Adamson, Mary Jo 1935-

views updated

ADAMSON, Mary Jo 1935-

PERSONAL: Born January 20, 1935, in Moline, IL; daughter of Charles Julian (an accountant) and Frances May (a homemaker; maiden name, Heffran) Dauw; married Richard J. Adamson (divorced); married Daniel E. Ward (divorced); children: David Adlai, Leah Sue. Education: Marycrest College, B.A., 1956; graduate study at University of California, Los Angeles; Humboldt State College (now University), M.A., 1968; University of Denver, Ph.D., 1979.

ADDRESSES: Home— 7995 East Mississippi, No. J-10, Denver, CO 80231. Agent— John Farquharson Ltd., 250 West 57th St., New York, NY 10107.

CAREER: High school English teacher in Seneca, IL, 1956-57; Humboldt State College (now University), Arcata, CA, instructor in English, 1967-68; University of Denver, Denver, CO, internship director of department of mass communications and lecturer, 1979-83; writer.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America (member of board of directors of Rocky Mountain Region, 1989-90), Sisters in Crime, Colorado Authors League.

AWARDS, HONORS: May's Newfangled Mirth was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review in 1989.


A February Face, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.

Not Till a Hot January, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.

Remember March, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.

April When They Woo, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

May's Newfangled Mirth, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

The Blazing Tree, Signet (New York, NY), 2000.

The Elusive Voice, Signet (New York, NY), 2001.

Also author, with Yvonne Montgomery, of novel Sweepstakes; contributor to scholarly periodicals; contributor to the anthology Sisters in Crime.

SIDELIGHTS: Mary Jo Adamson's mysteries featuring Boston journalist Michael Merrick are set in Massachusetts, during the mid-nineteenth century. Merrick, a Harvard-educated man, has fallen into opium addiction as a way of escaping his grief following the death of his family. He is rescued from a certain descent into death by an unknown benefactor, who sets him up in safe and comfortable lodgings and secured him a job as a police reporter for a newspaper, the Boston Independent. In his first adventure, The Blazing Tree, Merrick is sent to investigate a mysterious series of fires in a Shaker village in western Massachusetts. The newspaper's publisher wants Merrick, who has little belief in God, to infiltrate the religious sect. Initially reluctant, he goes ahead with the mission, only to find himself genuinely fascinated by the Shakers' religion and their simple lifestyle.

In The Elusive Voice, Merrick is on medical leave from his newspaper work when he is drawn into dallying with the demimonde of seances and spiritualism. A neighbor's seance leaves one participant dead, and Merrick is soon nosing around in Boston's high society searching for answers. He must cope with an editor who wants to sensationalize the story and the notion that perhaps the killer is from the world beyond. Diane Gotfryd, reviewing the book for The Mystery Reader, cautioned that Merrick is modeled perhaps too closely on Rex Stout's fictional detective, Nero Wolfe, but she added that "the chill of the setting and the seriousness of the events combine to make this a dark, absorbing historical mystery."

Adamson once told CA: "So much of my life is 'unpublishable.' I grew up in Illinois but have lived in such places as London, Los Angeles, several cities in northern California, southeast Missouri, and central Wyoming. I also traveled extensively. When grown, my children told me that they assumed everybody had to move every summer and start at a new school in the fall. Now, I try to spend every winter in Puerto Rico and every summer in Colorado.

"I am most surprised by the fact that I am a writer. In the 1960s, when I started my graduate work in English at the University of California, Los Angeles, all advanced students were required to take a course in creative writing. I was appalled, since I was convinced that there were writers, and then there were people like me who wrote (reverently) about writers. I hurriedly signed up for a section in poetry—sure, to write poetry—but also to fulfill the requirement. Things went on for some years. I got my doctorate and wrote scholarly articles, administrative reports, government proposals, memos, and newsletters—but never a word of fiction. Then at the end of 1984, I decided to try a murder mystery. I am living proof that anyone who tries to write what he or she loves to read can tell a story."



New York Times Book Review, August 27, 1989, Marilyn Stasio, review of May's Newfangled Mirth, p. 22.


Books 'n' Bytes, (September 24, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of The Blazing Tree.

Mystery Reader, (September 25, 2002), Lesley Dunlap, review of The Blazing Tree; Diane Gotfryd, review of The Elusive Voice.

Romantic Times, (September 25, 2002), Toby Bromberg, review of The Blazing Tree.*

About this article

Adamson, Mary Jo 1935-

Updated About content Print Article