Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Disco Dead--Marcia Talley

DEBORAH CROMBIE: It is always a huge treat for me to host Marcia Talley, one of my oldest and dearest friends in the mystery world, and a new Hannah Ives novel is always a cause for celebration. Here's a snippet from just one of the glowing reviews for Disco Dead, her 19th Hannah Ives mystery:

“...As good as the puzzles in this series are, most readers probably don’t come to the Ives books for the mysteries—they come for the characters. Hannah is a perfectly drawn lead, a part-time crime solver who must juggle friends, family, and serious medical issues, along with all manner of everyday concerns. She may be an amateur sleuth, but she lives very much in the real world ... Some long-running series have their ups and downs, but the Ives series has been remarkably consistent.”— David Pitt for Booklist



Sitting down with a new Hannah is like sitting down with a friend you've missed for a cup of tea (or in our case, a glass of wine!) but you don't have to know Marcia, or to have read the previous books, to be instantly drawn in. 

Here's Marcia to tell you more!

Disco Dead (a tip of the hat here to Elaine Viets for the perfect title!) was supposed to be my pandemic novel, the one where Hannah, confined to her home by the Covid lockdown, becomes an armchair detective working on a cold case via the Internet with a small group of volunteers.  My agent and my publisher had other ideas, however. “Nobody wants to re-live the pandemic, Marcia … they want to escape it.”

Sigh.

The cold case idea had grabbed me, though, as had the idea of Hannah using the skills she’d developed over the past several novels as a genealogical researcher to solve a case. Like I did, Hannah started by researching her family tree and got sucked, big time, down the genealogical rabbit hole. In Disco Dead, she gets to dive even deeper.

It all begins innocently enough.

Perhaps I should let Hannah explain.  Here’s the conversation she has with her daughter in the parking lot outside Trader Joe’s:

Emily locked her car and insisted on escorting me to mine. As we crossed the parking lot, shopping cart clattering along the tarmac, she said, ‘So, what are you doing?’

‘You’ll mock.’

‘No, I won’t.’

‘I’m visiting cemeteries. Taking pictures of headstones.’

Emily frowned. ‘That’s seriously creepy, Mom.’

‘You wouldn’t believe how many people on GenTree are looking for photos of their ancestors’ headstones,’ I informed her. ‘I’ve gotten requests from as far away as Thailand.’

‘How . . .?’ Emily began, but I anticipated her question.

‘A while back, I signed up with FindAGrave.com.’ I slotted the shopping cart between my Volvo and a pickup truck, dug my iPhone out of my handbag and tapped the FindAGrave app. ‘Requests are sorted by zip code. You can choose to claim them or not. Look,’ I said, turning the screen in her direction. ‘Here’s the list of requests for the 21037 zip code I’m working with today.’

Emily shielded her eyes from the noonday sun and squinted at the tiny screen. ‘St Luke’s Cemetery I know, but where’s Bayview?’

‘Just off Central Avenue, down in Mayo.’

‘Honestly,’ Emily said after a moment. ‘Couldn’t you have a hobby like normal mothers. Scrapbooking? Candle making? You like to garden. Why don’t you take up bonsai?’

‘I knit,’ I protested.

‘You know what I mean.’

‘Don’t sell it short,’ I said. ‘I stroll around outside, get sun, fresh air and exercise. It’s quiet, nobody to bother you and nobody to talk to but dead people.’

Emily raised both hands, palms out. ‘And everybody always says I march to a different drummer.’

 ‘The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ I said, matching her cliché for cliché. ‘Wanna see how it works?’

When Emily nodded, I drew her attention to the app again, swiped a couple of screens forward. ‘I locate the headstone, take a picture and upload it to the database while I’m standing right there in the cemetery. It’s a slick piece of software.’

Emily studied the photo on my screen – a 1943 headstone for a woman who had lived to be 102 before ‘falling asleep in the arms of Jesus’ – then surprised me by laughing out loud. ‘It’s still weird, Mom.’

‘My good deeds for the day,’ I said.

Emily helped load groceries into the Volvo, then turned to go. ‘St Luke’s. Isn’t that where that famous general is buried?’

‘James Taylor Johnson,’ I said as I opened the driver’s side door and slid onto the seat. ‘Yes. Old Bloody Jim.’

‘Well, say hello to the good general for me, will you?’

‘Of course. But he won’t be saying much. He’s been dead for one hundred and sixty years.’

