No Christmas, no matter how bright the tree, fragrant the food, bountiful the gifts,
or merry the fellowship, would ever be as sweet, as soul satisfying,
as that one had been more than thirty years ago….
G. A. McKevett, Murder In Her Stocking, (Kindle Loc. 66)
The first book in the Savannah Reid mystery series, Just Desserts, popped into the market in 1995. Written by prolific writer Sonja Massie under the pseudonym, G. A. McKevett, the twenty-third in the series, Hide and Sneak, was released in April 2018. To say the least, the series has been a hit for the author and Kensington Press.
Murder In Her Stocking is the first Granny Reid mystery, which will be released on October 30, 2018, and appears to be a spinoff of the Savannah Reid mystery series. It is presented as a memory flashback of Granny Reid, who is attending a family Christmas gathering at Savannah’s California residence in the present time. I’m so glad that it appears to be the first of its own series because I have so many questions about what happens after this book ends.
In Murder In Her Stocking, Granny (Stella) Reid tells the story of her favorite Christmas throwing the reader back in time to the 1980s and back to their hometown in Georgia, when Savannah was twelve-years-old. Savannah is the oldest of her many siblings and must help Granny solve a mystery. But in doing so, the family solves a larger problem. It’s a true Christmas story that focuses on the fundamental elements of life. I enjoyed the story very much.
Please welcome G.A. (Sonja) McKevett to WWK. E. B. Davis
Does every town no matter how small have a resident pervert?
Unfortunately, there are probably more sexual predators per capita, in both tiny towns and major cities, than we want to believe. Though I doubt most are as easily identified as McGill’s resident pervert. Shall we say, Elmer lacks…um…subtlety?
Did you grow up in a small Southern town?
I did. And in northern towns and western towns and eastern towns. My father didn’t believe in paying his income taxes and participated in somewhat shady schemes that brought him to the attention of various states’ attorney generals. The result was a rather nomadic existence for the family. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school, find the car packed with our belongings, and be told we were moving on. It was an adventure. And an education.
I remember mercurochrome, but what is Merthiolate?
Both mercurochrome and Merthiolate (pronounced mah-THIGH-late by us Southerners) contain mercury, are red, and sting like the dickens when applied. Seriously! Back in the day, we hid our skinned knees and elbows from well-meaning parents for fear of a treatment. It was applied with a little glass wand that was attached to the inside of the bottle cap. My folks would smear it on the boo-boo and then immediately start blowing like crazy on the wound to take away part of the sting. I hear Merthiolate was used during surgeries at one time. (I’m guessing the surgeons didn’t blow on their patients’ incisions.)
Stella is known for her sleuthing. Describe for our readers the cases she’s solved in McGill prior to this story?
Being nosy by nature and an astute observer of human nature, Stella has always been able to figure out “who done it,” sometimes, even before they do it. But she gained her reputation as the town’s prime sleuth after she uncovered the villain who vandalized Miss Abigail’s flower garden on the evening before the County Rose Competition. She also figured out the miscreant baker who laced the brownies at the church social with Ex-lax. And it was she who identified the teenage hoodlums who had placed numerous outhouses (not their own) on top of barns (also not their own) on homecoming night.
All in all, crime-prone McGilllians worried more about Stella exposing their misdeeds than Sheriff Gilford.
Was it unusual for a white Southern lady in her fifties to have a black woman as a close friend? How did Stella and Elsie Dingle form such a friendship?
Yes, such a close, mixed-race friendship would have been unusual, but not unheard of. In the small town’s one church, attendees would have opportunities to get to know one another in meaningful ways, share their commonalities, celebrate each other’s joyful experiences, and offer support during life’s trials.
But Stella and Elsie share a dark, childhood connection that will be revealed in the second book of the series, which I’m writing now, Murder in the Corn Maze. Sorry. I can’t tell you much about that at the moment.
Florence Bagley is Stella’s closest neighbor and an unlikely friend since Florence is one of the wealthiest women in town, but they’ve known each other their entire lives. Do small towns make such friendships possible or does Florence’s affluence get in the way of their friendship?
It isn’t Florence’s affluence that hurts her relationship with Stella, and the other citizens of McGill. It’s Florence’s need to constantly talk about it. She isn’t as cruel as she is thoughtless and uninformed. Never having been poor herself, she doesn’t realize how painful it can be to have one’s poverty pointed out. She’s never felt indebted to anyone and doesn’t understand what a heavy burden “gratitude” can be.
It seemed to me that Florence would have more legal/financial power against her abusive husband, Bud, than she realized. Community property, joint bank accounts, etc. Was she totally naïve or totally powerless?
