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Empty seats a mystery

July 20, 2004

Sue Clark

I couldn't wait. I was taking advantage of the chance to see three

women of mystery and check out a few books besides. I felt like a

double winner, and was grateful to the board of the Newport Beach

Public Library for giving me this opportunity.

My friends, Eva and Rachel, joined me in the Friends Meeting Room

last Thursday and paused over the large piles of murder mysteries

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available for sale. I'd read all but one of Barbara Seranella's

"Munch Mancini" series, and had brought her latest one for an

autograph. We'd also read all of the Eve Diamond series by Los

Angeles Times reporter Denise Hamilton and were awaiting her next.

Patricia Guiver was a bit more of a puzzle (no pun intended). The

ever-organized Eva had found me one of Guiver's "Delilah Doolittle"

series books, and assigned it to me as pre-event reading. This

character and author were new to me, but the tale of Delilah, the

original pet detective, was a fun, fast read. (Jim Carrey's Ace

Ventura character came along well after Guiver's books initiated this

theme.)

We checked out the three authors seated on the stage. I focused on

Barbara Seranella because her life had been so interesting. Barbara's

bio on her book jackets tells of her running away at 14 and joining a hippie commune and some outlaw motorcycle gangs. Her protagonist,

Munch, has had a similar past, and is in recovery from heroin

addiction. And, like the author, Munch becomes an auto mechanic.

I noticed Seranella looking briefly at me and so took a chance to

glance at her, too. I hoped she was remembering the last time I'd

asked her to autograph one of her books for me. It had come at the

end of a personally tough year for me, and I'd told her about it. She

had been supportive and very down-to-earth. (Turns out she didn't

remember that time, so maybe she was merely scanning the crowd to use

aspects of the audience for new characters.)

The organizers of the event began asking the three authors

questions about their mysteries, the characters and, thrilling for

me, how they actually got the books written. The audience also got

the chance to ask questions, so, never shy, I waved my hand.

"This comment is for Denise and Barbara," I said. "I have worked

with Denise's parachute generation (Asian teens sent to America

without their families). I currently deal with types of at-risk teens

described by Barbara. You got each type of teen perfectly." At this,

Hamilton and Seranella nodded and smiled their thanks.

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