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Brandeis to spotlight mystery, crime fiction, memoir authors

Elizabeth George

The Brandeis National Committee Tucson Chapter presents its 23rd Annual Book & Author events on Feb. 27 and 28 with four acclaimed authors: internationally bestselling mystery writer Elizabeth George, author of the Inspector Lynley series; Reed Farrel Coleman, called the “noir poet laureate” by the Huffington Post; Tucsonan Lauren Grossman, writing her third mystery featuring a globe-trotting author-turned-sleuth; and trailblazing television sitcom writer Susan Silver, author of a candid Hollywood memoir.

Many readers are surprised to learn that Elizabeth George, who brings British Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Barbara Havers so vividly to life, is an American who lives in Seattle, although she’s made frequent visits to England since her first trip for a summer seminar in 1966.

With 20 acclaimed Lynley novels to George’s credit, fans may be even more surprised to learn he wasn’t her first choice of protagonist ­— that was forensic scientist Simon St. James, who appears in several of the books as Lynley’s friend.

“A Great Deliverance,” her first book, was actually the sixth George wrote, after two St. James mysteries and three unrelated books went unpublished.

“I really didn’t know if the combination of Lynley and Havers would work,” she told the AJP, “but my basic love has always been writing, so I continued to write because I figured I could only get better at it.” On her website she explains she made Lynley a member of the British aristocracy “for my own amusement since I thought it would be more fun to write about an earl than to write about an ordinary [schmoe] living on a policeman’s salary in an ill-lit bed-sitting room with a neon light going on and off outside.”

A longtime teacher of creative writing and author of “Write Away,” George says her next book will be her second on the writing process, in which she deconstructs her novel “Careless in Red.” She also is in the planning stages for the next Lynley-Havers novel.

Reed Farrel Coleman

Award-winning crime fiction writer Reed Farrel Coleman laughs when asked about his name — “a great Irish name for a good Jewish boy,” he says, explaining that Reed is in honor of his mother’s brother Ruben, who died in infancy, and that his mother “had a huge crush on a B-movie actor named Reed Hadley.” Hazy on the provenance of Farrel, he admits Coleman is not the original family name, which was Cohen in America and “started as Kahana, back in the old country.”

Along with writing five detective series of his own, including nine books featuring Moe Prager, a former New York City police officer, Coleman was recently recruited to continue noir master Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series. Coleman also is a published poet, but realized early on that poetry was no way to earn a living.

Coleman is a four-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories. He is a four-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. He also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards.

He recommends his second Moe Prager novel, “Redemption Street,” for readers interested in the private eye’s struggles with Judaism. It’s set in the Catskills of the mid-1980s when the Borscht Belt was hanging on by its fingernails.

“Moe Prager is as close to an alter ego of mine as I write. I like to say he is a better looking, much braver but not quite as smart version of me,” says Coleman.

Lauren Grossman

Lauren Grossman was raised in Massachusetts and moved to Tucson in 1995 with her husband, Michael, and their two children. “As soon as I stepped off the plane and saw the majestic Catalinas, I knew it was the right choice. I knew Tucson was home,” she says.

Her debut novel, “Once In Every Generation,” was an international success, with over 16,000 e-book downloads on Amazon. The main characters are a young singing sensation and a voice teacher whose own career went awry. Grossman has a degree in theatre and has performed in, directed and designed numerous productions, but “my greatest sorrow in life is I can’t sing,”
she says.

Nevertheless, “I could talk about what it’s like to step into the spotlight,” says Grossman, and because she has multiple sclerosis, “I could talk about what it was like to get a pronouncement of life-altering disease.”  Grossman adds that she gave her character a much more aggressive form of MS than she has.

Grossman followed “Once In Every Generation” with her first mystery, “The Golden Peacock” — which introduces Rainee Allen as a woman with writer’s block who finds inspiration when she receives the identification card of a Holocaust survivor with whom she shares a birth date — something that really happened to Grossman when she visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Much of “The Golden Peacock” is set in London, while the second Allen book, “The Verona Exchange,” which Grossman co-authored with her brother, Bernard Jaroslow, takes Allen to Italy. They are working on the third Rainee Allen mystery, set in Prague.

Susan Silver

Susan Silver is the author of “Hot Pants in Hollywood: Sex, Secrets & Sitcoms.” Teamed with Iris Rainer Dart, who later wrote “Beaches,” Silver helped break the glass ceiling as a scriptwriter for “Love American Style.” She went on to write for many of the most iconic programs in television history, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Partridge Family” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” She’ll be bringing film clips for her Brandeis talk, including one of her first MTM episodes, which features Mary and Valerie Harper’s character, Rhoda, in Bo-Peep bridesmaid outfits.

Silver recalls that her Hollywood days included only one bad incident of sexism when she and her partner had to take a meeting in a room with a wall full of photos of naked women. “I think it mostly happened with actresses,” she says of more overt sexual harassment.

Her writing career also includes “Susan Says,”  a weekly radio commentary for an NPR affiliate in Connecticut that also can be heard online; a long-running column on www.newyorksocialdiary.com, “The Search For Mr. Adequate”; and several New York Times op-eds.

Silver moved to New York in 1975, then back to Los Angeles from 1980-89, until the Writer’s Guild strike prompted a move back to the Big Apple. She began working for Jewish organizations, including running a speaker’s bureau for the Anti-Defamation League and serving as U.N. observer for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

She’s also involved with Friends of the Israel Defense Force, which gave her the opportunity to meet the late Shimon Peres, who served as both prime minister and president of Israel. Silver recalls that she saw Peres at the King David Hotel and ran over to introduce herself, heedless of his bodyguards. “I almost got shot,” she says, “but he couldn’t have been lovelier.” Two days later, at a reception at Peres’ home, he greeted her like an old friend.

The Brandeis Book & Author Events include a dinner with the authors on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at Hacienda Del Sol’s Casa Feliz, 5501 N. Hacienda Del Sol Road. Tickets are $85, or $125 to be seated with an author. On Thursday, Feb. 28, Book & Author Day at Skyline Country Club, 5200 E. St. Andrews Drive, begins with book sales, author signings and a silent auction at 9 a.m. The program begins at 10:30 a.m. Tickets for the lunch event are $80, or $125 to be seated with an author. To RSVP, mail a check or credit card information by Feb. 22 to Soralé Fortman, 6300 E. Speedway Blvd. #1321, Tucson, AZ 85710. For more information, contact Sheila Rothenberg at sheila.tucson@comcast.net or 232-9559. Proceeds from both events benefit Sustaining the Mind, a BNC fund that supports Brandeis University research on neurological degenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

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