Homer—and a Giveaway!

Dorothy H. HayesDorothy Hayes, a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, taught Language Arts in Connecticut schools, was a staff writer for the “Wilton Bulletin”, and “The Hour” and received an honorary award for her in-depth series on Vietnam Veterans from the Society of Professional Journalists. She also worked as a staff writer for a national animal protection corporation, and wrote Animal Instinct published by iUniverse in 2006. She writes for womenofmystery.net, and criminalelement.com, and is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Tri-State Chapter. 


One question often asked a writer is: “Who inspired you?”

Before I knew I was a writer, I wanted to be a writer. I turned to the best to learn and found myself blown away by their talent.

I was crying sitting in a beauty shop while reading Homer’s description of  Hector’s death. His dead body was being pulled by Achilles’ chariot and Andromache was watching from the castle, her heart broken, tears running down her cheeks, … and mine.

The passion in the Iliad was an epiphany. Why was this the only book that made me cry like that? There should be more.

Years later, when I wrote features for my local newspaper, my editor often said, “Why do I always cry when I read your stories?”

In bed one sleepless night and reading Hamlet’s soliloquy, for the first time, “To be or not to be: that is the question:” The angst and the passion so amazed me that I started to memorize it immediately. The pacing of Shakespeare’s words grows to demonstrate the building emotion. He starts with a question, so profound, but so simply stated and the words build to an almost unbearable crescendo:

“Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? To die: to sleep: No more…;

Too many decades later, I noticed that same kind of rhythm and building of emotions in my first book, Animal Instinct, I humbly state, not feeling at ease having my name in the same paragraph as Shakespeare’s, but to demonstrate his influence on writers, I’ll risk it. He wrote the monologue in iambic pentameter, or blank verse, which I knew nothing about at the time, and know very little now, except that it is a rhythm that I managed to pick up.

The Ballad of Reading Goal by Oscar Wilde takes us inside a jail where a man has been sentenced to death. I felt the cold chill of fate and Wilde’s empathy for a convicted murderer. I started to memorize: “I never saw a man who looked with such a wistful eye upon the little tent of blue which prisoners called the sky or every drifting cloud that went with sails of silver by.”

Wilde is advocating for prison reform, but as a young woman, I had no idea. What Wilde taught me was that writers take readers places unreachable by any other vehicle. This poem delivered me to the last moments of a man’s life, inside a jail, just before he was to be hanged in France in the late 1800s. Remarkable.

I aim to take my readers to an original place.

In Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the dialogue was so succinct that I didn’t have to read the names of the characters speaking. It was distinctly them by their choice of words, their status, rhythm, their politics, and attitude:

“If you have nothing better to do, Count,(or Prince) and if the 
prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too
 terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10-
Annette Scherer.”

Little dialogue, however, is used by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Only a few words like a punch line at the end of a joke. Yet, his narration is so addicting, you can’t stop reading.

“At the time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built at the bank of the river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.”– One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Murder at the P&ZBefore I started my first mystery, I read all of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, since he is the man credited for creating the genre. After reading Murders in the Rue Morgue, with his character, Dupin, I went directly to A Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes stories; Holmes, of course, plays the same role as Dupin.

My character in Murder at the P&Z, Carol Rossi, is a local reporter. When the secretary to the town planner is murdered, Chief Dominic Romano, of the Wilton Police Department, rejects her crime theory. The Chief is much like Doyle’s Inspector G. Lestrade, who is normally out of his depth.

For present day character driven novels, I turned to Henning Mankell. His character, Kurt Wallander embodies the human condition perfectly, having a father he argues with, a job that often keeps him working long hours so that he neglects to shower, eat well, or clean his house. Wallander is honorable, however, and one of the best crime solvers of this genre. So I study his crime solving techniques. There  is often a message in his stories, as well. In The Fifth Woman, violence against women is at the heart of the crime, for instance.

Stieg Larsson, also focuses on an issue, such as in The Millennium Trilogy, in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

“An estimated 600 women served during the American Civil War. They had signed up disguised as men,” he writes in the first line.

