Kathy Manos Penn is a native of the “Big Apple,” who settled in the “Peach City” — Atlanta. A former English teacher now happily retired from a corporate career in communications, she writes a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier and the Highlands Newspaper. Read her blogs and columns and purchase her books, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday” and “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on her website theinkpenn.com
Kathy Manos Penn with Lord Banjo
I'm an avid reader — someone who reads every night and never goes anywhere without a book. Heaven forbid I'd be stuck somewhere without a book. I can still recall with horror the time I downloaded a book to a new tablet for a business trip, and the tablet froze up on the first leg of the journey. And, lately, with my library closed and me downloading books instead of picking up the "real" thing, I'm distressed when I get that message on my Kindle about the need to recharge. Is it just me, or does this invariably happen at the very best spot in the book?
My passion for reading must be the reason I mention books in the cozy mysteries I write. My main character, Leta, belongs to a book club in the Cotswolds village of Astonbury. Once a month, she attends a meeting at the Book Nook on the High Street. My Atlanta readers will know I stole that name from the popular used book store in Decatur, Georgia.
In the first book — "Bells, Tails, & Murder" — Leta leads the discussion of Charlie Lovett's "The Bookman's Tale." In that novel, a North Carolina antiquarian bookseller relocates to an English village after his wife dies. There, he stumbles upon a book about Shakespeare forgeries that leads him to investigate the age-old mystery as to who Shakespeare was — if indeed the name William Shakespeare was only a pseudonym.
I chose that particular book because my plot features author J.M. Barrie and touches on the world of book collectors. "The Bookman's Tale" triggered all kinds of ideas as did an article I stumbled across about the discovery of a previously unpublished play by Barrie. Funny how the brain works.
Each subsequent book also has a book club scene, and the books read by the group always loosely connect to the plot or setting. In "Pumpkins, Paws, & Murder" which takes place in October with a Fall Fete as a central plot point, I chose G.M. Maillet's "Wicked Autumn," set in the fictional village of Nether Monkslip. My plot mirrored hers in both the season and the occasion of a fete. Who dies and why is of course completely different, as are the characters who populate the books.
For book three — "Whiskers, Wreaths, & Murder" — which takes place in, you guessed it, December, I chose "Mr. Dickens and His Carol" by Samantha Silva as the book club selection. Dickens, the dog in my book, was very excited that a book about his namesake was featured.
I'm hard at work on book four now. Though I've yet to come up with a title, the book club scene has already been written. This time, the group reads "The Sherlockian" about a quest for a missing Arthur Conan Doyle diary. I read this book when it came out in 2010 and didn't realize until I did a bit of research that Graham Moore, the author, also wrote "The Last Days of Night," which became a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne — "The Current War." Based on historical events, it tells the story of the competition and conflict between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.
I won't tell you how the book club selection connects to the murder mystery, but I can tell you that Leta and friends visit a literary festival in a nearby village. Book titles and authors — even beyond those read for book club — are referenced throughout my cozies, and there are certainly enough to fill another column. Perhaps I'll revisit the topic of the books in my books one day and take a deeper dive. Stay tuned.
Award-winning Author Kathy Manos Penn is a Georgia resident. Find her cozy mysteries on Amazon. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.