I was ten when I borrowed The Secret of Shadow Ranch from a cousin. It was the first mystery I ever read, and I was hooked. Then, to my delight, I discovered this was only one of a long series of adventures in which Nancy solved mystery after mystery. Just as exciting, I soon found other amateur mystery-solvers: the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, and many more. By the time I began reading adult mysteries, my love of the amateur detective was completely entrenched.
When I decided I wanted to write a mystery myself, I knew my main character would be an amateur. After all, I’m not a policeman, or a lawyer, or a private detective. But I do have a healthy dose of curiosity about the world around me and the people in it. Charlie Harris, the sleuth in my “Cat in the Stacks” series, is just like me in that respect. He’s also about my age (fiftyish, if you must know), he’s a librarian, he grew up in Mississippi, and he has a Maine coon cat. That’s as far as it goes, however. (I have two cats, by the way, neither of which is a Maine coon. Also, Diesel is much better behaved than my two.)
I wanted to incorporate my knowledge of, and love for, these juvenile series books into one of my own books, and in the new book, The Silence of the Library, I have done so. I created a series character in the mold of Nancy Drew and the other girl detectives and called her Veronica Thane. The author of the series, Electra Barnes Cartwright, was inspired by Mildred Wirt Benson (the first writer, aka “Carolyn Keene”, of the Nancy Drew series, Margaret Sutton, author of the Judy Bolton series, and Julie Campbell Tatham, the original author of Trixie Belden. In fact the book is dedicated to their memories.
The most fun part of writing this book for me was the “excerpts” from the first Veronica Thane book. I reread some of my favorite girl detective stories from the 1930s to get a sense of the style in my head, and off I went. I hope readers will get a kick out of this aspect of the story. Of course, The Silence of the Library includes murder – a subject that usually didn’t come up in the classic juvenile series books. But when you get a number of rabid book collectors together, with hints of a rare and highly collectible volume, something deadly is sure to happen.
Miranda James is the pseudonym of Dean James, a seventh-generation Mississippian long transplanted to Texas. A mystery fan since the age of ten, he wrote his first novel at the ripe old age of twelve. The only copy of The Mystery of the Willow Key vanished years ago, but since it was highly derivative of the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series, that’s probably a good thing.
Dean lives with two young cats, thousands of books, and thinks frequently about killing people – but only in the pages of fiction.