A Wicked Welcome to Carolyn Marie Wilkins

I’m thrilled to welcome Carolyn Marie Wilkins to the blog! Carolyn writes the Bertie Bigelow series. The second book in the series, Mojo for Murder, came out this fall. Welcome to the blog Carolyn!


mojo_frontlg_6-25-16When Julie asked me to write about my Bertie Bigelow mystery novels for this blog, I immediately churned out a stream of words. The following day I read what I’d written, threw it out, and started again. By the end of the week I’d given birth to ten pages of bad writing and a splitting headache.

That’s when I realized that my main character wanted to talk to you in her own voice. Her name is Bertie Bigelow. She’s a forty-something African American choir director who teaches at a community college on the South Side of Chicago. She’s also an amateur sleuth with a lot on her mind.

My name is Bertie Bigelow and I am beyond thrilled to be a guest on your blog. Truth be told, I could use the company. Don’t get out like I used to since my husband Delroy passed away two years ago.

My friends tell me I need to socialize more – maybe even start dating again. At the moment, I’m too busy getting my choir ready for the Metro College Christmas Concert to contemplate that kind of foolishness.

This year’s concert has got to be good, really good. On the South Side of Chicago, my choir has a reputation to uphold. A reputation that was nearly ruined last year when my student LaShawn Thomas cussed out a Chicago City Councilor in the middle of our concert. By Martin Luther King Day, there was a murderer lurking among us. I was the one who ended up catching the killer, but I don’t like to toot my own horn. My friends are starting to call me “the black Miss Marple.” Can you imagine?
The South Side of Chicago

This Christmas, I do not plan on solving any murders. I’ll stop by Charley Howard’s Hot Links Emporium on New Year’s Eve for some fried chicken and plate of his Good Luck Black-eyed Peas. Charley calls himself The Hot Sauce King. He looks ridiculous in the checked flannel shirts and farm-boy overalls he wears, but there’s not a man or woman south of Roosevelt Avenue fool enough to say so. The man’s got one hell of a temper. There’s even a rumor going around that he’s connected to the Mob. Don’t let that keep you away, though. The Hot Sauce King can flat-out cook and that’s a fact.

Since you’ve been nice enough to invite me to your blog, I’m going to let you have Charley’s secret recipe for New Year’s Good Luck Blackeyed Peas.


1 cup dried black-eyed peas
3 cups chicken broth
1 large can stewed tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp Adobo seasoning
1tsp red pepper
½ pound fatback, aka salt pork (if you like, you can substitute ½ lb bacon or smoked turkey meat)

Wash peas and soak overnight until plump.

Dice pork into1 inch cubes and sauté in olive oil in a heavy cast-iron pot until lightly browned.

Add onion, garlic, seasonings and one cup broth Bring to a rolling boil, then cover and simmer about 15 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, and remaining broth. Bring to a full boil. Cover and simmer 2-4 hours, adding more liquid if needed.

Season with Howard’s Heavenly Hot Sauce to taste and serve over rice. Red Devil Sauce will work just fine if they don’t sell Charley’s products where you live.

If you do make this for New Year’s dinner, keep it on the down-low, okay? The Hot Sauce King finds out, he’s liable to blow a gasket!



cw-2015jpeg-copyAs a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Carolyn Marie Wilkins dreamed of singing backup for Aretha Franklin while becoming the next Agatha Christie. Although she’s still waiting for Aretha to call, Carolyn is now the author of five books. Mojo For Murder and Melody For Murder feature the crime-fighting exploits of Bertie Bigelow, a forty-something choir director and amateur sleuth living on the South Side of Chicago. Carolyn’s nonfiction work includes They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her; Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success, and Tips For Singers: Performing, Auditioning, Rehearsing.

An accomplished jazz vocalist and professor at Berklee College of Music, Carolyn has performed on TV and radio with her group SpiritJazz, toured South America as a Jazz Ambassador for the US State Department, and played for shows featuring Melba Moore, Nancy Wilson, and the Fifth Dimension. When she’s not in the classroom or writing her next mystery novel, Carolyn can be found hanging out in the jazz clubs around Boston, MA.

Readers, Carolyn will give one commenter a PDF of her book!

39 Thoughts

  1. Welcome Carolyn! Delighted to have you – and Bertie – on the blog today. And thanks for the recipe – saving. Are there recipes in your mysteries, too? I clearly need to get them for myself and find out!

  2. My book club and I are always looking for new authors and new books. Welcome. We look forward to reading your book.

  3. Another new to me author to add to my list that is now wrapping around the world at least twice. I love the recipe and will be making it this winter…I will probably adapt it to the crockpot.

  4. I love Chicago, and hanging out with Bertie sounds like a lot of fun–especially on New Year’s Eve!

  5. So many books, so little time. But I will eventually read them (and ARCs go to the top of the pile).

  6. I’ve never been to Chicago but going to Wrigley Field to see a Chicago Cubs game is on my bucket list. I love getting books and enjoy leaving reviews for them too.

    1. Wrigkey’s on the North Side. Bertie would be rooting for the White Sox – their field is about 20 minutes from her house. Though thanks to the World Series, all Chicago loves the Cubs.

  7. Welcome to the Wickeds, Carolyn. My husband always makes black-eyed peas for New Years–for luck, as Bertie says. So happy to have her recipe.

  8. As a Chicagoian and African American to boot, delighted to read about this series! Definitely will check it out!

      1. Hi Kimberly – I can’t resist a fellow Chicagoan! Write me
        (cwilkins@berklee.edu) and I will send you a PDF of Melody For Murder, the first book in the series.

  9. I love finding new authors. I am going to check out your books as soon as I finish writing this post.

  10. I can’t wait to check out this series as well–sounds like a lot of fun! And thanks for the recipe–I’m always torn on New Years Day between the black-eyed peas for luck or the lentils that will make you beautiful for the year (a Hungarian tradition).

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