04 October 2017
The Librarian Murder Mysteries
Thanks for all the additions, comments, and corrections! All those received by October 6th have been added in red. Keep them coming!
Crime-writing attracts people from many different fields, including crime-fighters and, of course, criminals. I am working on a list of mystery writers, past and present, who happen to be librarians. (I am limiting it to this to fiction writers with M.L.S. degrees.)
I went to the geniuses who dwell at Dorothy-L, the listgroup for fanatical mystery fans, and asked for their collective wisdom. And boy, was I impressed with the list they came up with. If you know of any we missed, please pass them along.
Jon L. Breen. Jon is a retired reference librarian who is best known for his nonfiction, which has won him both Edgar and Anthony Awards. His What About Murder? is a definitive (and continuing) guide to reference books in our field (it now appears in each issue of Mystery Scene Magazine). He has written around ten novels and several collections of short stories. My favorite is Kill the Umpire!, a collection of fair-play mysteries starring Ed Gorgon, major league ump.
Donis Casey. Casey has been an academic librarian in Oklahoma and Arizona. Now she writes full-time. Her first book was The Old Buzzard Had It Coming.
Jo Dereske. My friend reference librarian Jo Dereske wrote a series of comic mysteries about Miss Wilhelmina Zukas, who works at the public library in a small northwestern city not unlike the one where I live. Helma is in some ways a stereotypical librarian but she has enough quirks and spine to make her a pleasure to spend time with. In one book the police want to know who borrowed a particular book and to protect her patron's privacy, Helma destroys the records. Making this more interesting is that her would-be lover is the police chief.
Charles Goodrum. Goodrum may have been the first librarian to write crime novels about a librarian. Dewey Decimated (1977) and its equally pun-titled sequels centered on an institution reminiscent of the Library of Congress, where Goodrum worked for many years.
Dean James used to be a medical librarian in Houston. Under the name Miranda James he writes the Cat in the Stacks books about a small-town Mississippi librarian.
Eleanor Kuhns is the assistant director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York, She writes about Will Rees, a weaver in Colonial America.
Robert Lopresti. Yeah, that guy. I wrote three stories about a public librarian buit couldn't sell them. I got some satisfaction by slipping the character into one of my stories about eccentric mob detective Uncle Victor.
Mary Jane Maffini. How many people can boast of once being the librarian of the Brewer's Association of Canada? Maffini can. She authors three series with female amateur sleuths. The most popular may be the books about professional organizer Charlotte Adams, as in The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder.
Jenn McKinlay. She was a librarian in Connecticut, then tried writing. McKinlay switched from romance to mystery because "I'm just better at killing people than I am at making them fall in love." Among her series are the Library Lovers' Mysteries.
Shari Randall. Randall has had two short stories published. Her first novel, Curses, Broiled Again,comes out in early 2018.
Robert F. Skinner. Skinner was the head librarian at Xaver University in New Orleans. He wrote a series of novels about Wesley Farrell, a nightclub owner "passing for white" during the 1930s.
Triss Stein. Stein describes herself as a small town girl who became a children's librarian in Brooklyn. Later she ran the library for DC Comics! How cool is that? She says that part of the inspiration for her books set in Brooklyn neighborhoods came from the places she worked in libraries there.
Marcia Talley. Most of these authors worked in public, academic, or school libraries. Talley represents another major category: special libraries. She worked for corporations, a non-profit, and the government. She writes about Hannah Ives, a cancer survivor now living in Annapolis.
Will Thomas. Thomas is a librarian in Oklahoma. His characters Barker and Llewelyn are private inquiry agents in Victorian England.
Ashley Weaver. Weaver runs the technical services side of things at a library system in Louisiana. Her books are set far, far away, involving an Englishwoman named Amory Ames who solves crimes with her playboy husband in stylish spots in the 1930s.
Of course, one reason there are so many librarians in mystery fiction - including ones not written by people in the field - is that a lot of librarians are fans, and therefore potential customers. How many? Enough to make it worthwhile to have a Librarian's Tea every year at Bouchercon. Next week in Toronto a lot of people in my field will gather for tea and cookies and the chance to hear some famous writers tell us how much they love libraries. And no one will tell them to shush.