Lee Hollis – Writing Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer

Liz here, happy to welcome Lee Hollis to the blog today! Lee is here to talk about his super fun Desert Flowers series – and his history with the real Golden Girls! Take it away, Lee!

First of all, I am thrilled to be doing a guest post for the Wicked Authors, especially since I am a native New Englander, having been born and raised in Downeast Maine. My Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mysteries, which I co-author with my sister Holly (she provides all the columns and recipes), takes place in our hometown of Bar Harbor. Every time I sit down to write a new story, I am transported back to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, and the memories of my childhood spent there. This is always therapeutic when I am unable to travel back home, especially this past year during the awful pandemic. But when my editor at Kensington asked me to come up with a new series, this one featuring a team of Golden Girls-like detectives, I decided to set it in my current home town of Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs could not be more opposite from Bar Harbor, although both are bustling tourist destinations, just during completely different seasons, winter and summer respectively.

If you’re not familiar with the Desert Flowers mystery series, the lead heroine is Poppy Harmon, a retired actress from Hollywood who moves to the desert with her fourth husband, Chester. When Chester dies unexpectedly, Poppy discovers he had for years been hiding a crippling gambling problem, and has now consequently left her penniless. Forced to find work, Poppy decides to become a private investigator. How hard could that be? She played the secretary on a long running TV detective show in the 1980s called Jack Colt, PI. Poppy figures she has plenty of formal training. She appeared in every episode, after all. She teams up with her two best friends, Iris and Violet, and they open up shop as the Desert Flowers Detective Agency. Unfortunately, they quickly discover that women of a certain age are not always taken seriously as hard-nosed gumshoes, so they enlist the help of pretty boy Matt, the boyfriend of Poppy’s daughter and an aspiring actor. He adopts the stage name of Matt Flowers so he can be the face of their agency, assuaging any misogynistic concerns. Business picks up, and in a nod to Remington Steele, the ladies do all the work while Matt soaks up all the credit.

After two successful cases, Poppy and the gang return in Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer, which was a joy to write because this case involves the filming of a reboot of the cheesy romantic comedy Palm Springs Weekend, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. A mysterious stalker is shadowing the beautiful young star of the movie, and so she hires the Desert Flowers Agency to protect her and find the creep terrorizing her.  

I have worked for over thirty years in the TV and film business, and so it’s always fun to write about what I have learned in Hollywood. Write what you know, as they say. In this book, when the beautiful young star ends up murdered, smothered by a pillow, the crime scene evokes haunting memories for Poppy of a series of killings that took place during her heyday as an actress in the 1980s. Does this mean the never caught Pillow Talk Killer is back after all these years? As the team dives into the investigation, I do something I’ve never done in a book before. I use flashbacks. By transporting Poppy back to that heady period in her young life, the summer of 1985, I was able to give more context to what was happening in the present.

This brought back so many of my own Hollywood memories. I was 24 years old at the time, when I began my writing career on The Golden Girls in 1988. That show was the first job I ever had that actually paid me to write. And what a show to cut your teeth on. I will never forget the table reading of my first script, co-authored with my writing partner at the time, David A. Goodman, who is these days the president of the Writers’ Guild. Those actors, Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, women I grew up watching on classic TV shows like Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Estelle Getty, just knocked our jokes out of the park, and made them sound sharper and funnier than they actually were. I remember sitting back in awe, thinking, “My God, how did I get here?”

I assumed at the time that it would always be like that. Ha! There were plenty of shows after that first, some good, many not so good, a few downright terrible, but I will always be grateful for that indelible first experience. Those memories were key in the writing of Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer, which is why this particular mystery has become my favorite book to work on to date. And so I hope you enjoy reading this latest Poppy Harmon installment as much as I loved writing it. And don’t worry, if you haven’t read the two previous books, you can jump right in and start with this one! Just promise me, if you like it, go back and try the others!

Readers, what do you think – love the series? Love the Golden Girls? Leave a comment for Lee below!