Usually on these expeditions, as Hannah says, there’s no one to talk to but the dead, until the day she encounters Isabel “Izzy” Randall laying flowers on the grave of Amy Madison, a St John’s College senior who died in 1978.  As a former investigative reporter for WBNF-TV in Baltimore, Izzy covered the case.  “Her murder was never solved,” Izzy tells Hannah, “and I can’t get it out of my mind.” It’s been more than forty years since Amy’s body was found floating in the Magothy River north of Annapolis, but Izzy never fails to bring flowers to Amy on her birthday.

Sitting at opposite ends of a memorial bench in the churchyard, Izzy fills Hannah in on the long-cold case. Amy had last been seen alive dancing with a young man at Doot’s, an Annapolis disco bar popular with college students and the under thirties crowd.  After a year-long investigation and few leads, the case went cold. “Nobody seems to care about Amy any more,” Izzy laments.

Following their initial meeting, a friendship develops between the two women which leads to Hannah being invited to join Silent Sleuths, where her online research skills compliment the background and experience of the other members of this small, but passionate group of “citizen detectives” who tackle unsolved “orphan” cases like Amy’s. Jack Shelton, a former Annapolis homicide detective, knows how to get his hands on police files, and Mark Wallis, a Navy chaplain, has a masters degree in criminal psychology.  It isn’t long before the Sleuths begin to suspect that Amy’s murder may have been the work of a serial killer.  Izzy’s intense personal interest in Amy’s case trumps the golden rule of armchair investigators:  never go “real life” by contacting victims’ families or any suspects. Naturally, Hannah  . . .

But that would be telling!

In spite of the serious subject matter, I enjoyed writing Disco Dead.  I’ve lived in Annapolis since 1971, so it was fun revisiting those early years when Annapolis was a little sleepier and less yuppified than it is today. Doot’s Bar is a product of my imagination, but other Annapolis restaurants, shops and institutions will be recognized by anyone familiar with the town.

I particularly enjoyed selecting appropriate titles for the chapters of Disco Dead, each being a popular disco song.  Dancing Queen, Mama Mia, Staying Alive were no-brainers, but there’s also this stroll down memory lane: Take a Chance on Me (ABBA), Where Do We Go From Here (The Trammps), I’m So Excited (The Pointer Sisters), Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel (Tavares) and Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life (Indeep), and several dozen others. Maybe you’ll start discoing and singing along! 


Marcia Talley is the Agatha and Anthony award-winning author of DISCO DEAD and eighteen previous novels featuring Maryland sleuth, Hannah Ives. She is editor/author of two collaborative serial novels, NAKED CAME THE PHOENIX and I’D KILL FOR THAT. Her short stories appear in more than a dozen collections.

Marcia is past-president of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and currently serves as president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She divides her time between Annapolis, MD and a quaint, Loyalist-style cottage on Elbow Cay in the Bahamas.

www.marciatalley.com

Twitter: marciatalleybks


DEBS: ABBA! Those songs instantly take me back to living in Scotland, where they always seemed to be playing on the radio. Now I think I need to rewatch Mama Mia... REDS and readers, who's a disco fan?

50 comments:

  1. A new Hannah Ives story is always a treat . . . congratulations, Marcia, on your newest book . . . .

    I’m a fan of disco music . . . does that count?

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  2. I'm a little to young to have been alive during the disco era, or at least paying attention to the music of the day. I don't know if I could listen to it for hours, but I enjoy it when I happen to hear a song.

    Congrats on the new book!

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  3. This sounds really fun. I look forward to reading it, and enjoyed the shout-out to FindAGrave, a site I use often. I had never thought before about the people who take the photographs. A great hook!

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  4. Congratulations, Marcia. I have some catching up to do on your series, but I think I'll have to jump to this one! I prowled old cemeteries with Sheila Connolly a couple of times, using FindaGrace. She claimed she could find an ancestor of hers in almost any New England cemetery - and I'm sure she was right.

    Ah, disco, how I love thee. I did a LOT of dancing to those songs back in the day.

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    1. Autocorrect! "FindaGrace" - grave, obviously, although I'm always happy to stumble across Grace Koshida. ;^)

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    2. Marcia here: During the pandemic, going out to local cemeteries to help others "see" their ancestors' tombstones was a real tonic for me. I'd sometimes take a picnic lunch and eat it out under the trees.

