Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Diane Gilbert Madsen: History and Mystery

To some, history is just a dry compilation of names and dates. But for Diane Gilbert Madsen, history is alive with fascinating mysteries just waiting to be solved by the right detective. So Madsen decided to create one: DD McGil, a sassy insurance investigator with a penchant for literature, statistics and anything Scottish and an intense dislike for her real name (Daphne December).  DD is the signature character in the DD McGil Literati Mysteries, a unique series of whodunits. 

Madsen, a Chicago native, has always been a mystery buff. She grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and the works of Agatha Christie and John Dixon Carr. But after earning her master’s degree in English literature, Madsen decided to pursue a career in business.  Even while she served as the Director of Economic Development for the State of Illinois, the desire to write was always in the back of her mind. She wrote a murder mystery about art smuggling, but it was never published. So when she and her husband, Tom, sold their consulting business and moved to Placida, a rural town in Southwest Florida, Madsen decided to write something different. She had always loved researching obscure, interesting incidents in the lives of famous writers, and she decided to use these as the basis for a series of mystery stories. “When I decided I could combine historical incidents with a mystery, I knew I was on to something,” she recalls. 

After Hurricane Charley, Diane helped her husband Tom run their Association Management business in Boca Grande where many structures had been damaged.  She eventually completed A Cadger’s Curse, a novel that merges the life of Robert Burns with present-day counterfeiting and murder. Madsen, a member of the clan Buchanan, has always been fascinated by the iconic Scottish poet.  A Cadger’s Curse is based on a controversial poem Burns etched onto the window of a Scottish inn. He later had to return and break the glass to avoid being accused of treason.  In Madsen’s book, the fragments come into the possession of DD’s eccentric aunt, setting the stage for robbery, intrigue, and murder. A Cadger’s Curse was praised by Publisher’s Weekly as a “promising debut , the first in a new cozy series , (that) introduces DD McGil, a 38-year-old freelance insurance investigator and former English professor who's a whiz at breaking and entering. Well-drawn characters and a suspenseful plot will leave readers looking forward to the next installment.”

 A Cadger’s Curse was soon followed by Hunting for Hemingway which debuted at the Hemingway Museum in the writer’s boyhood home of Oak Park and won an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Fiction Awards at the New York Book Festival.  Hunting for Hemingway centers around an incident that may have ended Hemingway’s first marriage. The writer’s young wife was on her way to meet him in Switzerland, carrying a valise containing the original and carbon copies of his short stories and the beginning of a novel that he’d been working on for over two years. The valise was stolen in a train station, and Hemingway never got over the loss.  In Hunting for Hemingway, the valise turns up in modern-day Chicago. “This book involved a lot of research, which I love doing,” Madsen says. “Everything up to the point where the stories show up is factual. I also had to research the complexities that arise once a lost manuscript is found.”  Library Journal calls Hunting for Hemingway “…humorous … breezy and fast paced.” Booklist said it is “… sexy and fun, a combination of not-too-gritty, hard-boiled detective novel and cozy mystery infused with neat little bits of Hemingway lore.”   And Madsen definitely enjoyed the reviewer in The Hemingway Review who said:   “I suspect Ernest Hemingway’d have gotten a kick out of DD McGil.”  Getting into the real spirit of the story, Madsen even wrote an article on the Corona Number 3 typewriter Hemingway used to write his lost stories. The article was published in Mystery Scene Magazine.

The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper is the third Literati Mystery.  It is due out shortly and deals with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and what he might have uncovered about the identity of Jack the Ripper, the world’s most famous criminal.  

When Madsen is not watching sports, observing the wildlife from her Twin Ponds home, or helping her husband rebuild his vintage Corvette, she’s hard at work on her fourth Literati mystery, The Cardboard Palace, in which a stolen Jane Austen manuscript at an exclusive Women’s Club leads to murder and the discovery of an explosive revelation.  

             Madsen describes the DD  McGil Literati novels as “fast-paced and witty, combining true incidents in the history of famous authors with modern-day mysteries.”    She hopes her books will not only entertain but will also generate interest in the history of famous authors. “History is people,” she explains, “and I love illuminating a bit of its personality."
            For more about Diane Gilbert Madsen, visit her website at http://www.dianegilbertmadsen.com/

Next: Joanne Lewis - Alchemy and Self-Publishing

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