by Marilyn Meredith
& Terrance V. Mc Arthur
Marilyn Meredith interviews mystery author Sally Carpenter, whose first book was just released. Terrance Mc Arthur reviews the book, The Baffled Beatlemaniac, and at the end of this article is a chance to win a copy.
The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper by Sally Carpenter
Review by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
In Sally Carpenter’s The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, Sandy Fairfax was a teen idol (in the Leif Garrett/Shaun Cassidy mold) during the 70’s, recorded lots of gold records, and starred as Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth on TV and spin-off movies. Now, he’s 38, divorced, missing his kids, and trying to stay sober. He is booked at a small Beatles convention in Indiana because Ringo Starr was once a guest on an episode of the series and the organizers couldn’t get George Harrison’s sister Louise, and finds himself dealing with clinging fans, angry hotel managers, counterfeiting vendors, and murder.
When Sandy is found with the body of the John Lennon lookalike from a Beatles tribute band, the police detective on the case assumes he’s the culprit, and the former celebrity has to talk fast and try to solve the case before he winds up in jail. The solution involves the “Abbey Road” album cover, a tape with backward masking, Blue Meanies, the “Let It Be” rooftop concert, apple bonkers, assumed names, and disco dancing.
Sandy is a lively character, whether trying to prove his innocence or save himself (and other convention-goers) from falling objects, bombs, and TV-station editors. He wants to distance himself from the character that made him a star, yet he unconsciously mimics scenes from the series. He desperately wants a drink, but everybody at the convention has heard that he stopped drinking, so he has to live up to the expectations of his fans.
It’s never mentioned, but the mathematically-inclined can figure out that the story takes place about 1994, when people are still fiddling with cassette tapes in their car stereos and not walking about with phones in their ears. The suspects range from Sandy to the frazzled event organizers to other members of the tribute band, and from mean-spirited collectors to anti-tribute-band fans who refuse to accept imitations of their idols, even though Lennon’s death in 1980 means the Beatles will never reunite.
The writing is brisk, the characters are quirky, and Sandy gets to save the day and sing his hit song, just like Buddy Brave did on television. It’s a cheerful romp, and I hope Carpenter follows Sandy’s/Buddy’s career through further groovy adventures.
Interview with mystery author Sally Carpenter:
Marilyn: Hi Sally, what a great idea for a book. Now I’m going to ask you some personal questions about you. When did you first hear about the Beatles and hear their songs?
Sally: I can’t remember the first time I heard the “fabs”. I’ve been a Beatles fan for as far back as I remember. I probably first heard them on the radio. I didn’t see their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show because my parents didn’t watch that program. However, I now have a video of that show so I can watch it at my leisure.
At home we only had one radio in the house (kitchen) and my parents kept the dial on the hometown station that played queasy-listening music. When my parents were out shopping, I turned the dial to the rock-n-roll station so I could hear pop music and changed back when they came back.
The first time I met Beatlemaniacs was in college. They gave me a crash course in “Beatlemania.” A friend in college gave me my first album—a Sgt. Pepper’s picture disc worth about $85 or so today—and that started me collecting Beatles records.
Marilyn: Would you say the Beatles and their music had an influence on your life?
Sally:Yes, that was my introduction to rock music and my first parental “rebellion” as this was one thing I liked that my folks didn’t. After listening to The Beatles I expanded towards other musicians such as Dylan and Clapton. George was my favorite Beatle and I played his records as “comfort music” when I was feeling down.
Marilyn: What gave you the idea for this book?
Sally:Various threads came together into this book. Many years ago a friend introduced me to Sharyn McCrumb’s novel, Bimbos of the Death Sun, a mystery that takes place during one weekend at a hotel during a science fiction fan convention. At the time I thought, “I wish I’d written that book!”
Over the years I’ve attended two Beatles fan conventions, one on the West Coast and twice at Beatlesfest, which is now called the Fest For Beatles Fans, the nation’s largest annual Beatles fan convention in Chicago. At the West Coast event, Micky Dolenz talked about his friendship with the fabs.
