Friday, February 23 , 2018, 4:36 am | Fair 46º


Crowd of Fans at Louise Gaylord’s Book Signing Is a Clue in Her Murder Mysteries’ Popularity

Dark Lake is a hit as Allie Armington aficionados turn out at Tecolote Book Shop for the fourth book in the series

Local award-winning author Louise Gaylord welcomed fans, family and friends at Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito for a recent book signing debuting the fourth installment of her suspenseful Allie Armington murder mystery series.

Gaylord looked at home and content sitting in an armchair surrounded by a room full of books with a gathering of admirers who stood patiently in line to talk to her and take home an autographed copy of her latest mystery novel, Dark Lake.

A longtime Houston resident, Gaylord calls Montecito her second home. She spends much of her time here writing about her favorite character and mystery muse, the 35 year-old Allie Armington, a feisty, independent and quick-witted Texan who leaves no stone unturned when it comes to solving a mystery.

The stories’ main character was originally inspired by Gaylord’s three-month stint on the Harris County, Texas, grand jury panel.

“There is so much crime in Houston, usually drug-related, that there were five concurrent grand jury panels,” Gaylord said. “The assistant district attorney in charge of our panel was the laziest guy. I mean we had like 30 drug drops, and so I said I can do better than this guy and that’s how Allie was born.”

In the latest adventure, after a 15-year absence, the protagonist returns to a childhood retreat in Upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where Allie spent most of her summers with her Aunt Sallie. But the long-awaited reunion quickly turns into a murder case when Allie arrives at her aunt’s cottage to find her cousin, Arlene, bound, gagged and drugged and her beloved Aunt Sallie’s mangled body floating in the nearby lake. The local police and residents try to cover up the death as a tragic suicide, but Allie, herself a prosecutor, suspects foul play and sets off to clear her aunt’s reputation, and, of course, find the killer.

“I had to kill someone,” teased Gaylord, who decided to knock off Aunt Sallie only a few pages into the book but also with a forewarning that the deceased had a checkered past.

Gaylord takes the reader on a suspenseful and nail-biting tale of nonstop adventure in this 169-page turner that is guaranteed to keep fans and new readers guessing up until the climactic conclusion.

Sheila McGinity, who has known Gaylord for 15 years and has purchased the entire Allie Armington Mysteries Series, said she was excited to get the latest novel.

“When her first book came out I thought that I never knew this side of Louise, but she obviously has a wonderful calling in creative writing and the use of the language,” said McGinity. “I like the way she works her words and spins each narrative into a suspenseful mystery. There are great surprises in each book and I’m looking forward to reading this one — I think she is the best.”

At age 76 and as the mother of three grown children and nine grandchildren, Gaylord’s success as a writer is often based on her own life experiences and travels.

Her first short story, “The Wood Affair,” written in 1987, was about a love affair that is eventually spoiled by the male’s obsession with a regulated wooden tennis court built in the Adirondacks in the 1800s. Gaylord said the story arose from playing tennis on wooden courts during summers at her family’s camp at the Adirondack League Club near Old Forge, N.Y.

“There are people who don’t want you to tear down these tennis courts and put nice real courts in, and so I got a terrible tennis elbow,” she said. “I wrote the story about a love affair where he’s an awful social climber so his lover burns down his beloved wooden tennis court.”

Gaylord, who studied art history and sociology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and later at the University of Houston, said her first passion was opera. In fact, she has designed several covers for Opera Cues, the Houston Grand Opera Guild’s magazine.

As an active board member for Opera Santa Barbara, Gaylord was appointed president of the Opera Guild International, now Opera Volunteers International, from 1981-83. She said writing fell into her lap when, after writing her first short story, several of her closest friends encouraged her to join a local writing group and attend self-publishing seminars in Santa Barbara.

Gaylord’s natural talent shined through and her weaving of fascinating tales prompted other notable writers to take notice. Soon, she was invited to join the Writers Consortium founded by Guida Jackson and Ida Luttrell.

Gaylord eventually self published her first Allie Armington mystery novel, Anacacho, which earned her the 2003 national Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery/Suspense, which was followed by two more books: Spa Deadly, which received the 2011 Global eBook award, and Xs.

The Adirondacks setting for the latest Allie escapade, Dark Lake, is based on a lake surrounded by a complex of cabins that Gaylord saw while on a party boat with her family, but she admits the idea to write the novel arose from some friendly persuasion by two sisters who own Old Forge Hardware Store.

“There is a wild hardware store in Old Forge that’s been around since the 1900s and it’s now owned by two sisters who have a wonderful book area there in the store,” said Gaylord. “One of the ladies playfully encouraged me to write about the Adirondacks because she said that I’d been coming up there for over 40 years!”

Gaylord is currently 40 pages into a fifth Allie Armington murder-mystery novel, which she is calling A Cruise to Die For and was inspired by a 2011 excursion she took. The story takes place on a cruise ship where Allie and her new love interest may have witnessed someone getting pitched overboard. Allie suspects an Italian captain with a shady past may be a potential suspect.

Gaylord is a versatile and talented writer who has also expanded out of the mystery genre with an insightful character study novel, Julia Fairchild, and the delightful Recipes from Camp Trillium. But despite her success in other facets of writing, the author continues to enthrall her devoted fans with the spine-tingling Allie Armington novels and continues to attract new readers to her growing fan base.

When asked why she decided to write murder mysteries, Gaylord proclaimed, “Life is a mystery if you think about it. You never know what’s going to happen next.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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