Agatha Historical Nominees and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where we still are waiting for that last bit of snow to melt on the north side of the house.

It is my very great pleasure today to welcome the nominees for the 2017 Agatha Historical Award! Each of my fellow nominees were gracious enough to answer the following question:

What first attracted you to the historical era in which you set you books and what draws you back to it time and time again? 

P1120916Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series: the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in early 1900s New York City and the lighter Royal Spyness novels featuring a minor royal in 1930s London. She has now also published two stand-alone novels. The first of these, In Farleigh Field was #1 on Kindle for six weeks, won the Lefty award for best historical and is currently nominated for the Edgar and Agatha awards.

Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona (and Europe whenever she can escape)

Rhys: In Farleigh Field was something I’d wanted to write for a long time. It was a bigIn Farleigh Field risk for me: a stand-alone novel when I have built up a great fan base for my series. Would they follow me to a new time and place? To a book that is more thriller than cozy mystery?

I’ve always been fascinated with WWII. It was the last time we had a clear sense of good versus evil and everyone knew he had to do his part to stop evil before it swallowed up the world. It was a time of hardship and misery and bombings but also a time of heightened emotions, camaraderie and a joy in being alive.

I suppose I am attracted to the period partly because I was born toward the end of it and so my early memories were of my father coming home, rationing that continued until 1953, stories of hardship and bombing, and the black market. What I had not heard as a child were stories of traitors. I was horrified, when I read a biography of the former King Edward VIII (the Prince of Wales who married Mrs. Simpson) that suggested he was whisked to the Bahamas because of his pro-Hitler sentiments and that the Germans wanted to invade and put him on the throne. Further investigation revealed that there was a group of aristocrats who were pro-German and wanted to aid the invasion, believing, mistakenly of course, that Hitler would treat Britain kindly and that this would stop the destructive bombing of Britain’s monuments. This was a story I had to write.

I also loved the freedom of multiple stories, multiple points of view. We see the war and the unfolding mystery through the eyes of Lady Pamela, daughter of an Earl, now working secretly at Bletchley Park, her sister Margo, now taken by the Gestapo in Paris, her youngest sister Phoebe, a precocious 12 year old, and Ben, the vicar’s son, now also working secretly for MI5. And through each of them we put together pieces of the puzzle while we watch their interpersonal relationships develop.

crop_4182Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Rosemarie and Vince share a love of movies, cocktails, and the New York Mets. Together, they’ve introduced movies at the famous Noir City Film Festival and on Turner Classic Movies. Separately, they’ve appeared on game shows. While they grew up mere subway stops apart in Queens, they didn’t meet until fate threw them together at a South Florida advertising agency. Their most successful collaboration to date, Design for Dying was published one month before their silver wedding anniversary. And some said it wouldn’t last.

Renee: What attracted us to the era is the same thing that attracted us to each other,Dangerous to Know cover proof February 2017 namely our love of classic Hollywood movies. We both grew up watching black and white films on television, and that interest has only intensified over the years. We’re both still suckers for the 1930s Hollywood version of sophistication exemplified by the Thin Man movies and Astaire & Rogers musicals—the champagne cocktails, the sparkling repartee. Knowing that Hollywood was serving up these dreams as the world was struggling through the Great Depression only makes us admire the movies more. The 1930s is also when Edith Head, one half of our detective duo along with failed actress Lillian Frost, was coming into her own as both a costume designer and an executive. What keeps drawing us back? Those movies! That will always be our answer to everything.

MacNeal author photo 17

Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of The New York Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today-bestselling Maggie Hope mystery series, starting with the Edgar Award-nominated and Barry Award-winning Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, which is now in its 22nd printing. She is currently at work on The Prisoner in the Castle, the eighth novel in the series.

Her books include Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante, The Queen’s Accomplice, and The Paris Spy. The Maggie Hope novels have been nominated for the Edgar, the Macavity, the ITW Thriller, the Barry, the Dilys, the Sue Federer Historical Fiction, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Fiction awards. The Maggie Hope series is sold worldwide in English and has been translated into Czech, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Turkish. It is also available in large print and audio. Actress Daisy Ridley (Star Wars, Murder on the Orient Express) has bought the film and television rights to the series. 

Susan graduated from Nardin Academy in Buffalo New York, and also cum laude and with honors in English from Wellesley College. She cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Her first job was as the assistant to novelist John Irving in Vermont. She then worked as an editorial assistant at Random House, assistant editor at Viking Penguin, and associate editor and staff writer at Dance Magazine in New York City. As a freelance writer, she wrote two non-fiction books and for the publications of New York City Ballet.

Susan is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer, and director, and their son in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Susan:  I was in London with my husband (who was promoting his show with the Jim7bb682bc269e83b0572bd585ae20c124 Henson Muppets) and we met up with a friend in a pub. Our friend handed me a copy of Time Out London and when I flipped to a page with an ad for the Churchill War Rooms, he said, “Maybe you should go — despite what you Yanks may think, World War II didn’t start with Pearl Harbor.” So I took it as a personal challenge and went.

