Who is Sophie George?
When my mother-in-law moved from her Florida waterfront home to a new condo village set around a man-made pond, she inadvertently opened us to a panorama of life stories, triumphs and failures, observations of world events, new hopes and fears. It is from the so-called “golden years” that I mined six stories. Without her ever knowing, I employed her as my fictional sleuth.
Sally Dahood was a very smart woman, despite the fact the economy of the 1930s kept her from formal education. She was self-taught, a hard worker and shrewd investor, and a good advisor to her husband, sons, and friends.
During this period we witnessed the aging and dying of several family elders. We began to discover the complexities of aging. Sophie George is a character invented to observe a multitude of choices people make when they are faced with diminishing resources, physical, emotional, and financial – and the relationships they have with their children.
I have read hundreds of mystery novels in my lifetime. I know they should have policemen in them, and a reliable amount of factual detail. Captain Rueben Samuels was created to supply the practical side of sleuthing (and thank goodness for the World Wide Web)! He brings into the mix contrasting gender attitudes in their generation and ambivalence about late life romantic attachments.
My intent in writing the Sophie and Sam mystery novels has been to weave a subtext of life review and lessons for aging into the fabric of popular entertainment. Their adventures explore many real life scenarios. This website was built to stimulate conversations about them. We have proposed book discussion questions. Another page contains a living dialogue on elder issues, including expert advice (not my own).
After reading SOPHIE REDESIGNED, watch for WINDOW BY THE POND, THRIFT SHOP, GIPSIES, TROUT SNUGGLES, and HOUSE ON FIRE.
SYNOPSES AND UPDATES
A librarian finds her retirement career. Sophie George has formed a relationship with a police detective by helping him with research on the Internet. When she becomes available as a free lance researcher, he reluctantly agrees to promote her to investigator, but only because she finds a body in her backyard. Her job is to look into connections this solitary neighbor might have had with other neighbors. She quickly turns her eagle eye to a lonely woman who had just told her that two men offered to pay her for reporting comings and goings at the home of the man now dead. When Debra suddenly disappears, but remains in touch with Sophie by phone, the motives for her behavior as well as the killing become related in Sophie’s mind — but not in Sam’s. He goes on in his bureaucratic way to look into the dead man’s mafia connections. She convinces him that pigeons and religion matter in this case, and together they uncover a killing corporation. They also discover they have a fondness for one another.
Published by Outskirts Press, Inc. March 2010. Available from the press , B&N, or Amazon (PB $14.95 or less, Kindle $5).
Window By the Pond
Visiting Bok Tower Gardens in central Florida, Sophie wakes up from a nap in the presence of an engaging stranger, the widowed Harold Garber, who is visiting his just-divorced daughter, Gretchen. An hour later Sophie sees him taken from the park in handcuffs, the only suspect in a murder investigation led by a tough-sounding but soft-hearted Sgt. James Will. Sophie goes to the rescue of both, and finds herself up to her ears in trouble: evading her son Robin’s worried phone calls and Captain Samuels’ warnings; chasing down real estate scams; meeting villains in disguise; and trying to sort out three separate kidnappings, including her own. We discover some of Sam’s secrets in this novel and are left wondering why so many men are dependent upon women to organize their lives.
READY FOR E-PUBLICATION.
Sophie’s sister Minnie, who lives in a high-rise retirement complex in Mabel Beach, on the Atlantic side of Florida, calls for her help. Both the laundry deliveryman and an aloof retiree in Serenity Towers, Building B have been murdered by stabbing on the same day. The entire place is in an uproar and residents are scared. Sophie gets Captain Rueben Samuels’ help to untangle the mess, which seems to involve a marble-playing group of young boys.
Oddly, Minnie also has found a vintage compact in a carved out Italian dictionary in the thrift shop where she volunteers. Sophie pries it open and a fresh white powder flies out. The police identify it as “meth.” Meanwhile, a neighbor with dementia is stealing small items from the residents and then returning them. She ends up in the infirmary where her dementia mysteriously clears up. Thus begins the search for one or many culprits and the reasons things are going awry in this historically safe paradise.
READY FOR E-PUBLICATION.
