Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about what “community” means, by definition and by the broader concept of our immediate surroundings and the people around us.
Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, was released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.
Communities. A word we hear a lot but what exactly does it mean? According to my dictionary, it can have several meanings. A group of religious people, a group of people who live in a certain area, or who share a certain interest, culture, or goal. A bit vague but his definition, while a bit broad, seemed to me to tie up the meaning nicely.
And I quote “A unified body of individuals such as the people with common interests living in a particular area.”
As a partly retired 83 year old woman with one leg, it seemed to describe how I am living. My house is small as are all of the houses in my area, the yards also small but private. The people who live here are a mix of those coming and those going. Coming because they are starting out, sometimes with a baby, but not too many with a large and active family. For one thing, there isn’t enough room. Going because most of us here aren’t ready yet to give up our independence, but don’t want the burden of a large house and yard. We are a community. We know each other, we know each other’s families and that includes the 4 footed variety. We do things together sometimes, like going out to lunch but we do it when we want to, and nothing is organized. If you want the three B’s, bingo, bridge, or backgammon, you’ll have to go to the senior center. We do, however, look after each other. If you don’t venture out for a couple of days, someone will call or knock on your door, making sure you aren’t lying on your living room rug unable to get up. If you need a lift to the doctor’s office, someone is always available to drive. If you’re sick, you just may end up with a bowl of nice home made chicken soup.
My community is just one of many kinds, of course. You will find groups who have formed tight bonds everywhere. Churches, boosters for the local high school football team, car pools to soccer or pre-school, small sections of large cities where the sights and smells of another country can be savored and another language listened to. But I think that the areas that best describe community are small towns.
Everyone knows everyone else; the townspeople turn out to help when someone needs it. Think of the barn raisings of times past. Today its food to a funeral, baby sitting when a parent needs help, a full house at the Friday night football games, and an overflow crowd at the town hall meetings. Community in a small-town means taking care of each other. It also means knowing everyone else’s business, and sometimes not being afraid to talk about it.
It’s that very sense of community that makes small towns interesting to write about. Especially if you write “cozies”. The very name of these mysteries suggests something warm and friendly, the way a close-knit community is supposed to be, but, of course, that is not always the case. Especially in cozy mysteries. People can be driven to murder even in the friendliest of towns, and it usually takes an even smaller, tighter community of friends to find who among them is responsible for such a heinous crime. At least, that’s how it works in the Mary McGill canine mysteries. It may be Mary who solves the crime, but she wouldn’t be able to do it without her community, dropping clues, feeding her information often not realizing they are feeding her the information she needs to solve the puzzle, ready to help when she and her cocker spaniel, Millie, invariably get into trouble.
Community. It’s what makes our schools successful, our churches relevant, keeps our government accountable, and by working together, solves a murder or two.