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Mystery Writers You Should Know: Elizabeth George

 
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Elizabeth George

If you are an avid viewer of the PBS “Mystery” series, the name of Elizabeth George is no secret to you. The Thomas Lynley mysteries are a staple of Sunday night television. However, if you have not read her books for yourself, you have missed one of the greatest contemporary mystery writer’s offerings.

Elizabeth Susan George was born in Warren, Ohio. She is a graduate of University of California in Riverside. She also attended California State University at Fullerton, where she was awarded a master’s degree in Counseling/Psychology and an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

She began her career as an English teacher at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. Along with ten other teachers, she was eventually fired for becoming involved with union activity. She later taught in El Toro High School in El Toro, California (now called Lake Forest, California). While employed there, she was selected Orange County Teacher of the Year, a tribute in part to the work she’d done with remedial students for nearly a decade. She left education after thirteen and a half years when her first novel, A Great Deliverance, was sold to Bantam Books.

Elizabeth George has been called “a master of the English mystery” by the New York Times. This is rather amazing considering she grew up in California. She has continued her teaching career in colleges not only the United States but in Canada and the United Kingdom where she has taught writing courses.

Putting the profits of her writing to good use, she has established the Elizabeth George Foundation; it makes artistic grants to unpublished fiction writers, to poets, to emerging playwrights and to organizations benefiting disadvantaged youth. These grants cover expenses in a number of areas.

Elizabeth George’s books are as follows: A Great Deliverance (1988); Payment in Blood (1989); Well-Schooled In Murder (1990); A Suitable Vengeance (1991); For The Sake of Elena (1993); Missing Joseph (1994); Playing For The Ashes (1995); In The Presence Of The Enemy (1996); Deception On His Mind (1997); In Pursuit Of The Proper Sinner (1999); A Traitor To Memory (2001); I, Richard, a collection of short stories (2002); A Place of Hiding (2003); Write Away – Non Fiction, a book describing her method of writing (2004); A Moment on the Edge, a short story collection she selected from the writings of others (July, 2004); With No One As Witness (2005); What Came Before He Shot Her (2006); Careless in Red (2008); and This Body of Death (2010).

When asked about her own reading habits, Elizabeth George says, “I read very eclectically. I am not a big reader of crime novels or mysteries. When I do read crime, I prefer true crime stories. My favorite writers in no particular order are John Irving, John Le Carré, Alice Hoffman, Graham Swift, Penelope Lively, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austen, and John Fowles. The crime writers whose books I always read are P.D. James, T. Jefferson Parker, and Robert Crais, the last two blokes being friends of mine.”

George’s awards include the Anthony, the Agatha, the Grand Prix de la littérature Policière, and the prestigious German prize, the MIMI. She is one of only two American writers (the other is Tony Hillerman) whose novels have been adapted for MYSTERY!

Thomas Lynley, Lord Asherton, is a most unlikely detective. Working for Scotland Yard in spite of being a member of the British upper class, he has as his partner, Barbara Havers, who grew up in public school as a member of the middle class. Their backgrounds could not be less similar yet their crime solving ability together always solves the case.

As for the actors who portray these two characters in the MYSTERY! series, Ms. George says she had nothing to do with their choosing and, in fact, they do not resemble the characters as she envisioned them. However, she quickly adds, “I think Nathaniel Parker (Lynley) and Sharon Small (Havers) have done a fine job in bringing them to life.”


About Sue Freeman Culverhouse

    Sue Freeman Culverhouse

    Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing.

    She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter,  Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University.

    Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students.

    Sue writes “Uncommon Sense,” a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of “Seven keys to a sucessful life”, which is  available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.

    Web Site: http://culverhouseart.com/
    Email: cuverhouse@comcast.net

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