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  5. MARCIA: I have enjoyed reading your Hannah Ives series from the beginning.
    I agree with Hannah's daughter that looking up stranger gravestones is a bit weird but FindaGrave.com sounds like a neat resource which I have never heard of. Checking the website.

    As for disco, I was born in the late 1960s, so I was a bit too young to go disco dancing. But I do love ABBA!

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  6. Not a disco fan, but I love a good read so I'm off to find your books, Marcia. Congrats on your latest!

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  7. Congrats on your latest, Marcia! ABBA is one of my go tos when I can't pull out of a dark mood. Impossible to stay miserable with Dancing Queen playing. Looking forward to Disco Dead!

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    1. Jenn, when I was in London the BBC did a big special on ABBA, lots of early studio footage, etc. Those two women had the most gorgeous voices and amazing harmonies. I don't think they are appreciated enough.

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  8. Always a treat when a new Marcia Talley book comes out! Congratulations on another winner, Joyce W.

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  9. Disco was a little before my time, but the book sounds great, Marcia. My aunt sent me to various cemeteries in Pittsburgh to photograph headstones for her when she was researching her mother's family.

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  10. Cemeteries and disco... I'm already hooked. I was walking in Boston a few days ago and had to take a walk in the cemetery alongside the old town hall. Love those early stones.

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    1. AND waving, Marcia!! Congratulations on the new book. It sounds like the perfect POST pandemic (it is post, isn't it?) read.

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    2. I keep saying "post-pandemic", partly wishful thinking, partly to distinguish life now from the days of lockdown or barely venturing out.

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    3. Marcia here: I'd like to think it's "post." Certainly down here in Florida, nobody is wearing masks and it's life as usual ... although I heard on the news last night that the flu is running rampant in "the southeast U.S." Sigh.

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  11. Umm, no to disco in general, although, like Mark, I enjoy a random song or two. I'm not sure how I've missed this series, Marcia. Congrats on the new book--I'll be catching up with it as soon as I get my hands on the earlier books. I love the premise of this one--I've found some great family information using the FindAGrave website.

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    1. Marcia again: Yes, you can get a good bit of genealogical info from FindaAGrave, but there are also some big boo-boos there, too!

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  12. Not really a fan of disco music but Donna Summer's version of MacArthur Park always makes me laugh, mostly because of the Dave Barry book.

    My mother was a genealogist for a local history museum and one of the projects she worked on was going to various small and nearly forgotten little cemeteries to make an inventory of names there. She once asked me to go with her but I declined, so I definitely understand where Hannah's daughter was coming from.

    Looking forward to reading, Marcia!

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  13. What an intriguing summary, Marcia! And it sounds like I am WAY behind on this series. Time to catch up. What gave you the idea to look for gravestones? My youngest daughter has been working on genealogy lately, and I think taking photos might help her with the project.

    My divorce was final in March of 1974, the height of the disco era in Southwest Ohio. My girlfriends and I went dancing every week, sometimes twice, and that was my favorite exercise plan, ever. Donna Summers, the BeeGees, Gloria Gaynor, KC and the Sunshine Band, and later, ABBA. Cincinnati had a couple really fab disco places, some with light-up floors, a la Staying Alive. One of my best guy pals was my favorite partner. We were both tall (especially with my platform heels), and we were well-matched on the dance floor. Sadly, he was the first gay man to die of AIDS here in late 1981, and I still miss Terry and the fun we had. I can't think of disco without remembering him and his white ice cream suit.

    Nowadays, it's nearly impossible to find a place to dance, with or without a partner. That is too bad.

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    1. I never really moved in a disco set, but I think that would have been such fun. Sorry about your friend, Karen. Aids was such a terrible scourge in the 80s...

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    2. Marcia to Karen: I would pay extra to see you dancing in platform heels!!!

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    3. Thank you, Debs. We didn't really know for sure Terry was gay, although he lived with a man. We just never discussed it back then. A friend was a friend.

      Ha! Marcia, it would be worth paying for, too, since there would be some spectacular fall out of it!

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  14. Disco is my era. I’m putting this book on my goodreads list. We have used Findagrave a few times to locate baseball players graves, notably Daniel “Doc” Adams and also Doc Graham. I never really thought about people who put the photos and information on there. Now I am intrigued.

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    1. Marcia again. In our area, whole cemeteries have been cataloged and photographed by Eagle Scouts as community projects.

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  15. Marcia will be here to comment! She's on their boat, somewhere on the coast of Florida, after riding out Hurricane Nicole. She does not lead a dull life!

