Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mary Miley

Mary Miley is the winner of the 2012 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Novel Competition. She grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and France, and worked her way through the College of William and Mary in Virginia as a costumed tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. After completing her masters in history, she worked at the museum and taught American history at Virginia Commonwealth University. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel, and business topics.

In 2013 Miley introduced her Roaring Twenties series with The Impersonator. Her latest novel, Silent Murders, is the second book in the series.

Not so long ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Miley's reply:
The books I read for fun are quite different from the ones I read for work-related research. During the day, I’m generally reading for work—not that that’s torture, mind you; I usually enjoy those books very much. But I’m also usually taking notes, so it feels like homework. After dinner, I like to go early to bed and read for pleasure, mostly historical novels. I probably average two books a week.

So, in the past month, my bedtime reading has included Endless Night, a book that a friend told me was her favorite Agatha Christie. I enjoy Christie’s books and found this one quite different from her usual Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot fare. Any comment I make will spoil the ending, so I won’t. After that, I read The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard, a gripping historical mystery set at the military academy at West Point, where I was born—although it was set in 1830, a few years before I made my appearance. Coincidentally, that had a shocker of an ending not unlike the Christie book I’d just finished. I belong to two book clubs, largely to push myself to read outside my preferred parameters. I’ve just finished Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for one of those clubs and found it more compelling than I expected ... as usual!

For work, I often read biographies of people who lived in the 1920s. I’ve just finished The Astaires by Kathleen Riley, a new book about Fred and Adele, the toast of Broadway and London in the 1920s. Adele plays a cameo role as one of Jessie’s friends from vaudeville days in an upcoming Roaring Twenties mystery, so I need to bone up as much as possible on this lesser-known Astaire. I particularly enjoyed the photos of young Freddie and his big sister Adele. Probably the most helpful book I’ve read this month—this year, for that matter—is Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, which tells about murder and the birth of forensic medicine in 1920s New York. I soaked up gallons of information about poisons and how they were (or weren’t) detected in those years. Readers can expect to read more along those lines in my upcoming Roaring Twenties mysteries!
Visit Mary Miley's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Mary Miley (September 2013).

The Page 69 Test: The Impersonator.

--Marshal Zeringue