No mystery, she's a winner

Writer Annapolis author Marcia Talley takes home The Agatha and The Anthony awards for `Too Many Cooks.'

Arundel Live

October 30, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

To most of us, Edgar, Agatha and Anthony are colorful and evocative first names.

But to writers of "whodunits" - the murder-mystery novels and stories that captivate readers in search of puzzles and thrills - The Edgar, The Agatha and The Anthony comprise a Triple Crown of literary recognition.

Each is a prestigious award bestowed on a few select writers for their mastery of the murder-mystery genre.

When The Agatha (named for mystery writer par excellence, Dame Agatha Christie) and The Anthony (which honors long-time New York Times literary critic Anthony Boucher) announced their winners for 2002 earlier this year, the victor in the Best Short Story category for both awards was none other than Marcia Talley, Annapolis' chronicler of nefarious doings in and around Anne Arundel County.

The originator of the Hannah Ives mystery series, which follows the crime-solving career of an intrepid U.S. Naval Academy faculty wife, Talley won the prizes for her story, "Too Many Cooks," a witty reworking of Shakespeare's Macbeth from the perspective of the three witches.

"I do feel like a racehorse that's run a couple of legs of the Triple Crown, only not as sweaty," says Talley with her customary humor. "Actually, I'm tickled with the way things have gone lately."

As well she might be.

Talley learned quickly that there are advantages to being the people's choice in the mystery business - rewards that go beyond the teapot embossed with a skull and crossbones that she received for winning one of her prizes.

"People sometimes get snobby and scoff at awards," she says, "but after I won The Agatha, an editor quickly offered me a deal for three more Hannah books. So from where I sit, prizes like these are just fine."

The next Hannah mystery - the fourth in the series, and the first for her new publisher, Harper Collins/Morrow/Avon - is due out next fall. Its projected title is "An Untimely Frost," a phrase taken from Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, actually) a frequent source of inspiration for the author.

Talley also awaits the release of a collaborative serial, "I'd Kill for That," in which she's joined by 12 New York Times best-selling authors who each contributed a chapter to a story of murder in an exclusive gated community.

Famed "whodunit" writers Anne Perry and Katherine Neville are two of the contributing authors to the group effort, which will be published by St. Martin's Press.

For those who can't wait until 2004, Talley's latest short story, "Vital Signs," comes out in December in a collection of short stories by members of the Sisters in Crime's Chesapeake Chapter.

In May, another short story, "Miss Havisham Regrets," will appear in Death by Dickens, to be published by Berkley Prime Crime. As the title suggests, the story is inspired by the reclusive old woman who takes a shine to Pip, the hero of Charles Dickens' classic novel, Great Expectations.

With her propensity for turning out "whodunits" inspired by the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare, Talley has "dunit" again.

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