When I wrote my mystery novel, Thirteen Diamonds, my mother lived in a retirement community in North Carolina. If she were still alive, she would be approaching her hundredth birthday. She did make it to ninety four and a half. (Other writings about my mother include “The Chemist and the Farmgirl,” in Stories, and “How My Parents Got Rich—and HowYou Can Too,” in Articles.)
She always claimed that Lillian Morgan, the protagonist of 13D, wasn’t her. Lillian does things that a nice girl who grew up on a farm in Harbor Beach, Michigan would never do, such as break into people’s apartments. In addition, Lillian is a math professor whereas Mother taught history and English.
13D was a bestseller in the gift shop at Mother’s retirement community, Carol Woods, and is now a bestseller on Amazon Kindle. I was invited to speak at Carol Woods and everybody there loved me. Then I wrote the sequel to 13d, Catch a Falling Knife. Mother said the characters were immoral and blackballed it at Carol Woods. Oh well.
The thirteen diamonds in the title are a bridge hand, one that you will never see in real life. Mother was dealt such a hand once in a real bridge game, but it appears that her table mates conspired to fix the deck and gave her the hand when she stepped out of the room.
Gerald, the man who gets dealt this hand in the book, dies immediately afterward, and Lillian, who knows the odds against receiving a hand like this, becomes suspicious that Gerald was murdered. This launches her career as a detective.
I have always like puzzles and games. Geraldine Watson, my math teacher in seventh and eighth grades, used to put puzzles on the blackboard that we could solve on our own for fun. I have incorporated several puzzles into 13D, and poetic puzzles I made up in Catch a Falling Knife.
Lillian has three generations of descendants to assist her, a son, a granddaughter, and a great grandson named Winston, loosely based on my grandson, Matthew, who was very young at the time I wrote the books. If he appears to be precocious it’s because he is in real life. When he was five he knew more about the presidents that anybody I have ever known.
Thirteen Diamonds and Catch a Falling Knife were fun to write, and I’m glad to see that they’re still alive today thanks to the magic of e-books.