Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. Although I haven’t written any new Liss MacCrimmon mysteries in the last few years, the fictional village of Moosetookalook, Maine and the characters who live there are still close to my heart. For one thing, although Moosetookalook may not be a real place, it could be. There are certainly plenty of similar communities in my part of the state, and some of them get quite festive for the holiday season.
Take Farmington, Maine, the next town over from mine. They have Christmas traditions, of course, but they also celebrate Chester Greenwood Day. Chester, back in the late nineteenth century, invented earmuffs and manufactured them right there in his home town. Originally the state legislature declared December 21, the first day of winter, as Chester Greenwood Day. Farmington held a parade and hosted assorted competitions and concerts. But before long it occurred to the organizers that they could get even more mileage out of the fame of their local hero if they moved the festivities to the first Saturday of December, before the students at U. Maine Farmington left for Christmas vacation. It seems to have worked. If you decide to attend next year, keep in mind that everyone is expected to wear earmuffs, even pets. There are even extra large pairs to go on vehicles.
But getting back to Moosetookalook, two of the thirteen books in my series are set during the Christmas season. This wasn’t my idea. Editors of cozy mysteries really like Christmas books. But I was happy to comply with the suggestion, as long as I got to add my own strange little twists.
The idea for A Wee Christmas Homicide came from a column I had clipped out of one of Maine’s daily newspapers way back in May of 1998. Remember Beanie Babies? For a year, maybe two, they were all the rage—the Christmas present every kid wanted to find under the tree. When they were in short supply, some clever but dishonest entrepreneurs came up with the idea of smuggling the Canadian version across the border into Maine. For my book, which was published in 2009, I invented Tiny Teddies and gave three shops in Moosetookalook, including Liss MacCrimmon’s Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium, the last stockpile of the legitimate article. Then I added a “Twelve Shopping Days of Christmas” promotion, sponsored by local businesses, a chase on snowmobiles, a love triangle, whoopie pies for desert on Christmas Day, and (of course) a murder.
The second Christmas mystery, Ho-Ho-Homicide, was inspired by something very close to home. When it was published in 2014, my husband and I were operating a mom-and-pop, cut-your-own Christmas tree farm that opened the day after Thanksgiving and continued selling trees until Christmas Eve. For fictional purposes, I enlarged the operation, changing it into one that shipped trees to the city instead of selling them locally. Liss is roped into helping an old high school friend who has just inherited the Christmas tree farm from a relative who vanished mysteriously years before—right after a body turned up, neatly netted, in a shipment of his trees. I must admit, I got a kick out of finding a unique use for the netter that was essential to our little business.
Of course there are lots of twists and turns to the story, and an assortment crimes in addition to murder and attempted murder. I hoped readers would enjoy all the Christmas-related details and recommend the book to their friends, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what would happen the following year. It was shortly after the paperback reprint edition came out that someone on the Tonight Show staff came across a copy and thought the title and subject matter might be good for a few laughs. The result? Jimmy Fallon held up Ho-Ho-Homicide, wisecracked about the possibility of a “ho” in the plot (which wasn’t actually too far from the truth), and then gave me the kind of pull-quote many a writer would kill for: “It’s got two things that everyone likes: Christmas . . . and murder.”
Although both books are getting hard to find in print editions, they are still available through libraries and in electronic format. Other books in the series that are set in winter are The Corpse Wore Tartan, The Scottie Barked at Midnight, and A View to A Kilt.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com.
All this and a significant power outage too, A real lead-up to a Maine Christmas.
Don’t worry. Sounds like with the rain storm predicted on Friday and Saturday, all the snow will be gone by Christmas!
A Wee Christmas Homicide and Ho-Ho-Homicide are two of my favorite books in the series. Always worth a re-visit during the holidays. Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year Kathy!
Thanks, Lorri. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too
Have them on my shelf! And someday I hope to come to Chester Greenwood Day in my earmuffs. There are so many fun events in Maine, including celebrating Moxie.
That’s certainly true, and then we throw in fictional ones just to confuse our readers!
One of my favorite series. They debuted not too long after we moved here. I remember I sent you an email about how you nailed rural Maine in Moostookalook and you very graciously responded.
Thanks, Kait. I love getting email from readers and always try to reply. And I keep all the fan mail I get, even the critical ones. I print them out and file them in an old fashioned metal file cabinet.so cyberspace gremlins can’t delete them.