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    1. Marcia see: And here I am, indeed! Just got back from picking up a rental car and doing a HUGE grocery shop. I'm feeding my husband and his sailing buddy, Paul, who has been sailing with us since Nov. 1. Hanging out in Fort Pierce, FL until the weather window opens up that will allow us to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

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  16. Marcia, I can throw myself into this novel! I didn’t want to stop reading when I came to the end of the excerpt here. Your books have been on my radar for a long time, and it’s about time I started reading them. I love Annapolis. One sister and brother-in-law lived there for a couple of years when they were first married in the 1970s. I enjoyed visiting them there. They lived right on the edge of the naval academy campus. My brother-in-law had returned to college at St John’s, right after they were married, after taking a couple of years off to travel. They came back to Connecticut after he graduated.

    Your books are being moved to the top of my list!

    DebRo

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    1. Deb, you will LOVE Marcia's books!! I'd dive in with this one, then you can go back and pick up earlier books.

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    2. Marcia asks: Deb, what is your BIL's name? I worked at St John's College library (head cataloger) from 1971-1981. I might have known him!

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  17. This sounds absolutely great! I love how you weave such a serious subject in with the fun of disco! Oh yes, disco, marvelous! Lots of fun times, and lots of music that is still irresistible – – brilliant of you! And doing the song research must have been so much fun!

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  18. This sounds like a fabulous book. I'm hooked!

    Disco was big when I lived in NYC - I can do three different kinds of Hustle, thank you very much. Make that could do - no idea if the muscle memory stuck! The closest I get these days is certifying for my CPR classes to the tune of Stayin' Alive!

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  19. Marcia, Welcome to Jungle Reds! I remember meeting you at my first Malice Domestic mystery conference in 2016.

    Your new novel sounds interesting! I have been looking at FindMyGrave too for my ancestors. Found out that my great grandfather died in 1950 and my great grandmother died in 1960!

    Once I visited Annapolis with friends and I remember the cobblestone streets and an Italian ? restaurant called Pasta Moon.

    Not really a fan of Disco.

    Diana

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  20. I was never really into disco but some good songs did come out of that era. And ABBA is always happy music. The song with memories is the Village People's YMCA. That song came up at weddings, new year's eve parties, ball games, you name it. I still remember a friend dancing to it, flailing his arms around, yelling "I can't spell!" Congratulations on your new book, Marcia.

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    1. Marcia here, agreeing 100%. How can you not smile at ABBA songs! That's what makes the movie, Mama Mia, so much fun--other than watching Colin Firth trying (and failing) to disco!!

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  21. OH My Goodness! I am ordering this book for my daughter in law and myself! We love visiting cemeteries and looking at the headstones. The beauty and calm I find there is wonderful. My 5 boys still ask if I am going to make them take Christmas pictures in a graveyard again...They though I was weird! I loved it!

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    1. Marcia sez: I like your style!!

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  22. Well, hello, all. My browser is giving me fits today, so I guess I'll just have to be "Anonymous". But, I'm Marcia, and I'm sooo happy to be here with you.

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  23. Marcia is off to a well-deserved lunch at a restaurant, but will be back immediately afterwards!

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  24. This book sounds delightful! I am usually one to always start a series at the beginning, but I may just make an exception and jump in here.

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    1. Marcia says: Please do! I try hard to make each book stand alone, even though there is an overall story arc from Sing it to Her Bones to Disco Desd.

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  25. Congrats on your release, Marcia! Don't particularly miss Disco, but I've had good times.

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  26. Find a Grave, Cemeteries, Silent Sleuths, Songs I Loved as Chapter Titles! Marcia, you have my attention. Disco Dead seems to have it all. Although I would prefer to start a series at the beginning, I've broken that rule several times already, and your book is a perfect reason to break it again. Now like Debs, I need to watch Mama Mia again. I don't consider myself a disco fan, but I sure do like the songs, so maybe I am.

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    1. Kathy, you will love these books! But I would jump in with this one--it works really well as a standalone.

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    2. Marcia agrees with Debs. LOL.

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  27. Marcia says: Mama Mia is a hoot!

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  28. Congratulations, Marcia! Hannah sounds fascinating, and I've studied old graves, though I can't say I joined an online group, but I'm sure it's leading her somewhere "beyond the grave."

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  29. congrats Marcia! This sounds like a wonderful premise!

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