Today we’re happy to have award-winning mystery author Ellen Byron make a return visit. Ellen writes the Cajun Country Mystery Series and writing as Maria DiRico, she’ll debut a second series, The Catering Hall Mysteries, in 2020. Her TV credits include writing for Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents. She’s also had her award-winning plays performed throughout the world. Fun fact: she worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. Learn more about Ellen and her books at her website.
I grew up in a suburb of New York City. Family vacations generally revolved around trips to New England, where we hiked Vermont’s mountains and explored Cape Cod’s dunes. Northeasterner that I was, if anyone had told me I’d fall in love with the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, I would have told them they were nuts.
And yet I have.
There’s just something so magically mysterious about Louisiana’s waterways. Bayous are defined as “slow-moving streams,” and watching the languid path of a bayou like Bayou Teche, its banks filled with trees draped in Spanish moss, never ceases to entrance me.
I’ve lost count of how many swamp tours I’ve taken in the years since I graduated from Tulane University and embarked on a writing career. The most memorable might be the one where a couple built a raised boardwalk through the swamp that was in the backyard of their convenience store. I’ll never forget wandering that wet wilderness, the only sounds coming from the frogs and other creatures who inhabited the environs. One of those creatures has become the “spirit animal” of my Cajun Country Mystery series.
Alligators might as well be the official state reptile of Louisiana. It’s almost impossible not to see one on a swamp tour. A few years ago, when we took our teenage daughter on her first trip to Louisiana, I signed us up for a tour of Lake Martin, a body of water created – like so many in the state – when the Mississippi changed course and cut it off from the river. We piled into a small motorboat along with a half-dozen others, and our guide motored us through the cypress trees and knees – that’s what the cypress stumps are called – of the lake.
Our guide cut the engine when we came upon these two gators perched on a log.
We watched in silence as the animals faced off. Suddenly, the gator on the right sprung on the other gator, knocking it off the log. “I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years and I’ve never seen anything like that,” the excited guide said in his thick Cajun accent. For the rest of the tour, he stopped at every boat we passed to regale them of this unprecedented sighting.
Our daughter just began her sophomore year at Loyola University in New Orleans. She fell in love with Louisiana, just like her mom. Her college stint gives me four years of excuses to visit the state—and each year will bring another exploration of the state’s otherworldly waters.
Fatal Cajun Festival
In the newest addition to Ellen Byron’s Agatha Award-winning Cajun Country Mystery series, country star Tammy Barker, a Pelican native who won an l-styled TV singing contest, returns home to headline the town's first music festival. But Maggie Crozat discovers that Tammy is a full-fledged diva, a tiny terror in six-inch platform-heeled boots and a thick head of hair extensions. Worse, she carries a grudge against Maggie’s best friend, Gaynell Bourgeois. When a member of Tammy’s entourage is murdered, Tammy sees to it that Gaynell is the prime suspect, and Maggie must cozy up to Tammy's sketchy bandmates to prevent her friend from being charged with murder.