Special interview with mystery author P.M. Carlson

Today’s feature is with mystery author P.M. Carlson. We’re featuring Audition for Murder: Maggie Ryan, 1967, but also talking about a few other books.

P.M. is going to be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to a lucky commenter. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit other tour stops and enter there, too.

Blurb for Audition for Murder (Maggie Ryan, 1967):
Nick and Lisette O’Connor need a change. They leave New York City for a
semester as artists-in-residence at a college upstate, where they take on the
roles of Claudius and Ophelia, two of the professional leads in a campus
production of Hamlet. Threats and accidents begin to follow Lisette, and Nick
worries it might be more than just petty jealousy. Maggie Ryan, a student
running lights for the show, helps investigate a mystery steeped in the turmoil
of 1967 America
About Audition for Murder:
a triple pleasure, a sophisticated theatre story, a knowing campus tale and a
topnotch suspenseful mystery, with excellent characterizations and honest
plotting.” — Judith Crist
extremely well-written tale, with a plotline that offers a jolt per page.”
— CF, Booklist
literate, sprinkled with surprises and offering that rarity of rarities —
fully fleshed out characters.” — Bob Ellison, Los Angeles Daily News
Excerpt from Audition
for Murder
New York City, late 1960s. Actress Lisette O’Connor
suggests to actor husband Nick O’Connor that getting out of the city will help
her fight her depression and drug addiction:
Nick asked, “Will you want me to go with you?”
“Yes. Oh, yes!” Her glance was frightened.
It was awkward. His role in this musical was the best
he’d had yet. He wouldn’t get reviewed, of course, this late in the run, but
people in the business would hear about it. And it was obviously going to keep
on running for quite a while, with a small but steady income. Money. Just like
being a real person. Most importantly, of course, it was stage work. Nick did
TV spots eagerly for the money– hell, he waited tables for the money– but TV
had very little to do with his reasons for being an actor. Every night now,
though, as he stepped through the little curtain made of streamers and began
the opening song, he felt that intense communion with the audience, a sense
almost of priesthood, as his voice and body communicated the fleeting yet
eternal emotions of the play. Nick the witch doctor. Quitting when he had this
fulfillment was unthinkable.
But Lisette knew all that. She would not ask him to
give it up lightly.
“I had sort of an idea,” she said.
“God, my head hurts.”
They sat down on their mismatched flea-market chairs
and she ate a bite or two, the fine skin between her brows furrowed. Nick
squeezed lemon juice onto his fish and waited.
“It’s something George was talking about yesterday,”
she said. “There’s this college upstate. They’re doing some sort of special
Hamlet and they’re hiring professional leads.”
What have you
got coming soon for us to look out for?
Three more Maggie Ryan mysteries are planned for
release soon.
Murder in the Dog Days examines
the stateside aftermath of the Vietnam war,
Misread takes Maggie back to her alma mater to solve the murder of a
popular professor, and
Bad Blood
finds her at home in her Brooklyn brownstone helping a troubled teenaged girl
and her mischievous cat.

Which Star
Trek or Star Wars character are you most like?
I’m old enough to identify with Obi-Wan Kenobi,
someone who’s long been fighting for a better civilization. His battles were
more dramatic, maybe, than my work in the struggle for voting rights for
minorities, reproductive rights for women, a free press, help for victims of
domestic violence or child abuse, support for veterans of our wars, equal pay
for equal work. Obi-Wan and I know that we won some battles but that
counterforces are trying to undo our hard work, and we’re ready to fight again
if needed. Maybe someday I too will find a Luke Skywalker and a Princess Leia
to help in the next round of the struggle.
Fun fact: the first Star Wars release is important in
one of the Maggie Ryan books (1977).
What other
countries have you lived in? Are any of them reflected in the Maggie books?
Until I was ten, I lived in Guatemala, and I remain
fascinated with that small, beautiful country and the indigenous Maya people
who make up most of its population. In the Maggie Ryan series, my interest came
out most clearly in Murder Is Academic,
where a major character has recently returned from doing linguistic field work
there and yearns to return.
Later, when my boys were small, we spent a year in
Paris. I enjoyed the city, the food, the history, and learning to cope with
family life in a different country with a language I was still learning. When I
thought about the experiences my detective Maggie Ryan might have had, a year
as an exchange student in France seemed like something she would have chosen,
and her experience there helped form her character.
The Maggie
books take place about forty years ago. How was the situation different for a
woman like Maggie?
Maggie and I were in grad school when feminism was
taking up causes like equality in the workplace and reproductive control. We
were realizing that our parent’s view that women should be nurses (but not
doctors), grade school teachers (but not professors), artists (but not
scientists), housecleaners (but not cops), etc. was way too narrow for the
range of abilities women have. We were realizing that to compete in business or
in the professions or in service jobs, we needed to be treated equally by
employers and by banks who gave loans for housing and businesses. Child care
was an issue because, although men were expected to get someone else to take
care of their children so they could focus on their careers; women were blamed
if someone else took care of their kids. These problems are far from solved,
but at least now some universities are succeeding in educating women surgeons
and engineers and astrophysicists, some men are stepping up to be more involved
in raising their daughters and sons, and there are some anti-discrimination
laws in place.
Can you tell
us something new about
Rehearsal for
In order to write a mystery about a new play, I had to
write the damn play! A tough job, I find–– eventually I got my husband to help
with the rhymes. But it was fun to take Queen Victoria’s entire life and serve
it up in short song lyrics.

Author Information:

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics
at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She
has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels
have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony
Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the
Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and
served as president of Sisters in Crime.

2-minute video chat (Audition for Murder):(Personal
comments on the background of Audition for

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6 thoughts on “Special interview with mystery author P.M. Carlson

  1. Unknown says:

    I enjoyed your interivew today P.M.; it reminded me of how far women have actually progressed in the past 50 years and how amazing that progress truly is in such a relatively short period of time. Thanks for sharing.

    ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

  2. Unknown says:

    Yes, Elise-Maria, it's true that there's been a lot of progress for such a short time. Bankers and employers and others are legally required to apply the same standards to people regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, and so forth. But we still have to be vigilant to make sure the laws aren't repealed or too many exceptions made. I really enjoy revisiting Maggie's world, but I don't want to go back to live there!

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