Sadly, then as now, legal intervention and financial assets don’t always translate into “power” for victims of domestic violence. She could have a fortune in the bank in her own name, but if her husband beats her because she forgot to buy his favorite beer, she has to wonder what he would do if she withdrew that fortune and tried to use it to escape him. Even if local law enforcement is enlightened and understanding of her plight, and even if she can get to a phone and call for help, it could take them five, ten, thirty minutes to arrive. A great deal of damage can be inflicted in literally one minute during an attack. And who knows that better than one who has been attacked over and over again?
Tragically, wealthy, intelligent, resourceful victims of domestic violence are hurt, maimed, even killed just like the poor, less privileged among us. Domestic violence knows no boundaries: social, financial, educational, religious, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or any other human “classification” imaginable.
Stella has quite the reputation along with her cast-iron skillet. Was her attack on Florence’s husband an emotional response or a cold-blooded one?
Stella’s reputation is mostly based on the exaggeration of her “attack” on Bud, thanks to the town’s highly imaginative gossip mill. The frying pan whacking she gave Bud, was two smacks, not exactly the “Stella Reid Skillet Massacre” that became part of McGill folklore.
That fateful Sunday, Florence had come running to Stella’s house to escape a beating-in-progress at the hands of her husband. Stella had just finished cleaning her 14-inch cast iron skillet, when Flo charged into her kitchen, nose bleeding, terrified, and looking to her for protection. Stella called the sheriff, but before he could arrive, an enraged Bud broke down Stella’s back door, intent on fetching his disobedient wife and taking her back home to finish the job he’d started.
Was Stella emotional when she smacked him twice with the skillet and changed his mind? No doubt. I’m sure her heart was pounding as she defended her friend, her home, and herself from a vicious bully. Was it cold-blooded? I don’t believe so. I think it was instinctive and incredibly brave.
Waycross has a heavy burden being the only male child. The only father figure he ever knew was his late grandfather, Stella’s late husband, Arthur Reid. Does Waycross have the ability to talk with his dead grandfather?
I believe, with his own sweet, childlike faith, Waycross hears his grandfather and communicates with him. How much if it is “real” and how much is based on the stories Waycross has heard about his remarkable ancestor…I’ll leave that up to the reader. And Waycross.
In this story, there are seven grandchildren. But in later Savannah books, there are nine children. Are there “oh, no, not again” issues that will occur in subsequent books?
Oh yes. There will be a couple more. Shirley’s so fertile that if she walks by a peach tree, it bursts into bloom.
When Stella finds the town hussy dying in an alley behind a bar, Stella shows her nothing but respect. Is Stella’s faith the reason she withholds judgment or does she understand that circumstances often draw good people to make bad choices?
I suspect it’s a combination of both. Stella takes her faith to heart and, as best she can, tries to follow its precepts in her daily life, not just inside the church walls on Sunday morning. She has also seen many good people make bad choices and bad people perform virtuous acts, so she at least tries to withhold judgement. Regularly, she reminds herself that it’s hard enough for her to understand why she, herself, does what she does. How can she truly know another person’s heart?
If Stella’s daughter-in-law, Shirley, doesn’t want to mother her own children—why doesn’t she give custody to Stella?
We all have to look in the mirror from time to time, and we want to like the person we see there. We humans can rationalize almost anything to excuse the man or woman looking back. Shirley has done a lot of rationalizing, so she’s good at it. She has convinced herself that she’s a pretty great mom, considering what a lousy hand Life has dealt her. She figures, any “minor” shortcomings she might have as a mother are due to other people’s downfalls, not her own.
To surrender her children to Stella would be to admit her own weaknesses and acknowledge Stella’s strengths. Plus, it’s a control issue. She would never give up her control over her children to any woman, let alone one she hates.
“Most things that are worth doin’ at all are worth doin’ well.”
Savannah paused in her fudge cutting and looked at Stella, confused.
“I thought the first part of the saying was ‘Anything that’s worth doing at all.’”
“That’s for overly persnickety folks. The truth is, there’s a lot that’s not worth doing
at all, let alone worth doing well.” (Kindle Loc. 3205)
Why does Stella point out that distinction for Savannah?
Having once been young and a perfectionist, Stella has learned over the years that her time and energy aren’t limitless, as she once thought. She has come to realize that some things must be left undone, or done with only minimal time and energy, so that one can address what’s most important. Not everything is worth the resources required to do it “well.” Sometimes, “good enough” will suffice. And some things can simply be set aside.
What’s next for Stella and the kids?
As I mentioned before, in this next book, Stella confronts some unresolved issues from her own childhood. Even though most of the grandchildren will, thankfully, be too young to understand what happened all those years ago, the mature-for-her-age Savannah will. And for readers of the Savannah Reid Mysteries, it will illuminate some aspects of the adult Savannah’s character.
In closing, I’d like to thank you for your interest in this new series and for the opportunity to connect with you and your readers. I wish you well and thank you for all you do for those of us who love this genre.