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Thursday, January 10, 2013


Our Book Club Friday guest today is Edith Maxwell, author of Speaking of Murder, written under her Tace Baker pen name and featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau. Edith holds a PhD in linguistics and is a member of Amesbury Monthly Meeting of Friends. Edith also writes the Local Foods Mysteries. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, introduces organic farmer Cam Flaherty and a colorful Locavore Club. Learn more about Edith at her Edith Maxwell website and her Tace Baker website.

Edith is offering a copy of Speaking of Murder to one of our readers who posts a comment. As always, please either leave your email address or check back on Sunday to see if you’ve won. -- AP

My protagonist in Speaking of Murder, Lauren Rousseau, is a Quaker. I just happen to be one, too. This means I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

I have found over the years that there is a certain lack of common knowledge about who Quakers are. No, we're not the celibate Shakers, nor the Amish or Mennonites who don't use modern devices like cars or electricity. We’re not the guy who markets oatmeal in an old-fashioned hat.

Friends have a long history - over 350 years - and much has been written about them. George Fox founded the Society of Friends in England, and it soon spread to America.
The branch of Friends that I belong to and the Meeting I attend feature unprogrammed worship. This means simply that we sit in silence together on pews in a beautiful and simple Meetinghouse built more than 150 years ago (photos by Ed Mair). We sit in expectant waiting, listening for a message from the Light.

Friends are a tolerant bunch and, while it is at base a Christian faith, no one is quizzed on their individual belief system. One might be listening for a message from God, another for a message from Spirit, another for a message from within, and another might be mindfully meditating. All are welcome. If someone feels moved to share a message, she or he stands, speaks, and then sits.

That's it. We have First Day School for the children, fellowship and refreshments, and a monthly business meeting. We hold peace vigils as well as social potlucks.

The five Testimonies guide our lives:
  • Simplicity
  • Equality
  • Integrity
  • Peace
  • Community 

Quakers believe there is that of God in each person, which leads to the core and strength of the Testimonies. We have no minister because we all minister to each other. We believe in peace and non-violence because we are all equal. Living simply frees us to help others.

Historically, Friends have been rabble-rousers in the name of peace and equality. Mary Dyer was hung on the Boston Common in 1660 for preaching Quakerism. John Woolman traveled the American colonies urging people to give up their slaves. John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet and abolitionist, was on the building committee of the Amesbury Meeting building, where I am a member. Many modern Friends have been conscientious objectors in time of war.

I came to Friends as an adult more than 23 years ago. I find that quiet individual worship in community suits me, as do the Testimonies. Being a Quaker seems to suit Lauren, too, and it governs how she reacts to situations and people. It's not for everyone, though. I knew someone raised as a high Episcopalian and he really couldn't handle all the silence. When I visited his church, I couldn't take all the busyness!

Did you know what Quakerism meant? If you have ever sat in silent Meeting for Worship, how was it for you?

Blurb: The murder of a talented student at a small New England college thrusts linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau into the search for the killer. Lauren is a determined Quaker with an ear for accents. Her investigation exposes small town intrigues, academic blackmail and a clandestine drug cartel that now has its sights set on her.
Convinced that the key to the crime lies hidden in her dead student’s thesis, Lauren races to solve the mystery while an escalating trail of misfortune circles ever closer. Her department chair behaves suspiciously. A century-old local boat shop is torched. Lauren’s best friend goes missing—and the unsettled relationship with her long-time lover threatens to implode just when she needs him the most.

Thanks for joining us today, Edith, and presenting such an educational post. Readers, post a comment for a chance to win a copy of Speaking of Murder. -- AP


Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

This is absolutely fascinating! I love read mysteries; I love reading about Quakers; and I love reading about linguistics. A perfect trio!

Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

Make that love TO read mysteries . . . :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Edith. While Catholic, I can appreciate the silence. Your Meetings sound very much like the gatherings we had at our retreat center when I was in college (Franciscan tradition). We would sit in the chapel in silence. If someone felt moved to speak, she did - but just being silent was okay too.

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for the fascinating information about Quakers. I never had a clear understanding before.

The premise of your book sounds great.

Morgan Mandel

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Kelly! There's also a bit of video forensics in the book, just to add one more unusual bit.

Edith Maxwell said...

Mary Sutton, that sounds very similar. It's a great experience.

Thanks, Morgan!

NoraA said...

My English Dept. Chairman in H.S. was a Quaker. Chet Fulmer was the most decent person I had ever met in my life. We always knew that his door was open to us for any problems at all...

