I still devoured novels, but they were of the John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy variety. I took a few detours through Carlos Castaneda and Tom Robbins, but otherwise it was the classics, books that some elite "they" had signed off on, The Canon of Dead White Guys Born in a Previous Century. Lots of good stuff, none of it mysteries, which were, in my mind, the fluff of the fiction world, second only to romances. How soon we lose our roots.
Then came 2001, the year I lost my husband and my world became unmoored. I had a difficult time focusing on anything for any length of time, forget reading. But my aunt shoved a Tony Hillerman book in my hand, maybe so she wouldn't have to see me wandering aimlessly, maybe as a kindness to redirect my looping mind. I couldn't step out of my loss and into the story at first, but I read the words out of habit. Soon, though, I was completely immersed in this other world, and I can't describe to you the relief not thinking about myself for those few hours gave me.
It would be a stretch to credit my recovery from that dark pit to mystery novels, but they played their part. I swung from Hillerman to William Kent Krueger to Sue Grafton to Laura Lippman, and each one gave me relief and justice. I was feeling human again by the time I got to Janet Evanovich, and it was when I found myself laughing out loud at someone else's story that I realized I wanted to write funny mysteries, too.
And so I do. And that's why I write mysteries.
My thanks to those of you out there who write and read these fabulous books.