21 Thoughts

  1. Love the Golden Girls!! I still watch a few episodes every now and then. I will have to give this series a try. I love the Haley Powell series, am always anxiously awaiting the next book and the Maya and Sandra series so I’m sure I’ll love Poppy too. Thank you for all of the reading pleasure I’ve had!!

  2. I enjoy the Golden Girls, now more that I’m older. They have some great dialogue and messages.

  3. Welcome to the blog, Lee! I am not sure I’ve ever watched the Golden Girls. I’ll have to go hunt down some episodes. Congratulations on finding your niche with this series! I do love the California desert, especially Joshua Tree (I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley), so I’m sure I will love the Desert Flowers books.

  4. Welcome Lee! How cool is it that Lee actually worked on The Golden Girls? SOOOO cool! I mean, he actually wrote for Bea, Estelle, Rue and the eternal Betty White!

    I watched the show from the beginning when it was originally airing. It was hilarious. I still catch an episode here and there during the Hallmark Channel’s endless late night reruns of the show.

    I haven’t read the series before but now that I’ve learned a little about it, I’m going to have to rectify the situation. I mean, a mystery series that can claim The Golden Girls AND Remington Steele as sources of inspiration has to be good, right?

    Here’s to much success with the latest book for you Lee!

  5. I was young when I first saw The Golden Girls, but I loved it. Those women were funny. And since I was also a Remington Steele fan, I’m going to have to hunt down these books.

  6. I used to watch the Golden Girls with my grandparents when I was a teenager! Talk about a show that could entertain multiple generations… I’ve added Desert Flowers to my TBR, thank you!

  7. The Desert Flowers mystery series sounds amazing! Definitely sounds like a series I would very much enjoy reading.
    ” Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer” is bound to be a big hit and on my TBR list now as well as the first too books in the series. As a senior citizen with lots still to do and give in this world, I love that the main characters are also seniors.

    Love the Golden Girls and still watch them. You can’t watch and not chuckle a time or two along the way. It has to have been amazing to have worked with them and seen the shows filmed first hand. It just speaks volumes for your writing ability. Knowing that just increases my desire to read your books.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  8. I love your Desert Flowers series. And, of course, who doesn’t love The Golden Girls? It’s timeless.

  9. Congratulations on the new book! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful pictures and stories. I look forward to reading this next adventure of Poppy!

  10. Wow, what an incredible career for you! And your Haley Powell sounds right up my alley, I adore Acadia, Thunder Hole, Sand Beach and my husband and I did a cruise on the Margaret Todd last time we were there. Your new mystery series sounds like it would be fun to read, too! I will definitely be looking for them!

  11. Welcome to the Wickeds, Lee. It is so great to see you here. Looking forward to Poppy’s new adventure. Looking forward to our next joint venture with Leslie Meier, Halloween Party Murder.

  12. Now that I am “of an age” I really do enjoy reading about older characters. Your book sounds delightful! Best of luck with the series and all your writing.

  13. What a wonderful memory – thanks for sharing. And congrats on the new book. This series sounds like such fun.

  14. Happy April! The Golden Girls were definitely memorable! I had the honor of meeting you at a Kensington book party in California a few years ago. I am a big fan of your books. Thank you for these great books. Have a blessed day!

  15. Rick! So happy to see you here! Rick and I worked together on my very first TV job – a show called FLYING BLIND. He was the first person I called when I decided to write mysteries. Great post! Love the photos. We need to do a panel together sometime. And we need to get you to guest-blog on chicksonthecase.com!

  16. Another book! Hooray! I wonder if you still have all those copies of TVGuide that you saved for years? I suppose they were the portal for things to come.

  17. I love Poppy Harmon and her gang! Glad to know there a new book in the series to read.

  18. | | | |

    | | | Reading an oldie but goodie right now – April Fool’s Day Murder and enjoyed Death of a Kitchen Diva last month.  You and Leslie Meier are my favorites.  Happy Easter!

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