Today we celebrate the USA's "birthday" and another stop on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour week 7. This week's guest is Marja McGraw, and I asked her to give us some background on her books and herself. I’m delighted to present Marja in her own words.
I was born and raised in Southern California, in the good old days before freeways and crowds. My family dates back to the earlier part of the 1800s, so between family history and stories, I’m quite familiar with Los Angeles. It was a great place to grow up. Mud pies, playing cards clothes-pinned to our bicycle wheels and walks to the local park were all part of an average day. You pulled up to a refrigerator at a local dairy, retrieved your milk and left the money in a cash register. No one was there to make sure you were honest. And in the process kids got to see the newest calf.
Trips to downtown Los Angeles to the May Company or Bullock’s were rare, but fun. My grandparents would take me to the Pig ‘n Whistle for lunch. Those were the days.
I worked in law enforcement in downtown Los Angeles for several years, and in various other offices such as West Covina and Pomona. While working for the County Marshal’s Office, I was a Deputy Clerk. Basically, that’s clerical. However, when I started out there were no female deputies. When a female was needed, we were called upon to do whatever was necessary. I searched the Ladies’ Restroom once for a bomb – without any training. My life was threatened because someone didn’t get the job they wanted when I worked in Personnel. Nowadays, that would be Human Resources. It was a different world, and it sure provided some interesting experiences. I also worked as a legal secretary, and for a sheriff’s office in Oregon.
I write two series, the Sandi Webster Mysteries and the Bogey Man Mysteries. They both take place in Southern California, where I grew up. I chose this location because it’s grown so much that a person can easily lose themselves in the crowds. All of these experiences, and living in Los Angeles County, gave me the inspiration for stories and characters. Since I enjoy humor, the stories are lighter with some humor.
As a matter of fact, in A Well-Kept Family Secret, Sandi Webster’s menopausal mother asks Sandi to solve a hundred-year-old murder involving a family member accused of the crime. How can Sandi, a thirtyish female P.I., turn down a woman whose moods are all over the charts? Yes, I’ve given both Sandi and her mother a very small part of my own family history. However, there are no murders in our past.
Eventually I relocated to Northern Nevada, then Oregon, Alaska and back to Nevada. While in Alaska I worked for a contractor whose son owned a half wolf/half Golden retriever dog. This was one of the smartest, funniest dogs I’ve ever been around. He was huge, and very protective of me. I knew that I had to add this canine to my stories, and in Bubba’s Ghost, Bubba came to life. He had a smile that made people think he was baring his teeth at them. You can see him smiling on my website, on the Book Page. Bubba thinks there’s a ghost in the attic, and across the county a young widowed mother is fighting her own ghost in the form of a menacing bum. Sandi is called on to do her P.I. thing.
At one time I worked in a Senior Center in Nevada and had a great time getting to know the seniors. I also wrote a weekly column dedicated to seniors for about a year. My own relatives were long-lived, so I have a pretty good background with older people. As a matter of fact, they inspired Prudy’s Back! which is about a woman who was a P.I. during the 1940s. She’s the next door neighbor of Sandi’s mother, who now lives in Arizona (as do I), and she wants Sandi to solve the crime that she could never get a handle on. Prudy is an interesting character who wears a shedding vintage fur coat, cowgirl boots, and she carries a long black cigarette holder. The crime took place in Los Angeles during the World War II.
This all takes us to The Bogey Man, about Chris Cross who happens to be a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart. Long story, but he wanted to be a P.I. like Bogey was in his movies. He ended up hooking up with Sandi Webster, who showed him that the private eye business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and they become involved in a murder that’s committed at a costume party. The guests run the gamut, from agents to actors and models.
The Bogey Man proved to be so popular, that I began a spinoff series involving Chris, his wife, Pamela, stepson Mikey, and two yellow Labrador retrievers, Sherlock and Watson. Bogey Nights was just released in March, 2011, and it involves an old house and a body buried in the basement since 1942. You might enjoy Chris’s version of how the old P.I.’s spoke and acted.
So there’s a little bit about me and my books. I hope you’ve enjoyed the walk I’ve taken here and that you’ll take a look at Sandi Webster and Chris Cross. They’re really a lot of fun.
Vivian, thank you for letting me talk a bit about myself and my books. The look back was a good one.
Thank you, Marja, for allowing us to know more about you and your books.
Next week I will host Jean Henry Mead.
This week I'm the guest on Mary Martinez' blog.