Carolyn Hart Talks About Summer Pleasures
Soft voices that croon words as if they were babies to be cosseted, smiling
faces that ease a day's tribulations better than any shot of whisky, a sense of
belonging that time or space or distance or loss can never destroy, a rueful yet
accepting certainty that the past is always prologue, these are the mainstays of
I grew up in Oklahoma which is not part of the Deep South, but it is very much a
state with a deep Southern heritage. Being Southern is not so much a matter of
geography as a matter of culture. My parents were both Texans and, as all Texans
know, much of that grand and glorious state was settled by those who left the
South after the War between the States. My Southern attitudes and sympathies had
this beginning and I felt very much at home when I started vacationing in South
Carolina's Low Country in the 1970s.
My sense of comfort with the Low Country was a major reason I decided to set a
mystery series -- the "Death on Demand" books -- on a fictional sea
island off the coast of South Carolina. And oh what a wonderful choice that
turned out to be. It has given me a fabulous background for a series that now
includes 14 titles.
The South teems with delightful possibilities for an author: buried treasure,
passionate family quarrels, eccentricities that can amuse or terrify, hidden
secrets, smuggling, small town rivalries, pride that begets violence, and, of
course, all the kinds of troubles humans can devise whether they live in our
South or in Southern Mongolia.
Southerners place a premium on gentility. What fun for a mystery author to
ponder the pressures of conformity and how tamped down emotions can explode. I
explored this them in Southern Ghost (1992). Underlying the passion is a
Southern sense of honor and the desperation that comes from an unyielding social
Southern women have long been perceived as steel magnolia. Just such a woman is
busy arranging the lives of those in her family until her own life is ended in Design
For Murder (1987).
The South -- South Carolina especially -- is now a destination for retirees. The
clash of cultures resulted in murder in Yankee Doodle Dead (1998).
Some of the books focus on the beauty of the Low Country. I love writing about
great blue herons and sand crabs scrabbling in a marsh and the rumble of the
surf. Every time I work on a book, I feel that I am there. I love Oklahoma, but
it is hot and windy and dusty and the red dirt often as dry and bleak a cattle
skull half-buried in an arid gully.
That's when I travel in my mind down gray sea island roads in the shade of
towering live oaks, brush aside the dangling tendrils of Spanish moss, pause to
watch a deer plunge through the woods, keep an eye out for that great blue
heron, and marvel in the silkiness of the air and the moist humidity.
South Carolina here I come