Sophie joins her son Robin and his new wife Anita in London. The young couple plans to go on a canal trip with Alison and David Harlowe, while Sophie enjoys the comforts of the Harlowe home on Hampstead Heath. The plan changes abruptly when an elderly female peace activist, living two doors down, is murdered. Lady Peckham-Greene was a mentor to David’s sister Pamela, who has been missing for two years, after leaving Oxford University and moving to an American commune. Ramona, a Gypsy friend of Pamela’s has been accused of the murder and tries to hang herself in jail. Sophie’s instinct tells her it is important to track down the missing Pamela.
Exiled to Oxford with Alison’s family of eccentric academics, she meets Hanny Hinton, a charming mathematician, who agrees to help her learn more about Pamela’s university years. From the moment she steps foot in Pamela’s former residence on Mount Square, Sophie’s life is constantly under threat. A speeding car barely misses her as she crosses the street, and a grinning bicyclist storms toward her on a canal towpath. On the shortcut through Port Meadow she is attacked by dogs and wakes up, wrists and ankles bound, on a canal boat with the maniacal bicycle rider. Time to listen and put the pieces together, and a chance rescue by a night bird watcher, allow Sophie to slip back to the Harlowes’ London house alone. While she is discovering family secrets in the attic, Hanny and David Brown bump into family scandals in Oxford. It isn’t until Sophie visits the Gypsy girl in jail and Lydia Peckham-Greene’s housekeeper, “Meek,” at her home that she begins to perceive motives, deceit, and is able to point the police in the right directions.
IN FINAL EDITING.
With Sam tending to his ex-wife, who is dying of Alzheimer’s Disease in their daughter’s home, Sophie accepts an invitation to visit Scotland and the family home of the Glaswegian whose lap she fell into on a tube train in GIPSIES. Donald McLachlan seems to be interested in romance, and she finds him attractive. Then Donald’s housekeeper is found dead at the bottom of a ravine, and someone shoots his ghillie when he is scouting salmon. At the housekeeper’s wake, she hears that Donald has a wife tucked away in a nursing home, and he suddenly looks like trouble. Sophie lets her host think she has been called home, then secretly visits the wife and finds out she, not Donald, owns the castle, that their marriage was “open,” and that the paternity of the heir to the estate is in question. Sophie also suspects the doctor is slowly killing his patient, and believes the laird may be involved. Sam arrives as soon as he understands that both Donald’s wife and Sophie have very good reasons to be frightened.
WAITING FOR AUTHOR’S ATTENTION.
House on Fire
Sam breaks dates he made with Sophie for the holidays. Feeling abandoned, she answers the distress call of a friend living in Tucson. Joan Humboldt’s third husband, Harvey, an anthropologist, has not returned from a birding trip to Mexico. Sophie finds the former tennis champion physically disabled, out of money, and trying not to be frightened. After spotting a young woman hastily leaving Joan’s guest house, Sophie begins to search for clues to the professor’s secretive professional life. Then his research assistant is found dead, probably theft-related. Joan still holds their annual Twelfth Night party making excuses for Harvey’s absence. This gives Sophie the chance to meet his colleagues. When Joan falls into an old well on her property (or is pushed), Sophie buries her pride to ask her wayward partner to come to Tucson and help her trace Harvey’s activities across the border. They find him in serious trouble, but must abandon their investigation when they learn Joan’s house has been burned nearly to the ground. Soon Sophie finds out who the girl in the guest house is, identifies the true villains, and meets an unexpected cowboy hero. While the younger characters struggle to find new beginnings, their elders are trying to make their last years bearable, and Sophie and Sam’s partnership gains new momentum.
NEEDS FINAL EDIT.
- PROGRESS REPORT. Most readers of SOPHIE REDESIGNED have enjoyed it. I am continuing to work on the series as the publishing industry works out its future. Since the 2009 Tony Hillerman Mystery Writers Conference painted such a bleak picture for new authors, I have not even promoted my books to agents. Instead I have engaged a publicist, which has resulted in more reviews and a couple of radio interviews. I believe in what I am doing — but also aware of what other people are doing that is worthy – or not. I review for www.bookpleasures.com to see what’s out there and get my name attached to a reputable book blog site. I keep up the self-publishing game by subscribing to newsletters. I believe the readers for whom my work is intended — retired at least five years — are growing in numbers. So I will wait until the time seems right. At the very least, these will be available in e-format.
- One focal point of development is the relationship Sophie and Sam have, and whether or not it is more personal than they had intended — and what to do about it. I think there is a great deal of ambivalence about late life romance, and that we as a society are going to have to counsel families on how to handle it. We all need intimacy, a sense of self-worth, and the healing power of physical touch.