She is the author of Hemlock Lake, Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death, and the co-author of Sometimes a Great Commotion, The Big Grabowski, The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, and The Hermit of Humbug Mountain.
Welcome, Carolyn. What was your inspiration for Hemlock Lake?
Growing up in the Catskills in the 1950’s, I was aware of the differences—real and perceived—between those whose families had been there for generations, and those who came for weekends or summers, or had recently moved to the area. Some accepted the differences and some didn’t want the world to change. Some felt resentful and challenged. I brought that forward 40 years and used it as the fuse that set off a string of arson fires and murders.
Please give us a synopsis.
For generations only a few families held title to land in the isolated Catskill Mountain community of Hemlock Lake. But with the turning of the century one man, lured by easy money, sells his inheritance to a developer of luxury homes. As the contractor bulldozes farmland and forest, neighbors cry environmental rape, and someone threatens to burn what is built.
Hoping to stop the arsonist, but tormented by personal demons, Sergeant Dan Stone reluctantly returns to his family home on the shores of the lake. The previous autumn his wife died in its dark waters and his brother put a bullet in his brain. That tragedy sent Dan’s father drifting toward death.
Isolated by his pain, Dan is thrust into the no man’s land between newcomers and longtime residents who stonewall his investigation into threats, graffiti, theft, and a blaze that nearly kills the construction foreman. Townspeople blame outsiders, eco-terrorists, a ragged tramp haunting the woods, and the mysterious creator of rock cairns that often mark the sites of crimes to come. But as summer sizzles on, the arsonist turns killer, and Dan suspects it’s someone he knows well: a firefighter, a friend, or a woman with a killing in her past.
You co-wrote The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion. Please tell us about your co-author and the books.
My co-author is my husband, Mike Nettleton. We’ve been together since 1984 and have co-authored five books. He’s a great “idea man” and I’m a disciplined Virgo, so it works pretty well most of the time. When we have creative differences we put that part of the manuscript aside for a time and then make our best cases. I usually win because he usually gives in.
We came up with the idea for a series of books set in the fictional town of Devil’s Harbor, Oregon about ten years ago and because environmentalism is a key to what makes Oregon, we use that as the foundation for the plots. To give readers the feeling of actually living there, we created at least 16 point-of-view characters for each book, and we made many of them eccentric, quirky, or delusional in one way or another. We set out to skewer everyone and everything in what we think of as satire with a bit dose of silly.
In The Big Grabowski we kill off an unscrupulous developer before the book begins. He’s the perfect murder-mystery victim because everyone wanted to kill him. That makes solving the case really tough for Sergeant Greg Erdman. And that gives our reporter sleuth, Molly Donovan, a chance to get to the truth first.
Sometimes a Great Commotion begins with the town thrown into turmoil over water restrictions imposed in order to keep the sewer system from overflowing and triggering a huge fine. The only way to raise money to fix the problem is to log the town trust land, but a tree-sitter for hire blocks the saws. Then an image appears in a scorched crab cake and thousands of pilgrims flock to see it. In the midst of that chaos, the tree sitter winds up dead. Again, there are plenty of suspects and Molly and Greg compete to solve the crime.
Where can readers purchase these books?
Ask your local bookstore to order them or get them on-line. They’re available in print and as Kindles.
Do you have upcoming events you'd like to mention?
We were at the Southern Oregon Writers’ Fair in Ashland on November 20.
And as soon as have word about whether they’ll rebuild or relocate, we hope to have an event to help out Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver, Washington. The store suffered extensive smoke damage a few weeks ago when a fire broke out in the restaurant next door.
You submitted several recipes for my Killer Recipes cookbook (proceeds going to ACS). I particularly like the Mushrooms To Die For. Is that a family recipe?
No. I got the basic idea from a college roommate and tinkered with it over the years. I don’t make them often because I can eat a dozen at a time. That makes my fat cells very happy, but it also makes it tough to button my jeans.
And I want to say again that I was thrilled to be included in this book. It’s a terrific idea to support a very worthy cause.
It was an honor to have you and Mike as contributors, Carolyn.
Do you have a book in the works?
After years of thinking there was no sequel, I’m 240 pages into a second book set in the community of Hemlock Lake. It involves most of the same characters—but a few won’t survive.
Mike and I are also planning the third Devil’s Harbor mystery. It centers on a reality show being shot in town and, of course, a murder.
Where can folks learn more about you?