Sunday, January 11, 2009

Introducing - - Ta DA! Pat Browning

Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and taught high school English before moving to California.

She was a longtime resident of the San Joaquin Valley before returning to her native Oklahoma.

Ms. Browning is a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1980s, her travel articles bore such exotic datelines as Tangier, Bombay, Budapest, Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Shanghai.

In the 1990s, Browning signed on full time as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel. While at the Enterprise, her lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. She was also a finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the
Japanese-American "Yankee Samurais" of WorId War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.

ABSINTHE OF MALICE is a reissue of FULL CIRCLE (published in 2001), and introduces the Penny Mackenzie mystery series. Browning is currently at work on the second book in the series.

By Pat Browning

Agatha Raisin is Miss Marple in a garter belt. She’s feeling arthritic twinges that make her think of a hip replacement, but in LOVE, LIES AND LIQUOR (2006) she’s wearing flimsy knickers “in the hope of a hot date.”

What’s going on here? Forget that nonsense about 70 being the new 50 and 60 being the new 40. Sixty is what it is, and so is 70.

What’s going on is that some of our female amateur sleuths are getting older, if not always slower. M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin hasn’t mellowed a whit. She’s dealing with murder, jewel thievery and romantic entanglements when her hip starts to hurt. For a moment she feels old and sick. But not too old or sick to face someone holding a gun and snarl, “Fry in hell, you bastard.”

Agatha’s polar opposite is the 70-something Charlotte Graham of Stefanie Matteson’s 10-book series. A retired but still glamorous actress, Charlotte is aging gracefully and philosophically. In MURDER UNDER THE PALMS (1997) she’s visiting friends in Palm Beach when fate reunites her with a man she fell in love with more than 50 years earlier.

Their shipboard romance had lasted four days. He went on to become a famous bandleader. They find the old attraction is still there and it’s easy to pick up where they left off.

Quoting: “She had reached the point in life where now was what mattered. Because the next day, the next week, the next year, either or both of them might not be around. Maybe this was what Ponce de Leon had discovered when he’d come to Florida seeking the fountain of youth … (T)hat only by coming to terms with death can you really find life.”

Charlotte and her old flame work together to solve a couple of murders and a mystery dating back to World War II.

In DEAD MAN’S ISLAND (1993) Carolyn Hart introduced her 70-something sleuth, Henrie O, who is more cosmopolitan than Agatha Raisin, more driven than Charlotte Graham. Henrie O has “dark eyes that have seen much and remembered much …” She is, in the best old-fashioned sense of the word, a dame. Think Lauren Bacall.

When the TV movie of DEAD MAN’S ISLAND was cast in 1996, the top roles went to Barbara Eden and William Shatner. Now, Eden is cute and perky; Shatner is a good old boy; but really … Henrie O, a former foreign correspondent, and her first love, publishing tycoon Chase Prescott, are right out of an Agatha Christie novel or a dark 1940s movie.

Henrie O’s description of their meeting 40 years after the end of the affair:
“He still moved with that commanding grace, the easy, confident, predatory swagger of a panther – beautiful, dark, fascinating, and infinitely dangerous …

“I knew what he saw. A slender, intense woman whose fire for life has not been quenched, a woman who still loves to laugh but who knows the world is bathed in tears.”

These two attractive senior citizens are at the heart of a ripping good murder mystery, set on a remote island off the South Carolina coast – with a hurricane on the way. Hart really piles it on, and adds a couple of neat twists at the end.

There are other female sleuths on the shady side of 60, but these are three of my favorites. They seem to age in real time without turning into cartoons. They’re still the women they’ve always been, they’re just getting older, right along with the rest of the population.

In fact, coming on strong are the baby boomers, hovering between middle age and seniority. One example is my own character, Penny Mackenzie, who’s staring down 50. In my work-in-rogress Penny catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and wonders: “When did I stop looking like Audrey Hepburn? What’s next? Hot flashes? Chin whiskers?”

What’s next is a shower and a hot night in the sack, but this is about cozies. We take you only so far, then slam the bedroom door.

Cue Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs … “Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw ...
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw … WOO-LY BUL-LY, WOO-LY BUL-LY …”


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Mornin' Pat!!

Woman. You have been everywhere, and done so many interesting things. All these wonderful things have to be a little bonus for you in your writing (which I love!), I would think.

I have not read ABSINTHE OF MALICE yet, but did read it during its first life as FULL CIRCLE. As a matter of fact, it was on my Top Reads list at DorothyL last year. Can't wait for book #2!!!

Thanks for agreeing to be our first guest at M&M. You've kicked things off perfectly.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kaye!