It was an absolutely life-altering experience.

Of course, I never dreamed that I would be so captivated by going there, and that the visit would be a catalyst for writing a novel! Or a series! THE PARIS SPY comes out in Trade paperback tomorrow and Maggie Hope, #8, THE PRISONER IN THE CASTLE is to be published on August 7.


MaxwellCropEdith Maxwell Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Maxwell’s second Quaker Midwife mystery, is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries.  

Maxwell is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at,, and Under the Cover of Midnight . Read about all her personalities and her work at

Edith: I stumbled onto the late 1880s from a newspaper article about Amesbury, Called to JusticeMassachusetts’ Great Fire of 1888, and I wrote a short story about a Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the arson (which wasn’t the cause, historically). The characters and setting – 130 years ago right here in my town – didn’t want to go away, so I wrote Delivering the Truth, got a three-book contract (already renewed for at least two more), and here we are!

It turns out the late 1880s is a fascinating period to write in. So much was on the cusp of change. The horse-drawn trolley didn’t become electrified until 1890 but parts of the town had electric street lights. The germ theory of infection was known but not blood typing, and most births still happened at home. Fingerprint analysis wasn’t yet developed. Some fancy houses had indoor plumbing but not the modest ones. Amesbury’s factories sold well-engineered graceful carriages internationally and the town was thriving. Screen doors were new. Corsets were loosening and hems were starting to creep upward.

I love having Rose experiences these changes, navigate them, and comment on them, and I hope you do, too.  See you all in North Bethesda!

SONY DSCJessica Ellicott loves fountain pens, Minin Coopers and throwing parties. She lives in northern New England where she obsessively knits wool socks and enthusiastically speaks Portuguese with a shocking disregard for the rules of grammar. 

As Jessie Crockett she’s the author of the nationally bestselling Sugar Grove Mysteries and the Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Live Free or Die.  She also is the author of the books in the Change of Fortune Mystery series under the name Jessica Estevao.

Jessica: I think it was a combination of influences that led me to write about the 1920s.MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE As a child I loved reading books by Agatha Christie and that lead me to seek out books written by her contemporary mystery writers. I particularly loved those written by Ngaio Marsh. At about the same time I fell in love with the work of P.G. Wodehouse. I just couldn’t get enough of his charming, uproarious world. Somehow along the way the two sorts of books set in the same approximate time period wound together in my mind.

And as much as I love writing about the era because of the hats, the automobiles and the music, it is the way the world was changing for women and for each socioeconomic class that keeps bringing me back. The more I research about the people who experienced the aftermath of WWI and the march towards WWII the more  I want to explore, to mull over and to create.

Readers, do you have a favorite historical era? The nominees will each give away a copy of their latest book to one commenter!

82 Thoughts

  1. The basic struggle of Love against hatred and greed is the same in any era, only the mores change.

      1. I live in a small city founded by The Society of Friends. The Quaker church dominates mainstreet. I am anxious to read your Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

  2. Hello Jessie, my favorite historical era is the Revelotionary War era as I live a stones through away from Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania. As I walk on the paths there I think of our soldiers and George Washington who served our country well. It’s a beautiful park during all seasons. Thanks for the giveaway, Maureen

  3. There is something so satisfying about reading a well done historical. My special fondness is for the post WWI era through WWII. Perhaps because society changed so much during those years, and because the changes are far enough away to be exotic, but close enough to touch. Well done ladies, and well deserved!

  4. In my younger days I always read historical fiction and then my sister got my into thrillers and then I somehow got myself into cozies. I just finished a Bingo game with cozy books. It was fun. I want to get back into some historicals again. My favorite era is either during the Revolutionary War or the Civil War.

    1. Book tastes go a bit in cycles for me too! I read a lot of fantasy and historicals as a teenager. As a mother of young children I read a lot of cozies and now I read a lot of non-fiction partly in support of my own writing.

  5. I think I love all historical eras because history of any kind is very interesting to me. I do love to read about the early to mid 1900’s because then I can relate to them through my relatives. The very early 1900’s give me a glimpse of how it might have been during my grandparents time as does the 1920-1050’s for my parent’s time before there was a me.

    We can always find things that make us say “Oh I wish I lived back then” but we can also find out why it was a time of hardships and struggles making us realize that our time may just be the best time – for us any ways.

    Love all the Agatha historical nominees and would be extremely thrilled to get to read books by each and every one. Thank you for this amazing chance!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I find those things that activate a sense of nostalgia in me when I conduct research all the time. Like hats. And antique cars. And trains. Then I think about the lack of rights for much of population and the wars and the advances not yet made in the field of health. I find it easy to content myself with the present:)

  6. I love the Royal Spyness books by Rhys Bowen and other novels of pre-WWII like Alan Furst’s series . My favorite of WWII historicals is the late Phillip Kerr’s noir novels of Bernard Gunther, ex police offer and reluctant SS officer. But love historicals of any period for the peek they give us at a different world that is not so unlike our own.