When I was taking a college playwrighting class I wrote a one-act play about a fan sneaking into a hotel room to meet her idol. The play won an award and audiences loved it. I liked the characters and wanted to do more with them, but I couldn’t find the right vehicle until I started writing a mystery. I placed the idol at a Beatles convention and the pieces all came together.
Marilyn: When did you first know you were a writer?
Sally:I’ve always enjoyed reading and stories. Can’t think of a time when I didn’t want to write. I’ve written various things over the years, sold a few small pieces, wrote some plays for churches, but this book my writing biggest accomplishment. Just took me a long time to find the right story to tell.
Marilyn: Tell us something about your background.
Sally:I grew up in Southern Indiana, which is the setting for my book. It’s one of the last places on Earth where my hero expects to find himself. Eleven years ago I moved to California and now I live in Moorpark, Calif., just outside of L.A.
I have master’s degrees in theater and theology. I have a black belt in tae kwon do. I’ve been an actress, taught college writing, served as a jail chaplain, and worked as a tour guide at a major motion picture studio. Now I work at a community newspaper.
Marilyn: Since The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper has come out what kind of things are doing and/or planning to do for the promotion?
Sally:The newspaper I work for printed an article about the book. I’m setting up local book signings—I have two events for October. The libraries in this area love to schedule writer events. I’ve been guest blogging like mad. Some writers blog sites are reviewing the book, including a couple outside America. I’m curious to see if the overseas market likes the book. And of course there’s Kings River Life, the best e-magazine on the web!
I plan on contacting two DJs who run Beatles-themed radio shows. So far two Beatles fan blogs are reviewing the book. I’ll be approaching more fan blogs soon.
Now that I’m published, I plan on participating in author panels, book fairs and putting on presentations for writers’ conferences.
I work a full-time job, so making the marketing contacts is going slower than I want, but I’ll sure it’ll happen in due time. Slow and steady wins the race.
Marilyn: Have you more capers planned for Sandy Fairfax?
Sally:Yes, I’m hoping for a long-running series. The next book is The Sinister Sitcom Caper in which Sandy is a guest star on a TV show. When an actor drops dead at his feet, Sandy starts sleuthing with the help of a dwarf and an animal actor. Readers also start meeting members of Sandy’s family. He’s a recovering alcohol and trying to reconnect with his estranged family. And can romance be in the air for our hero?
Marilyn: What was your road to publication for this book?
Sally:Before I wrote this book I was trying to sell a young adult action/adventure sci-fi book in the days when the boy wizard books were hot. After 40 rejections, I shelved the book and said, “I’m not going through that again!”
With my mystery, I focused on the smaller presses that didn’t require agents. I contacted a few agents who turned me down and I decided that was a waste of time. Nowadays agents are only interested in celebrities and published authors.
A certain independent publisher liked my query and wanted to see the book. He eventually turned it down, but sent me a personalized letter of what he liked and didn’t like about the book. I’d never received feedback before from the publisher. I knew the book had merit if a busy editor took time to write me.
I heard about Oak Tree Press through other Sisters in Crime members who are with that press. OTP loves new authors and will take unagented work. I queried Sunny Frazier, the OTP acquisitions editor, and she wanted to see some chapters. She also passed on the book but gave me feedback. Some of her comments were the same as the other editor, so I figured they must be right.
I asked Sunny if she would take another look if I revised the manuscript. She said yes and sent me more critique (no major publisher will do that!). I studied her comments, gutted the book, reworked it and shipped it back. Sunny loved the revision. She sent the mss. to the publisher on a Friday and the following Monday I was given the thumbs up. About six months later the book was in print.
Marilyn: Thank you for sharing about your self and The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper.
Sally:Thanks for the interview, Marilyn. I enjoyed chatting with the readers of KRL.
To enter to win a copy of The Baffled Beatlemaniac, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Baffled”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen October 11, 2011.
Check out a short story by Sally published in KRL.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.