Today’s guest on the Mystery November Book Tour is Margaret Langstaff with her book Marlin, Darlin’
Where is your home town?
You ask about my current home town. Well, I have lived on a lovely small farm just west of Gainesville, FL since 2002. Lots of wonderfully crazy animals, both domestic and wild. Six rescue dogs, horses and chickens and wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, red tail hawks, you name it. We have a high old time here. I love it. Every day has its surprises. One morning I had a lost Emu show up at my front door! My dogs went bonkers—it made an electrical jazzy noise—but that’s nothing, don’t get me started. Snakes on my front doorstep, bugs the size of drones. Florida in many areas is still really wild and my little farm is a perfect example.
How long have you been writing?
Though I’d ghost-written many books for public figures and celebrities already, Marlin, Darlin’ is the first novel I wrote under my own name. It’s got a lot of “me” in it, much disguised personal history and experiences (as crazy and whacko as they are!). Writing it was quite a release for me and it still remains my most popular book. It is the first title in the “Garnet Sullivan Live from Florida” mystery series. (The second—just two so far—is The Devil, the Diva and the Deep Blue Sea).
When it came out it was named #3 on the top ten mysteries for the month by Goodreads. Made my heart sing! Blew me away! My first novel! No way!
What is your favourite sub-genre of mystery?
My favorite sub-genres of mystery are the wild rollicking funny Florida mysteries such as those written by Carl Hiassen, mysteries that turn on the natural whacko behavior of many Floridians, behavior that is sometimes bizarre, wrong-headed and hysterical, but nevertheless contains its own inner logic and is true to the time and place. But I also am a fan of “cozies” and I think Marlin, Darlin’ contains blended elements of both.
Where is Marlin, Darlin’ set?
Punta Bella, the setting for my mysteries, is fictional (but an accurate depiction) small town Florida, and as strange as they may be, people there are good neighbors, kind and courteous. It’s very similar to my original home town and where I grew up, an island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian River Lagoon on the other. A beautiful place off the beaten path. And true to say, I didn’t have to “stretch” the truth much about anything in these mysteries to write them!
But anyway, as I said, Marlin, Darlin’ is set in the fictional tiny “boondock” (backwater, rural) town of Punta Bella on the east coast of Florida. This is the area in which I grew up, and the mystery is saturated with much local color and ambience and bears the marks of the many wild experiences I had personally during that time. My childhood there was an idyll, full of blue skies and sunshine, not a care in the world other than deciding what we wanted to do next for fun. Florida had not been overrun by developers at that point; it was pristine and lushly wonderful and beautiful, unspoiled. I and my friends went barefoot everywhere, lived in our bathing suits and were in the water—ocean or river—most of the time, fishing, swimming, boating, camping out on islands just off the mainland and generally carousing around in an innocent way. Most of our parents were busy professionals and were very indulgent with us.
Introduce us to Garnet Sullivan.
Marlin, Darlin’ features as its heroine one Garnet Sullivan, someone who bears a faint resemblance to me as I was as a very young woman just out of college and casting about for her life’s “mission,” somewhat too serious in her desire to right all wrongs and “save the world.” She is a feisty nosey red head, poking her nose into everybody’s business, annoyingly offering opinions where none had been solicited, and a true blue die-hard dog lover. In her zeal, she is just as wild and crazy as I was at that point in my life, actually perhaps more so (wink).
She is a perpetually cash strapped freelance reporter for a local small town newspaper and, to make ends meet, teaches adult ed dullards at the local community college for a pittance.
So Garnet is typically busier than a one-armed wall paper hanger what with her duties at the newspaper, racing back and forth to classes, grading hopeless student papers, trying to keep Chester on the straight and narrow and, of course, “saving the world!” It’s a heavy burden and her customary state is “frazzled” and outraged at some real or imagined moral lapse or petty crime. The poor thing is always just a few inches away from a nervous breakdown, what with all she has taken on.
It is a bit ridiculous (something currently lost on her), for Punta Bella is, after all, not the center of the universe, and its short-comings and the minor transgressions of its citizens are not likely to spell the end of Western Civilization.
What mystery does she set out to solve?
The mystery at the core of the novel is the peculiar inexplicable death of billionaire car dealer David Devaigne—alone—on his massive yacht in a Marlin fishing tournament.
Garnet smells blood (a great story) and the unwinding of the ensuing complicated plot has teased and delighted most readers.