  7. I feel I have gotten a proper historical education through novels like these. They are marvelously well written and thoroughly researched.
    They are a delight.

  8. I love anything early 1900’s! Congratulations to all the Agatha Historical nominees!! And, thank you for the giveaway!

  9. My favorite time period is the 1800s…but I also really enjoy the early 20th century through WWII. I enjoy reading about strong women in history who bucked the times they live in and fought to contribute to the time they live in.

  10. I really enjoy all eras featured in historical mysteries, especially Victorian through World War II. Thank you for the chance to win.

  11. My favorite historical era is probably the post WW1 to WW2 era. I have read several of the authors nominated and really enjoyed the perspective that you all provided in your books. Thanks for the chance to win!

  12. I don’t really have a favorite historical era. I find them all fascinating. I have read a couple books in the past year set around the era of suffrage, and the struggles women went through for equal rights are just so interesting to read about.

      1. Your Quaker Midwife series is one I enjoy, and I’m impressed with how you keep all the thee/thy/thines straight. Your books have to be much easier to read than they are to write!

  13. My favorites are the Victorian Era, the Gilded Age, and the Roaring ’20’s ~

  14. I have been reading mystery series non-stop for well over a year and a half and I’m constantly searching for new authors as I devour entire back lists. I tend to gravitate to the post WW1 era and started by reading every Miss Silver book by Patricia Wentworth. I do love nearly any historical era. I read and enjoyed Farleigb Field last year and also selected it for our college’s library. Dangerou to Know is on my e-reader, along with its sequel, and I’ll be tackling those soon. Congratulations to all the Agatha Historical nominees! I’ll be reading you all!

  15. My favorite periods are Regency England & Ancient Egypt of the pyramids.

  16. I adore reading historical fiction. I especially love reading stories set in Victorian England but also medieval times. I’m a sucker for castles and horses and ladies fashions. I love reading about strong women navigating times that were significantly less favorable to them than they are today. I also love the pacing. No cell phones, no phones at all, no electricity, no way of doing things faster. In general, I find reading historical fiction to be soothing, taking me completely away from the hectic pace of our present time period.

    1. I love your insight into the heart of what the historical fiction experience provides readers, Karen! It really plucks one up and out of our current time and place so thoroughly!

    2. You’re so right, Karen. We sometimes find ourselves longing for that slower pace while we’re writing. Tell the switchboard to hold all our calls!

  17. I have a fascination with World War II as well. I think Rhys captured the reasons why so perfectly. I am also fascinated by the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. And I have several mysteries set in old Hollywood I haven’t read yet.

    I’ve read all of these books, and the nominations are all well deserved. Congrats to all of you.

  18. I really enjoy Edith’s Quaker Midwife series but I tend to read more pre-WWI through WWII. I was born right after the end of WWII and still have some of the ration books for me and other family members. I don’t remember having to deal with any shortages although I’ve heard stories about how my mom would trade some stamps for shoe stamps because my brother had been born with a club foot which had been surgically repaired but he still wore out his shoes faster than normal. I look forward to seeing all of you at Malice. Last year was my first trip and that’s how I found 4 of you Wickeds who were new to me.

  19. I like different time periods, different perspectives. Makes me both wish for simpler times and appreciate all we have now including medicine and technology.

  20. This is another Agatha category that is going to be impossible for me.

    I admit I’m late to the historical sub-genre. But I think I like that late 30s/early 40s era. The tail end of the depression, the beginning of WWII, the movies, the changing times. When I decided to give historical fiction a try, it only seemed natural to pick that period.

  21. I grew up reading historical fiction and biographies with my parents. Now I read historical romances and mysteries, including all the nominees. Recently have read some real histories and biographies that were on our library book Alerts.

  22. I love anything historical set in all kinds of Era’s. For a long time it was 18th century and clothing with panniers, and then I went through a WWI phase and lately it’s been WWII for me. There is something about the people, clothes, and photographs.Who can resist red lipstick and victory waves? O.K. maybe that’s just me.The energy was so different…and I can relate it to family stories from that period.

  23. I really enjoy reading historical fiction and mysteries. My favorite historical time periods are Antebellum South, Civil War, the early 1900’s, the 1920’s and 1930’s. I always learn something from reading historical novels.

  24. I love the Victorian era, but I also love any book that is authentically written in any historical period. I just love learning about every day life in different time periods and places.

    Congrats to all the nominees!

  25. Congratulations to all on the nominations! Setting, rather than a particular era, is what draws me in. If it includes trains, tea, country homes, rainy walks, and cozy times in front of the fire……essentially British life in my imagination….then I’m hooked! Currently reading and enjoying The Paris Spy on my kindle, and think that Rhys’ stand alone novel, In Farleigh Field is her best book to date! Up next is the Quaker midwife series…..patiently waiting their turn on my kindle.

  26. How fun to hear from these historical mystery writers! I love to read WW1 and WW2 eras. Love the Brit perspective, too, though I’m a longtime Arizonan. Please throw my name in the hat! Thanks!

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