Mary Daheim's newest novel in her delightfully charming Bed-and-Breakfast mystery series, Clam Wake, follows innkeeper and irrepressible sleuth Judith McMonigle Flynn and cousin Renie as they face off against a cold-blooded killer in a beach community. Mary stopped by to share her own love of libraries and the effect they've had on her and her writing.
I was an early reader. At ten, I'd started reading adult fiction—mysteries, historical novels, and just about any book set in England. A couple of years after Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber debuted in1946, I told my mother—who made weekly trips to our library branch—that I wanted to read the book. Mom, as a Catholic, knew it had been condemned by the Church as well as banned in several states. She hedged, but being broad-minded, asked her best friend (a staunch Episcopalian) if she'd read the novel. She had, and said she couldn't put it down even while she was cooking dinner.
Mom headed off to the library, requesting the scandalous book. Seattle, always being of a liberal bent, had the Winsor tome (over 900 pages, as I recall) not only available for sale, but in the library system. When Mom asked where she could find a copy, the librarian told her she'd have to get the book from where it was chained up in an out-of-the-way area. Naturally, Mom was a bit put off.
When the librarian returned with the novel (seemingly unscathed from touching it), she said she hoped my mother would enjoy reading it. "It's not for me," Mom replied, "It's for my daughter. I don't read historical novels."
The librarian, who knew how old I was, looked nonplused. But she quickly shifted gears. "Oh, why not? How could a book possibly do any harm?"
It didn't. In fact, Winsor's vivid and well-researched sections on London's Great Plague and Great Fire taught me a lesson about writing: Do your homework, make the era and the setting of your book come alive. I've applied that to my seven historical novels as well as my B&B and Emma Lord/Alpine mystery series. And all because my mother and a librarian had the courage to liberate Forever Amber from its chains of misguided censorship.
Note: I've literally done my digging when it comes to a site very like the one in my new B&B book, Clam Wake, due out Aug. 12.
Thanks Mary! I'm pretty sure everyone here would agree that libraries are the best places to dig around. Make sure you find Clam Wake in a library near you on August 12, or download an egalley now on Edelweiss!
*This just in! William Morrow is giving away finished copies of Clam Wake! Click here for more details.