Monday, September 12, 2011

McFarland brings a fresh voice to mysteries


The recent New Orleans marsh fires that reached into Acadiana showed us how easily a wildfire can affect the local environment — and how widespread the damage can be. In California, where conditions are extremely hot and dry after months of no rain, wildfires and the areas they affect can be extremely fast-moving and dangerous.
Nora McFarland sets her latest mystery “Hot, Shot and Bothered” in the fictional town of Elizabeth Lake, just outside of Bakersfield, Calif., while a wildlife threatens to overtake the town and surrounding areas. Lilly Hawkins is a TV news photographer, known as a “shooter,” capturing B-film on the fire when a coroner’s van rushes past. She follows hoping for an exclusive, taking her within miles of the blaze. A woman has drowned on Elizabeth Lake and authorities don’t want to spend time investigating while the fire approaches the town — all hands are needed on the fire line — and at first Lilly assumes it’s one of many accidents that happen on the lake every year.
When Lilly realizes the victim is Jessica Eagan, an environmental activist Lilly knew from her reckless youth, her instincts kick in. Things are not adding up and what’s being said of Jessica doesn’t ring true. While the fire rages and the police have left the crime scene, Lilly investigates what she sees as Jessica’s murder, enlisting the help of her on-air boyfriend, her crazy uncle Bud and other colorful members of the KJAY staff.
All the while, the fire gets closer and closer.           
“Hot, Shot and Bothered” will keep you turning pages well into the night, enjoying McFarland’s clever writing, humorous anecdotes and style and an unrelenting heroine with traits everyone can relate to. She’s a fresh voice in mysteries and I hope we see more in this series.


Wilcox receives Louisiana Writer Award
Author James Wilcox will receive the Louisiana Center for the Book Louisiana Writer Award at a ceremony during the Louisiana Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, in Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Book Festival is a free, daylong event where authors such as Wilcox will hold workshops to discuss their works and careers, plus there will be book sales, food, entertainment and activities for children.
Wilcox, director of creative writing at LSU, is the author of nine novels, most of which are set in or feature characters from the fictional town of Tula Springs, La. His most famous novel, “Modern Baptists,” was released in 1983 and has been included in Harold Bloom’s “The Western Canon” and was listed in the GQ 45th anniversary issue as one of the best works of fiction published in the past 45 years.
Wilcox’s book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Elle. His eighth novel, “Heavenly Days,” was featured on the New York Times Notable Book list. Wilcox currently holds the MacCurdy Distinguished Professorship in the LSU College of Arts and Sciences.
The Louisiana Writer Award is given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the literary and intellectual life of Louisiana. Past recipients include novelist and short story writer Tim Gautreaux; children’s author William Joyce; poets Yusef Komunyakaa and William Jay Smith; historian Carl A. Brasseaux; novelists James Lee Burke, Ernest J. Gaines, Shirley Ann Grau, Elmore Leonard and Valerie Martin; and scholar Lewis P. Simpson.
For more information about the Louisiana Book Festival, visit www.LouisianaBookFestival.org.