Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Bad Reputation

There She is by Jane Tesh

When I was rewriting the first Madeline Maclin mystery, A Case of Imagination, I needed something for Madeline aka Mac to be besides a struggling PI.  In earlier drafts of the story, she’d actually been a man, but my agent at the time suggested I change Mac to a woman because during that time, the mystery field had opened up for women protagonists in a big way.  Original Mac had been a con man, but I didn’t want New Mac to be a con woman.  Instead, I gave that character trait to her boyfriend and soon to be husband, Jerry Fairweather, who’d been Original Mac’s best friend.  Looking around for something interesting, I decided that New Mac, now known as Madeline, would be a former beauty queen.

Pageants are a big deal in the South, and many of my gay men friends were involved with local and state pageants, so I had an inside track to what went on behind the scenes.  I think it’s fine if women are old enough to decide for themselves about being in pageants, but I have my doubts about the Little Miss stuff, especially the so-called glitz pageants, where little girls are dolled up to look much older and creepily sexy.  I decided that Madeline’s mother pushed her into those ghastly child pageants for many years, and now Madeline has an uphill battle to prove she’s more than just sequins and a tiara.  I also decided she could be an artist, trying to work her way past some cutting criticisms.  Being an artist comes in handy in Madeline’s latest case, A Bad Reputation

Having to change a character so much taught me a lot about compromise.  In the end, New Mac is a stronger and more interesting character than Original Mac, and Jerry, who was basically just a straight man for his friend, now has his own problems to solve and a background filled with shady friends who are always popping up at the wrong times to add more drama to the stories.  Madeline is not above using some of Jerry’s special skills, such as picking locks and getting into houses, and both of them can tell when someone’s smile is not sincere, especially Madeline Maclin, Miss Parkland. 

Summary of the Plot: In A Bad Reputation, wealthy Wendall Clarke decides to renovate an old building on Main Street and open an art gallery in Madeline and Jerry’s small town of Celosia, North Carolina, causing the local Art Guild to go into orbit.  Wendall’s past reputation as a show-off isn’t helping his cause, and there’s something iffy about his new wife, Flora. Wendall’s ex-wife, Larissa, resents this newer, younger, blonder wife, and members of the guild are fighting over whose art work goes in the gallery first.  Someone even heaves a brick through the gallery’s front window.   Then Wendall is found dead behind the gallery, and Madeline takes the case.

However, Madeline has a couple of other concerns. Honor Perkins, one of Jerry’s friends from his con days, is playing tricks around town.  Honor says she wants Jerry back in the game, but Madeline can tell what Honor really wants is Jerry back in her life.  
And Madeline’s been feeling odd lately, particularly in the mornings.  She refuses to believe she’s pregnant.  A baby is not in her plans!
Jane Tesh is a retired media specialist and pianist for the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mt. Airy, NC.  She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Mysteries, featuring an ex-beauty queen turned detective and her con man husband, and the Grace Street Mysteries, featuring PI David Randall and the many Southern characters who live at 302 Grace Street.

My links are website:


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Jane. It's great to have you join us here for the coming week.

Anita Diggs said...

It's fascinating to hear how your male character transformed into a female after your rewrites. Knowing your characters, though, that's what makes them seem human. The reader wants to root for this character because it seems like a real person. Even if they don't necessarily agree all the time with what they're doing, the character seems real.