J.J. Murphy was my first guest post this year when the book Murder Your Darlings debuted. He took us back in time to the Algonquin Round Table with Dorothy Parker and her friend Robert Benchley. On Tuesday the second book in the wonderful series, You Might As Well Diewas released. I am so happy J.J. is back to tell us all about this wonderful story!
Thank you Lori for having me here today.
A Funny Way to Die
By J.J. Murphy, author of The Algonquin Round Table Mysteries
Dorothy Parker was a writer and critic in the Roaring 20s who’s known for such sayings as, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.” Another favorite: “This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
In the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries, the clever Mrs. Parker is not only an amusing writer but also an inadvertent, and often reluctant, solver of murders. The title for the most recent book, You Might As Well Die, takes its cue from one of Dorothy Parker’s most famous poems, “Résumé.”
In the book, Mrs. Parker has to figure out why a second-rate artist would apparently commit suicide—and why everyone else is glad that he’s dead. In her actual poem, Mrs. Parker listed the various ways to commit suicide, and why none of them are very good: “Guns aren’t lawful / Nooses give / Gas smells awful / You might as well live.”
In other words, as difficult as life is, death is even worse.
I wonder, then, why we’re so fascinated with murder mysteries? Is it to feel as though there is at least some order in a chaotic universe? Or is it, as snarky Mrs. Parker might have seen it, a way to thumb our nose at death?
Of course, there’s nothing funny about death… Or is there?
As Dorothy Parker herself wrote, “They say of me, and so they should / It’s doubtful if I come to good …/ And though to good I never come / Inseparable my nose and thumb.”
What do you think? Can you crack a joke or a smile at the worst of times?
(Fun feature: Go to www.roundtablemysteries.com/contests.html to vote on which famous figure should “guest star” in an upcoming book—and enter to win a $25 gift card.)
About This Author
You Might As Well Die
An Algonquin Round Table Mystery
2nd in the Series
An Obsidian Mystery
Published by New American Library
A Division of The Penguin Group
Second rate illustrator, Ernie MacGuffin, slips dear Dorothy a note that she later finds out is a suicide note. Seems he threw himself off the Brooklyn Bridge at midnight and Dorothy found the note too late to save him. Soon after his works of art have tripled in value and no one really seems sad that the man is even dead.
Dorothy believes there is more to the story and enlists the help of Harry Houdini, magician and skeptic. They attend a séance where the dead artist is expected to be contacted from the great beyond. The haunting voice sounds just a little to real to Dorothy which leads her to believe something illegal is definitely afoot. With the help of her friends she is going to solve this mystery and maybe another one too.
I love everything about this story, the setting, the characters, the mysteries. Traveling back in time with real people, to real places, with fictional drama is so much fun. Dorothy Parker was quite a woman. She led quite a life. She was a book reviewer herself.
Miss Parker laced her wit with heady truth as a book reviewer, first for The New Yorker as Constant Reader and then for Esquire as book review editor for many years. Her notices were written with a chatty trenchancy, as though she were talking informally to the reader; but she could (and did) impale authors who displeased her, either by synopsizing a pompous plot in all its ludicrousness or by pulverizing the book with a phrase.*
I don’t think J.J. Murphy would “displease” her at all, but she would probably wonder why anyone would write stories featuring the people at “The Round Table”.
These were no giants. Think of who was writing in those days – Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway. Those were the real giants. The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were.*
I am sure my reviews wouldn’t pass muster with her though because with her great wit she was a master.
I am glad J.J. Murphy has chosen to write these captivating mysteries with these feisty characters. There is definitely plenty of material in their histories to make me hope there will be many, many more installments to this series. Be sure to vote for the next special guest that will appear in Book 4 of the series. Arthur Conan Doyle will be the special guest in the third book in the series, A FRIENDLY GAME OF MURDER (2012). I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan so that one is definitely on my “Can’t Wait To Read” list. If you have an e-reader there is also a short story available now featuring Dorothy, Hair of the Dog. I just ordered it myself.
I highly recommend You Might As Well Die!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”