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Interview: Parnell Hall by Gayle Surrette / Joseph B. Hoyos
Gumshoe Review *Interview  ISBN/ITEM#: INTParnellHall
Date: 03 May 2011

Links: Author's Website / Author's Wikipedia Entry / Author Bio on MWA /

Parnell Hall is a multifaceted person writing books, songs, and plays. In each case the characters are just shy of climbing off the page they seem so real (and while his characters are interesting in books I doubt they'd be good houseguests-- what with bodies turning up everywhere).

Our reviewer enjoyed his latest book, The KenKen Killings and we requested an interview. Luckily, Mr. Hall was kind enough to oblige us.

Gumshoe: Many fans compare Cora Felton to Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher. Was there any particular character, factual or fictional, on which you based Cora Felton -- either in whole or part? How about Melvin?

Parnell Hall: Much as I hate to disappoint the hordes of white-haired, sweet-faced, grandmotherly type pretenders of crossword puzzle expertise lining up to sue me for portraying them in my books, the Puzzle Lady is a figment of my imagination. However, she has been described in reviews as "Miss Marple on steroids," - Booklist, and "Groucho Marx meets Jessica Fletcher" - Romantic Times, so such comparisons are apt.

Melvin was created entirely by Cora. After listening to her babbling about him for nearly a dozen books, I had to let him appear. I had so much fun with him, he's back in the next book.

Gumshoe: With your songs and actually attending a crossword puzzle tournament, I know that you have background in puzzles. Did your interest come before or after the start of the series? What prompted the series for you?

Parnell: I hadn't solved crossword puzzles in over twenty years, and then it was only an occasional Sunday puzzle. But after 13 Stanley Hastings private eye books set in New York City, I wanted something entirely different. A little old lady from a small town in Connecticut who had a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle column and solved crime on the side was just the ticket.

I had fun making her a total fraud. Cora is the Milli Vanilli of the crossword puzzle community, who couldn't solve a crossword if her life depended on it. She's also been married so many times she can't recall how many husbands she's actually had, after all there's a gray area, do you cont the annulments? Melvin, her least favorite husband, taught her to shoot, and she carries a gun in her purse. Gumshoe: Did you model the fictional Bakerhaven after an actual town in Connecticut? Or is it an idealized small town you'd like to live in barring the number of deaths of the residents and visitors of a suspicious nature?

Parnell: Bakerhaven is as fictitious as Cora, but it's not unlike any small, western Connecticut town littered with corpses bearing crossword, sudoku, and KenKen puzzles. Gumshoe: What can you tell us about your next project or projects? Will the next installment in the Puzzle Lady Mystery series deal with KenKen puzzles or a different type of puzzle?

Parnell: Next up for the Puzzle Lady is $10,000 In Small, Unmarked Puzzles. It features crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles created for the book by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz. It also features the birth of a baby, and the return of Melvin.

My private eye, Stanley Hastings, has nine books on Kindle and Nook for $2.99. And my attorney Steve Winslow has five books on Kindle for $2.99. A sixth, unpublished Steve Winslow novel, The Innocent Woman, is coming to Kindle soon.

Check out my video, King of Kindle, on YouTube:

Gumshoe: Our readers often want to know what author's lives are like. What would an average day of writing be like for you?

Parnell: I dictate my book into a microcassette, then type them into a computer. I get up, walk Nellie, my Portuguese water dog, in Riverside park for an hour or so (before 9:00AM they're allowed to run off leash--Nellie's a one-year-old puppy, and runs a lot). Then, if the car's on the bad side, I move it by 9:30 for the alternate side parking regulations. By 10:30 I move if back and sit in it until 11:00 so I don't get a ticket. I dictate in the morning, type up what I've got in the afternoon. Depending on the weather, I take Nellie to the dog run and dictate while she plays.

Gumshoe: Thanks for your time.

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