What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working on a new book regarding murder between people who were sexually intimate. I spent last summer in the British National Archive reading recently opened police files of (often unsolved) crimes--complete with documents like witness interviews, notes on the investigation, letters and diaries of the victims.
Striking among these cases are the "Great Coram Street Murder" of Harriet Buswell, 20 years prior to the infamous Ripper murders, in which a prostitute was brutally murdered in her own apartment for no apparent reason. Also fascinating is the Florence Maybrick murder in which a woman was accused of poisoning her husband, but the press and the public were never satisfied that she was the perpetrator of the crime.
I'm curious about what makes murders like these so difficult for police to solve in a satisfying way. In spite of the very different circumstances of these two cases--a poor prostitute and her client versus a well-to-do husband and wife--the Victorian police seem repeatedly to be baffled by murders that follow sexually intimate acts.
You are clearly a masterful researcher, have you found any favorite places to do research here in Phoenix?
My scholarly work focuses on England of the long nineteenth-century, so I conduct my research there. I have found, however, many, many places in this beautiful city where I write -- from coffee shops to cafes to libraries.
What is on your summer reading list?
This summer I'm reading, in detail, the police files I collected last summer, as well as a lot of Victorian novels on murder and the letters of Charles Dickens, who was fascinated by (and often wrote about) murder.
What was your last guilty pleasure read?
I read to my ten-year-old son every night, so most of my "guilty pleasure" reading is what we read together. We just finished The Mysterious Benedict Society. I couldn't wait to curl up every night and read that novel, and that's how I almost always feel when we sit down to read together.
Where's the best place in Phoenix to read something?
My back yard! I really love living in Phoenix. I grew up in Wyoming, another very sunny state, and for twelve years in Ohio, I felt terribly oppressed by the lack of sunshine. I'm so happy to live someplace sunny and warm (the heat doesn't bother me), and I look out on Piestewa peak from my living room and back yard. It's a spectacular sight: the mountain, the palm trees, and the vast Aegean blue sky.
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