I'd love to win a copy of your book and would love to have it in my personal library


Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Nora! I agree that Quakers tend to be pretty decent folk. One member of our Meeting is in the mountains of Guatemala right now doing Alternatives to Violence work in a dangerous area. She has three teenaged children but felt strongly called to do this work.

traveler said...

A most interesting post which gave me insight abut the Quakers. Your book sounds compelling.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Traveler!

petite said...

This mystery is unique and special. Thanks for the information about the Quakers.

Marsha said...

Thanks for the info on Quakers. I had some knowledge because of serving on a Presbyterian Peace committee years ago. This was especially helpful with all of books, movies, & TV seeming to focus on the Amish, who y'all are not. :) The book sounds fascinating. If I don't win, I will certainly buy. Good luck for many sales.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Petite!

And Marsha, so true that Quakers are not Amish. We are very much of this world. Thanks for appreciating the difference.

[Whoa: the Capcha begins with my birth year! I didn't realize Big Brother designed those things...]

Anonymous said...

I've never been to a Meeting, but that sounds like something that would appeal to me.

And I haven't read a Quaker mystery since Irene Allen's Elizabeth Elliot mysteries in the early 1990s. I will have to look at these.

Edith Maxwell said...

Badegermirlacca, that was a wonderful series. I actually wrote a blog post about Quaker fiction a couple of years ago you might be interested in:
http://www.edithmaxwell.com/2011/08/quaker-fiction.html. Thanks for stopping by!

Cathy Shouse said...

Edith/Tace, you had me at "Quakers"
The Quakers in the little town I live in had such a strong influence that the high school mascot was "Quakers."
Both parents grew up here and I never understood what the beliefs. Then, I got contracted by Arcadia to write an historic photo book about the town, and was amazed and awed by the founding people. They moved to Indiana and settled the town because they were anti-slavery and had an active Underground Railroad. They were big believers in education and started an "academy," sort of like the beginnings of a college. There were cultural opportunities, and many of the townspeople went on to be highly accomplished.
I'm very grateful to the Quakers and see the families that live here in a different light because of my research. The book: "Images of America: Fairmount," if anyone is interested.
I would LOVE to win this mystery and learn more about Quakers. :)
cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Richard Nixon a Quaker?

I'm from Ohio so I know more about the Amish than Quakers. When we used to go visit my great aunt in Ashland there were Amish there and also in Mansfield, I think. We used to see their buggies.


Edith Maxwell said...

That's so cool, Cathy! I earned my PhD at IU Bloomington and that's where I first attended Friends Meeting.

Edith Maxwell said...

Just looked up Fairmont on a map - my sister Barbara has lived in Frankfort for a couple of decades!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book. I love mysteries, and I've been fortunate enough to have a few Quaker friends. They are lovely people.

IU ... great linguistics dept! Did you do fieldwork?

Prentiss Garner said...

Many of my friends here in central NC are Friends. I would love to read your book,

Prentiss Garner
3047 winston Dr. #170
Burlington, NC 27215

Cathy Shouse said...

I graduated from IU Bloomington, too! Small world! :)
It seems there are a lot of Quakers in Indiana. It seems odd to me I misunderstood what Quakers are, but as a child, I heard my parents refer to them as the school mascot. I didn't associate the Friends Meeting House with the Quakers.
Your post has added to my understanding. One thing, in researching for the book, one interesting tidbit mentioned that people came from all over to Fairmount. These Friends gatherings were quite large. At some point, the groups became unruly so they had to be more careful about people coming from out of town to have a good time.
There is a woman from our town who has a lot of information on the history of the friends here, in case you needed a resource for some reason.

Lois Winston said...

Thank you for joining us, Edith. Having lived in and around Philadelphia for 28 years from college onward, I was quite familiar with Quakers. Pennsylvania was founded by a Quaker, William Penn, and the Quakers still have a huge presence in the Philadelphia area. I don't think there's a single town that doesn't have a Meetinghouse Rd.

A large percentage of the private schools in the area are affiliated with the Quakers. We sent one of our sons to Abington Friends, the oldest school in continuous operation in the United States. It was founded in 1697.

Edith Maxwell said...

What wonderful comments!

Anonymous - I did my field work in the Speech and Hearing Clinic. My dissertation from 1981 is actually for sale on Amazon.

Prentiss - thanks for stopping by.

Cathy - very small world!

Thanks so much for having me, Lois. Yes, Friends schools can be a great education for anyone.

Judy Dee said...

I started out a Catholic and they didn't even miss me when I started going to Fundamental Christian churches. I am fascinated by religion, which sometimes is a culture (if not always). Your book probably could enlighten me on Quakerism but I'm even more interested in the liguistics part. Thanks.