Today we have a return visit from award-winning author Heather Haven, here to talk about how her Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery Series came about. Heather’s other series include the Silicon Valley-based Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, its off-shoot, Love Can Be Murder Novellas, and The Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Novels. Murder Under the Big Top, a Ringling Brothers’ Circus stand-alone docu-mystery, and an anthology, Corliss and Other Award-Winning Stories, round out her work. Learn more about Heather and her books at her website.
It’s odd what can give birth to a series. The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries happened after years of research for my stand-alone circus noir mystery, Murder Under the Big Top. I didn't want all of the knowledge I'd gleaned of the nineteen-forties to go to waste! But most importantly, I had been challenged to write a mystery with a protagonist who wasn't an ideal beauty, i.e. young, svelte, and beautiful.
So I came up with Persephone (Percy) Cole, who I believe fills the bill. Pushing forty years old - considered middle-aged back then – Percy is a five-foot eleven, full-figured gal, with a wicked sense of humor, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Her one soft spot is her eight-year old son Oliver, a child who gives her life meaning.
I didn’t realize when I created a character physically larger than most men of seventy-plus years ago, I was offering up a woman who was quite comfortable with being a female Sam Spade. As one of the country’s first female private investigators, Percy fit into a man’s world at a time when few women did.
The first of the series, The Dagger Before Me, takes place over Halloween in a Broadway theater during a production of Macbeth. I chose a Broadway theater because I worked backstage in most of them for many years. I am very familiar with what is often considered an exotic job in an exotic world.
Iced Diamonds takes place in the Diamond District of Manhattan, although sadly, I don’t know diamonds nearly as well as I know Broadway. However, I found the idea of a dead elf in the storefront window of a jeweler’s during the Christmas season mad fun to write about.
The Chocolate Kiss-Off revolves around chocolate and murder. What could be better? Valentine’s Day is upon us and the owner of a gourmet chocolate factory in Brooklyn is found drowned in a huge vat of chocolate. As Percy notes, “Some would say there are worse ways to go.”
Taking place in New York’s Manhattan at the beginning of World War Two, the Persephone Cole Vintage series keeps me on my toes. Sometimes what I find out about the time period is surprising. I love that part. And the readers seem to be enjoying the Percy Cole series. I love that even more.
The Dagger Before Me
Persephone Cole, A Vintage Holiday Mystery, Book 1
It’s 1942 and Persephone “Percy” Cole is pounding the pavement of Manhattan, bucking the odds as one of its first female private detectives. Halloween finds Percy backstage during the previews of the latest Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There’s double, double, toil and trouble when an actor falls from an overhead catwalk and breaks his neck. Only the latest in a series of catastrophes, his death further serves to fuel the lore and superstition surrounding The Bard’s play and its supernatural forces since its creation in 1606.
With a shortage of manpower, due to the war overseas, the desperate producer takes a chance on a female PI to save the show from closing. But everyone has their secrets, from the director down to the lowliest spear thrower, and they all want Percy gone. After one more killing and a near-death scene for Percy, she’s not sure which is worse: someone trying to kill her or being foisted into the role of Witch Number Two.
Armed only with her noodle and a WWI German Mauser, Persephone Cole sets out to make things right, because that’s what lady dicks do.