Of course, Larsson creates one of the most memorable heroines ever, according to literary experts, in Lisbeth Salander. Women are also the victims of vicious men in his series.


Murder at the P&Z has its own message.


I can still see Victor Hugo’s revolutionary scenes in Les Miserables, the candlelit opera house in Emile Zola’s Nana, so many more inspired, Agatha Christie, Guy de Maupassant, Dostoyevsky, Daphne du Maurier… Each time I prepare to write a new book, I reach into the font of inspiration and feel that tingle of excitement and I am, again, grateful to all of them.


Murder at the P&Z

A local reporter, Carol Rossi, turns amateur sleuth when the secretary to the town planner is murdered. The police suspect that it is a random crime. Rossi, however, suspects that the murder is connected to a real estate project that was approved by the Wilton Planning and Zoning Department. She launches her own investigation and is soon in over her head. She’s being stalked and her life is threatened, but she doesn’t know why. Then the recently retired town planner is found dead in his Bimini swimming pool. Her new romantic interest, police detective, Jerry Stevenson starts working with her. But it is Rossi who solves the crime in this cozy turned thriller.

Barnes & Noble           Amazon

To enter the drawing to win a print copy of Murder at the P&Z

by Dorothy H. Hayes, leave a comment below. The winning name

will be drawn on the evening of Thursday, April 25th.

This giveaway is open to residents of the US.

16 thoughts on “Homer—and a Giveaway!

  1. Thank you, what a joy it was to read your post early this morning. I revisted one young summer holed up in a cottage bedroom with The Call Of The Wild while my sister begged and harangued me to put it down. And then there was the first time I read Jane Austen…and…


  2. Grace, thanks so much for the comment. The Call of the Wild is a heart tearing book, so memorable that I can feel it right now just talking about it. Books are magical because they can deliver so many feelings, I hear you, Grace. Readers are telling me that they can’t put my new book down, it’s about the best comment there is!


  3. The power of words is as old as language. Good writers use their skill to combine words in a way that opens new worlds, and points of view, to readers. Contemporary mysteries use some of the best writing out there to give old themes a new twist.

    I was glad to see that CNC is still around.


  4. Can’t agree with you more, S. E. Henning Mankell is a master at it. Many mystery writers are involved in examining the human condition in contemporary terms, and discussing the issues of our times.


  5. Wow, don’t know that I could have handled that, Warren. I cried crocodile tears through Les Miz. I had a big B-day party this weekend that was planned for weeks, but I found it hard to be in the moment and engage in the joy around me, my heart was aching for all those involved with the Boston Bombing, the victims, Boston in a lockdown, and the screwed up young men, in particular the younger one. No bright light anywhere here. Time and talking to mystery fans helped me out of it.


  6. My first mystery author was Poe. I didn’t know it was Poe; it was just a scary movie (the scariest of my young life at age 8 or 9). I took the bus downtown Toledo to see Murders in the Rue Morgue. Don’t know how my parents allowed it, and I came home and told them about it. Then my dad sent me down to the basement to light the pilot and made the sound of that gorilla and nearly gave me a heart attack.
    I’d love to read Murder at the P & Z. Sign me up, please. judydee22002@yahoo dot com


  7. Thanks for such an enjoyable post about the many authors I’m familiar with that influenced your writing! Please enter my name in the drawing. pennyt at hotmail dot com


  8. Judy, it was a very horrifying story and movie. I recall it very vividly. I don’t think your parents knew just how scary it was.
    I read all of Poe’s work before I wrote this book. Of course, he created the first detective novel. We didn’t even have the word “detective” when he wrote Murders in the Rue Morgue and two others with his amateur sleuth, M. Dupin–all three short stories. The same elements he created 172 years in the first detective series ever written, I pretty much stuck to in my novel. The only difference is my amateur sleuth has a backstory, Dupin doesn’t. Now mystery fans like to have more of a backstory to their amateur sleuths.


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