Hmm, where is everybody? Did I scare all your regular readers away? (-:

I'll put a reminder on DorothyL.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

DID you?!
Oh no!!!

teasing you, cutie!

Lordy - No telling where everyone is today. Its the first day of classes for the new semester here, and if everyone is having the same kind of day I'm having, then we probably don't EVEN want to hear from 'em!! for real.

I am one grumpy woman this day.
Dropping a note at DorothyL sounds like a great idea, Pat! Tell those folks to get on over here and play with us! mercy.

Krill Press said...

Pat: It's not just mystery writing where our wonderful female lead characters are maturing like fine wine, but in Hollywood, too. I watched the Golden Globe Awards last night and was shocked to see some of our timeless lady movie stars really starting to show their age now. I scarcely recognized Jessica Lange as she haltingly creaked across the stage toward the microphone as a presenter, and lord knows Meryl Streep has as of late become a little pleasingly plump. But can these ladies still "deliver the goods" when it comes to their acting? You bet they can! I'll never forget how amused I was with your Penny Mackenzie as I was editing "Absinthe Of Malice." Poor, frumpy, bedraggled Penny sure lit her afterburners and changed both her attitude and her appearance and got all dolled up for the Chamber Of Commerce dinner when she learned her old flame Watt was back in town. I think a woman's "Fountain Of Youth" dwells in her instinctual desire as a female to be an attractive force of nature, no matter what their chronological age may be.

Your Humble Servant, and Editor
Kent Lucas

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...


" an instinctual desire as a female to be an attractive force of nature . . ."

Pat? I'm liking your humble servant and editor!

Here's to us all being attractive forces of nature! for real.

Vicki Lane said...

Nice post, Pat!

I am happy to be writing about a woman in her fifties,as long as they don't call it 'Matron Lit.'

I was once on a panel with two other authors (Joan Medlicott and Nancy Thayer) who also write about women of a certain age and this obnoxious tag came up.

Can you imagine a section in the store called 'Matron Lit' and how fast most readers would run from it?

But what would be a good tag? If. indeed, a tag is needed.

Anonymous said...

"I think a woman's "Fountain Of Youth" dwells in her instinctual desire as a female to be an attractive force of nature ... "

Kent Lucas,
You summed it up perfectly.
And quotably. (-:


Anonymous said...


You're right about tags. Like it or not, there has to be one.

Off the top of my head, how about "Senior Sleuths"?

Suggestions, anyone?



Jen Forbus said...

O.k., here's a comment from the 30-something crowd.

Pat, this was a wonderful post! I loved it! Strong, real female protags are great at ANY age. I hate the cliche "damsel in distress" or the flighty/goofy females. Give me a good woman with substance I say!

And how about if we tag it "Seasoned Sleuths"?

Anonymous said...


"Seasoned Sleuths" has a nice ring to it.

"Seasoned" doesn't automatically translate to "old" as "Senior" does.
We are so afraid of old age in this country!

There's plenty to be afraid of, but, absent major health problems, it's mostly an inconvenience.


Anonymous said...

Hey Pat (and everyone else). I'm not good at tags, but I wonder whether, as the baby boomers (me)age, there will be more and more women of maturity as protagonists to appeal to that audience? I hope so. I like to read all kinds of books, but I tend to keep coming back to those I can identify with. I feel I've earned every one of my gray hairs even though I choose to cover them with color.

I guess Women Sleuths Who Know What They're Talking About wouldn't be a snappy tag, hmmm?

P.S. My word verification is 'brain' which is a little spooky.

Wendy said...

Dear Pat,
Loved your post!! As I'm kissing 50, I love reading about Penny! And library customers are demanding older protags in their mysteries, so I think you'll see it more and more.
See you soon :)

Chester Campbell said...

Great post, Pat. But I wouldn't have expected anything else. As another "seasoned" writer, I like to create those characters who as females desire to be an attractive force of nature. Looking forward to No. 2 in the series.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Pat - Heartfelt thanks! It was a pleasure, and a privilege, to have you.

and thanks to everyone else who dropped by.

and hey -


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great article, Pat, but I'm disappointed that you didn't say more about your own work. As a fellow senior sleuth mystery/suspense author and "seasoned" writer, myself, I'd love to see more books about people my age.

And I love this website!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi Jean - I'm with you about being disappointed about not having Pat say more about her work. Maybe we can get her to come back and chat about it. I've told her this, and I've said this at DorothyL - Pat Browning is a born storyteller, and one of the best writers out there.

and I'm tickled you like M&M, and I hope you'll come back often. thank you.