Katherine Hall Page, Agatha Award-winning mystery novelist

Dear Readers,

It’s always a pleasure to address you directly when a new book comes out. It is hard for me to believe that The Body in the Wardrobe is the 23rd in the Faith Fairchild series and my 30th book overall. Some of you have been with me on this wonderful ride since the beginning and some are joining me now. Welcome all! Now about this book.

“I Fall in Love Too Easily”. It’s a favorite song composed in 1944 by the great Jules Styne, lyrics by the great Sammy Cahn, recorded with piercing emotion first by Sinatra and notably followed over the years by Miles Davis, Dionne Warwick, Linda Ronstadt, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, and many others. The sentiment is bittersweet, but when I hum it to myself, I’m not feeling sad. It’s always been a characteristic. (Oh, yes, I’m talking about you, Barry Z., third grade crush). I do fall in love easily, maybe too easily and am glad for it.

While writing The Body in the Birches, I fell in love with the character, Sophie Maxwell and while visiting a friend several years ago who had moved to Savannah, I fell in love with the city. This book is the result.

First Sophie. In the last book, she personifies the song lyrics, appearing in Chapter One with a broken heart after falling in love disastrously fast. At the end, she is in much better shape. I found as I created her that I was thinking of Faith Fairchild as she was in the early books of the series and the notion of pairing the two women again here in Wardrobe, a kind of sequel, was hard to resist. Both were outsiders as new brides, one in the North; one in the South, but their experience is much the same. They have to learn what is essentially a new vocabulary and since this is a murder mystery, the process is complicated by a body or two—or three. Both have husbands with jobs involving secrets they can’t share with their wives—a member of the clergy and a private investigator have to be tight-lipped. Both have in-law issues. Faith’s sister-in-law causes major problems for her before and after the nuptials. Sophie faces more serious in-law troubles. Unlike Faith, however, Sophie has someone to turn to for help—and it’s Faith. It was a pleasure to write about their friendship, celebrating the bonds between women, and men too, no matter what age, truly one of life’s great joys.

And it was friendship that took me to Savannah. I had been to Virginia, the Carolinas, Louisiana, and other parts of the South; but never Georgia, specifically Savannah. Then Meg moved there, so three of us started going down to see her—no chore to leave winter behind, never a chore to be with Meg. That first trip, the four of us explored Savannah as newcomers with our hostess a newly seasoned guide. Savannah is a very walkable city and we walked. I picked out the house I wanted, not unlike the one Sophie gets for Christmas and learned which Square had which statue. We spent many hours in Bonaventure and it would not be a trip to Savannah without going out to Tybee. Each time in the city has been just as special as the first. Going back to a place one loves is always a treat—checking out the familiar, finding the new. It has the same feel as rereading favorite books.

When it comes to Savannah, subsequent visits meant eating all the delicious food described in these pages—and discovering more dishes. On my last trip, the culinary highlight was attending Chef Joe Randall’s “The Dinner Party, A Southern Cooking Class Lecture & Demonstration”. Go to his web site: www.chefjoerandall.com and be amazed at his credentials—and his food! We sat back, sipped wine, and watched the chef and his wife Barbara prepare shrimp cakes with herb mustard sauce; a salad of beets, Smithfield ham, Bermuda onions and Georgia peanuts on Bibb lettuce; Southern fried quail with gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans; and finally sweet potato pie with praline sauce. We had been warned to eat lightly during the day and come hungry. With such a long growing season, all the places where we ate showcased the chef’s regard for fresh, local ingredients. And at the cooking school, you also get a running commentary that is both an education and theater.

One trip to Savannah was marked by an evening at the Jepson Center for the Arts, part of the Telfair museums, with John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  It was a party and a chance to watch Savannahians doing what comes naturally. The food was catered by Clary’s Café and the music—Johnny Mercer of course—was provided by Jeremy Davis and the Equinox Trio (thank you for the dance, Archie!). It was an extraordinary experience to look out architect Moshe Safdie's soaring wall of glass watching Telfair Square move from dusk to dark while the inside glowed.

In all my books, place is almost as important as character and plot. I am in love with all of them—the fictitious town of Aleford somewhere west of Boston that came to mind so many years ago; always Manhattan, Sanpere, the beloved made-up island off the coast of Maine; Rome, the Eternal City; and now Savannah. Yes, I fall in love too easily—thank goodness.

As always my thanks and best wishes,
Katherine

 


Copyright Katherine Hall Page and Proximity Internet Productions, 2007-