Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor with a doctorate in Medieval Literature. Her Maxx Maxwell mysteries, Sweet Man Is Gone (2008) and Got No Friend Anyhow (2011) were published by Five Star/Gale/Cengage and feature a blues-singer sleuth.
Peggy is currently writing the Knit and Nibble mysteries for Kensington. Her amateur sleuth, Pamela Paterson, is the founder and mainstay of the Arborville, New Jersey, knitting club.
Crafts, Cooking, and Cats: The Contemporary Cozy Mystery
The “cozy” is a popular type of mystery that usually features a female amateur sleuth and a pleasant small-town setting. These mysteries emphasize puzzling plots and eccentric characters, and they avoid explicit violence, explicit sex, and references to disturbing social problems. An offshoot of the cozy is the “craft cozy” in which the amateur sleuth has a distinctive hobby (like knitting) or profession (like florist or caterer) that inspires the plots and their solutions. The sleuth uses her specialized knowledge—of yarn, flowers, or food, for example—to spot clues that elude the police. For some reason, cozies often include cats … just because.
Join Peggy Ehrhart, retired college English professor and author of the Knit & Nibble mystery series for Kensington Books, on a tour of the modern cozy mystery.
Tough Gals: The Female Sleuth in Mystery Fiction
As women’s role in society evolved from housewife to corporate CEO, the image of women in mystery fiction changed. Decades ago, fictional crime-solving women had to be amateur sleuths, like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Dorothy Sayers’ Harriet Vane, because in real life most women weren’t cops or private detectives—though surprisingly the first female private investigator was hired by Allan Pinkerton in the mid-1800’s. The 1920s saw a brief flurry of female PIs, though in a very genteel mold, until Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and others introduced hard-boiled female sleuths modeled on characters like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. And soon female cops were appearing in mystery fiction too.
Join mystery writer and former English professor, Peggy Ehrhart, for a look at how far women have come in the world of the mystery novel.
Jane Austen, Mystery Writer: The Case of Emma
Jane Austen’s Emma has been described as a mystery without a murder, and the great British mystery writer P.D. James has commented that if Jane Austen were writing today, she might well be our greatest mystery novelist. Like a blundering detective, Emma is blind to the obvious clues about the romantic relationships among the people who surround her. She’s even blind to the fact that Mr. Knightley is destined to be her future husband.
Austen might also be described as the great-great-grandmother of the modern cozy mystery. As in a modern cozy, the plot is centered on these puzzling clues, and the action unfolds in a charming English village inhabited by kindly but eccentric characters.
Join Peggy Ehrhart, former English professor and author of the very cozy Knit & Nibble mystery series, in untangling the puzzles at the heart of Jane Austen’s masterpiece.
Mysterious New Jersey
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget” was inspired by the real-life murder of a young woman whose body was found floating in the Hudson River near Hoboken. Ever since then, the Garden State has been a fertile source of ideas for mystery writers. Join New Jersey author, Peggy Ehrhart, on a tour of mystery novels whose settings range from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens and Chesapeake Bay region to the state’s cities, suburbs, and small towns.
Peggy will discuss the work of authors such as Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben, Robin Hathaway, Chris Grabenstein, and Richard Price.
Poe, Hoboken, and the Body in the Hudson: New Jersey and the Birth of the Modern Mystery
Edgar Allan Poe, the father of the modern mystery, was inspired by the real-life murder of Mary Rogers, whose body was found floating in the Hudson near Hoboken. He had recently published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” introducing his sleuth C. Auguste Dupin. The tale of Mary Rogers provided much fodder for the tabloids of the day and her murderer was never identified. But the case was ready made to become Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget.”
Join New Jersey mystery writer, Peggy Ehrhart, to learn about this chapter in the history of New Jersey.
(This talk is based in part on material drawn from Daniel Stashower’s The Beautiful Cigar Girl.)
How Done It? Taking the Mystery Out of Mysteries
Everybody loves a mystery, whether it’s a classic by Poe, a gritty tale from Raymond Chandler, a cozy in the Agatha Christie mold—or “Murder She Wrote” on TV. In a sense every mystery is the same mystery: a murder disrupts the orderly functioning of society, and the sleuth—whether cop, private investigator, or amateur—follows the trail of clues that leads to the killer, thus restoring society’s balance.
Join mystery writer—and former English professor—Peggy Ehrhart as she reveals the tricks of the mystery-writing trade: how mystery writers hatch those plots, create effective heroes and villains, build suspense, and come up with all those puzzling clues.
Musical Mystery Tour
It’s no mystery why music and mysteries go together. Musicians are society’s outsiders, from the pioneers of the blues with their devotion to what the straight world considered devil’s music, through the inventors of bebop with their rebellious lifestyles and hipster vocabulary, up to the rock stars of the sixties with their sex and drugs and rock and roll. These worlds easily lend themselves to evil-doing, and they are fascinating worlds for a cop, a private investigator, or an amateur sleuth to explore. And when the sleuth himself is a musician, his approach to his job is often as unconventional as his personality.
Join mystery writer Peggy Ehrhart on a tour through mystery novels that exploit the mysterious possibilities of popular music.
(I published an article based on this material in Crimespree magazine, July-August 2008.)
Proposals for Talks