BTW, Garnet’s best friend and bunkie is Ringo, her beloved Irish Setter—and gasp—he disappears unaccountably in this maelstrom of wackiness. Kidnapped by a malefactor? Maybe ….
Tell us about some of the other flamboyant characters.
The love of Garnet’s life is Chester Dare, the handsome witty county public defender, a natural match for her, quite in keeping with her self-righteous “Joan of Arc” complex. But Chester has become afflicted with a job related drinking problem due to his stress over his usual hopeless derelict clients and this causes Garnet a lot of concern and sleepless nights.
Woe is she. She has a big heart for the less fortunate, will go to the ramparts for any desperate case and is in a constant state of agitation as a result (so many desperate cases!).
The mystery at the core of the novel is the peculiar inexplicable death of billionaire car dealer David Devaigne—alone—on his massive yacht in a Marlin fishing tournament in the Atlantic.
Garnet smells blood (a great story for the paper) and the unwinding of the ensuing complicated plot has teased and delighted most readers.
BTW, Garnet’s best friend and bunkie is Ringo, her beloved ever-slobbering Irish Setter—and gasp—he disappears unaccountably one night in this maelstrom of wackiness while Garnet is in the thick of researching the murder. Kidnapped by a malefactor? Maybe …. (Confession time: I had myself a wonderful Irish setter named “Ringo” and he lives on frolicking and creating chaos in my Florida mystery books. It’s sort of my way of keeping him with me now that he’s gone.)
So many other key nutzo characters contribute to a devil of a plot (most readers have no clue until the final paragraphs of how it will end). Here are a few:
Julie Devaigne, society vamp from Miami and the gold digger wife of David Devavaigne who is trying to divorce him when he is killed in the fishing tournament;
Randy, the limp witless reporter the Miami Herald sends up to Punta Bella cover the breaking murder story and who causes more problems for Garnet than creating solutions and nearly dies of plutonium (!) poisoning;
Garnet’s crazy pathetic community college students (she teaches on the side to make ends meet), especially Jim and his ditzy girlfriend Bunny, both of whom work at Travis Fenderman’s car dealership which David Devaigne is trying to buy when he is killed;
Allison Highsmith, Garnet’s “Miss Perfect” rich society BFF who gets sucked into the chaos trying to save Ringo;
Lance, the hunky, gorgeous airhead sheriff who suddenly becomes enamored of Garnet for her admirable zeal to solve the crime and whose sudden blind devotion to her creates all kinds of difficulties;
There are so many more hapless malefactors, goofy kindly do gooders and true to (Florida) life nutcases, all colorful and off the wall, too many to mention, but it all coalesces nicely thanks to—
Professor Biederman, a dotty retired professor emeritus at the University of Florida whom Garnet seeks out for “expert” counsel and from whom she eventually gets way more than she bargained for!
I have only mentioned half of the colorful key characters in this demon of a plot.
The story romps through some of Florida’s backwaters, but what is a boondock?
Marlin, Darlin’ is set in the fictional tiny “boondock” (backwater, rural) town of Punta Bella on the east coast of Florida around the Indian River Lagoon and close to the Atlantic Ocean.
You mention dog lovers will like the book too, tell us about the dog element.
The book is authentic Floridiana, you can feel the sand in your toes and hear the waves on the beach (as many reviewers have said); it could keep you up all night and it will make you laugh (to which the reviews on Amazon also attest).
It’s a sweet love story and dog story all wrapped up in a sinister murder mystery. Check the reviews! With very little promo this book has gotten its share of fans.
I do hope you read it and enjoy it—most who have read it have found it laugh out loud funny and surprising—and if you do read it, please let me hear from you!
Hot tip: There’s a third Garnet mystery in the works … so stay tuned.
Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Goodreads and my Amazon author page, should you be interested.
Margaret is a former publishing exec (Random House, Doubleday), her work has appeared in the L.A. Times, L.A. Times Book Review, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly and the Baltimore Sun
She has also been a ghost writer for public figures and celebrities for many years before I penning her first novel.
I want to thank you, darling Rosie Amber, for giving me this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite books. It’s been great fun and you are a treasure and an angel to authors! I would love to hear from readers of your wonderful blog, and would be delighted to answer any questions they may have or just chat about books and the writing life!
Tour News: ebook discounted 50% to $2.99 Limited time only
Us Readers only: signed copies of the paperback are also available for $5.00 plus $3.99 shipping from “Forever Rare Books” on Amazon (60% off regular price)