Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guest Post - M.E. Kemp

Here's my take on "Hysterical History."

    I love reading Ellis  Peters' Brother Cadfael books, let me get that
out of the way.  But... after Cadfael there was a deluge of books set
in medieval Britain, and so many religious brothers, sisters, nuns,
priests, monks as detectives-- where were the mainline Protestants? 
With my own family roots going back to Salem, 1636, and with a firm
belief that American history is just as bloody and colorful as medieval
England, I decided to write a series of historical mysteries with two
nosy Boston Puritans as detectives.  Puritans were supposed to be nosy
-- to make sure their neighbors were on the Godly path and not
back-sliding sinners.  To be a good detective you have to be nosy, so
Hetty Henry and Increase "Creasy" Cotton were born.  Creasy was
supposed to be the main brain -- he's a young minister trained to
ferret out the guilty secrets of the human soul.  But Hetty Henry is
such a pushy broad she took over the first book and the series.  Hetty
is a wealthy, 25-ish widow with connections to high and low society.

    My books, I hope, correct some of the stereotype of Puritans as
thin, mean-spirited figures dressed in black.  (Their favorite color was
scarlet!)  They were a lusty people who ate and drank in huge
quantities -- your average Puritan minister could drink our best lushes
under the table,  They were more open and upfront about sex than we are
today.  I early determined (or Hetty did!) that when Hetty likes a man
she'll go to bed with him.  No chaste kisses for her when she's locked
in a room with a handsome hunk.  She knows what to do.  In the first
book, MURDER, MATHER AND MAYHEM, ministers are dropping dead like flies
so Hetty and Creasy are sent to investigate.  She  has the help of her
pet pig, Priscilla.  (Priscilla got such fan mail that I often write
short stories with her as protagonist.)  For research I trudged through
a heritage pig farm to find out what her breed could do.  Pigs are very
intelligent animals and Tamworths are particularly so.  My second book,
DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE, sent Hetty and Creasy to Albany to find out 
who killed the Patroon's nephew.  I researched Dutch customs, dress and
food for this book -- really quite different from the New England
colonies.  I also introduced Hetty's first love-interest, Mohawk Billy
Blue Bear.  (Feedback says he's a favorite with female fans.)  DEATH OF
A BAWDY BELLE brought me to the year 1692, the time of the Salem Witch
, so I had to get them in.  I even include some actual dialogue
from the trials.  The new book which comes out in the Fall, is DEATH OF
A DANCING MASTER.  When the bad boy is found with a fencing foil in his
guts there are a ton of suspects -- magistrates and ministers who
harassed him, angry husbands and cheating wives.  This book introduces
Hetty's second hunk, Alexandre, who is a Huguenot refugee.  (Don't tell
anybody, but he's based upon a NYC Ballet dancer.  NYCB spends summers
in Saratoga, where I live.)  Hetty's romance with Alexandre will
continue in my current work-in-progress set on Cape Cod.  That is, I
think it will.  You never know with Hetty.  Anyway, Boston was in fact
a law-abiding town, but it did have a murder or two -- I just give it a
few extra.  So you can see that American history is just as bloody and
colorful as any town in medieval England!

 About the author

M. E. Kemp was born marilyn in Oxford, MA, where her ancestors settled in 1713 and where her family still resides. As a child Kemp wrote for family gatherings; in high school and college she wrote for the school newspapers, both fact and fiction. In high school she won first prize in a national Scholastics short story contest. She attended Worcestor State College in Massachusetts and received her MA English from Siena College in Loudonville, NY. Under her married name, Rothstein, she wrote nonfiction articles in many national and regional magazines, from Americana to Soccer America. She was commissioned to write a textbook for Cornell Cooperative Extension: What Every Citizen Should Know.
Kemp reverted to her maiden name for her first novel, Murder, Mather and Mayhem, (Xlibris) which introduced her two nosy Puritans as detectives. Hetty Henry is twice-widowed, wealthy, with connections to low and high society. Increase "Creasy" Cotton, named for his uncle Increase Mather, is a young minister with training to reveal the guilty secrets of the human soul. Creasy is the cousin of Cotton Mather, who often acts as comic relief.
Publishers Hilliard and Harris picked up her series with Death of a Dutch Uncle ('07) and Death of a Bawdy Belle (March '08.) Belle is set during the Salem witch trials.
Kemp's short story, "Murder in the Mill," was chosen by Sisters in Crime/NYC chapter for their Nov.'07 anthology of stories set in the Metro NYC area: Murder New York Style. Other shorts have appeared in NEWN and in DEADLY INK. Kemp has also written articles for Mystery Readers Journal, most recently in the historical mysteries '08 issue.

Kemp travels around the Northeast with her popular slide-talk based upon her research, "Naughty Puritans and Saintly Sinners." She has taught nonfiction writing courses for several local colleges and for many libraries. Kemp is currently at work on her 4th book in the series; Death of a Dancing Master, which is an outgrowth of her love of dance. (For ten years Kemp/Rothstein taught a program for those aged 50 plus called: Dancing Through Time. She has been privileged to work with dancers from the major dance companies.) She is married to Jack Rothstein and lives with Jack and two cats, Boris and Natasha, in Saratoga Springs, NY, where every summer she touts tip sheets to bettors.

Click HERE to visit M.E. Kemp at her website.
You can email her at

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