a possible jumping off point for a future installment of my Leonardo da Vinci mystery series. The authors have put together some interesting evidence and compelling timelines, but to my mind the conspiracy theory thread which underlies much of their narrative seems to weaken their case. And based on my own research into Leonardo's life, I can't buy their contention that he was part of a secret heretical society, or that much of the symbolism in his paintings was nothing more than juvenile puns and nose-thumbing. Still, I enjoy the way they put together their case, and based on some of the evidence presented I am reconsidering my opinion regarding the Shroud's authenticity.
Visit Diane A.S. Stuckart's website, and learn more about her latest novel, A Bolt from the Blue, the 3rd Leonardo da Vinci mystery.

View the video trailers for A Bolt from the Blue and Portrait of a Lady.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Diane Stuckart & Ranger, Delta, Oliver and Paprika.

--Marshal Zeringue