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Tom Chaney: No. R715- Summertime reading

Of Writers and Their Books: Summertime Reading, a review of J.A. Chance books. First printed 25 June 2006.
The next earlier Tom Chaney Of Writers and Their Books column, Tom Chaney R712: The Bookman as Detective

By Tom Chaney

Summer arrived this week with a sweltering vengeance.

Before the days of nigh universal air conditioning summer was the time for finding a shady spot and giving in to the delights of a mystery or adventure novel. Lemonade was nice if it was freshly squoze and full of ice.

Without lemonade at home, one could always take a break from reading and wander down to Dorsey Drugs and ask Thelma Pedigo for a frozen lemonade -- fresh lemons, sugar, and ice combined in the Waring blender. It was so cold -- to sip it fast gave one a headache.

But mysteries are still fine for summer (or fall or winter or spring) reading. I'm slowly getting to know another writer -- new to me. She is J. A. Jance.

For ten years I have been noticing Ms Jance's books as they came through our stock at The Bookstore. Never, until recently, did I read one.

Over the last fifteen years and eighteen novels Jance has developed a couple of most interesting detectives. Early on she created J. P. Beaumont or "Beau" as he is called. Beau owes his character to an Arizona detective Jance met about 1970. The fictional Seattle cop is a tall rangy alcoholic who, unlike her first husband, was smart enough to sober up.

"I had written ten books through a middle aged male detective's point of view." Jance wrote. "It seemed to me that it would be fun to write about a woman for a change." Since Beau lived in Seattle, Jance opted to write about the Arizona desert. Joanna Brady is the sheriff.

Jance noted that most female detectives seemed to be single women who "lived isolated, solitary lives with maybe a cat and a single dying ficus for company." Such a description fits the likes of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone -- fine storytellers all.

But Jance observed "Most of the women I knew lived complicated lives that involved husbands and children, in-laws and friends. They juggled family responsibilities, and jobs along with church and community service. I set out to make my character, Joanna Brady . . . into someone whose life would reflect that complicated act of juggling."

I have just finished reading Partners in Crime set on Joanna Brady's turf in Cochise County Arizona. The murder victim is an up-and-coming artist living in Arizona who just happens to be in the Washington State Attorney General's witness protection program.

Brady investigates the murder of Rochelle Baxter which occurred on the eve of the opening of Baxter's first exhibit in a Bisbee, Arizona, art gallery. Enough evidence points away from the first suspect, lover of the artist, to cause Brady to continue to investigate and the evidence leads to Seattle, Washington.

The attorney general sends his newest investigator, Beau, to Arizona to keep watch on the investigation.

Jance's two investigators meet -- each suspecting the other. The dance begins. Beau at first writes off Brady as a typical political sheriff with little ability. Brady sees Beau as a city slicker hot shot invading her turf. Respect each for the other begins to grow into a productive investigative relationship.

Brady deals with various personal crises and Beau puts to rest some of his own personal demons. Meanwhile the crime (really crimes for there are other deaths to come) is solved in a quite believable way. The agent of death is an unusual chemical which Jance suggests exists in all new cars.

Further I shall say not.

For delightful summer reading, I suggest one sample any of the fifteen or so Beaumont novels or the nine or so Brady stories. And do not think I am disparaging the other women detectives mentioned above. They also delight.

So, grab a book; pick up the most comfortable lawn chair; place it in the shade of a giant maple tree; make a tall lemonade; and settle in for a long summer day's reading.

Remember -- flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and chiggers will not disturb one who is reading a good book.

If a shower comes up, drop in at The Bookstore until it passes. You might meet another fictional friend for life before the rain stops.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at

Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749. Phone (270) 786-3084. email: Tom Chaney
The BOOKSTORETo see links to other Tom Chaney essays and book reviews, enter "Tom Chaney" in the search box

This story was posted on 2011-06-19 14:24:41
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