Benedict, Laura 1962–

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Benedict, Laura 1962–

(Laura Philpot Benedict)

PERSONAL:

Born July 2, 1962; married Pinckney Benedict (third husband; writer and educator); children: two. Education: University of Missouri—St. Louis, business school graduate. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, cooking, golf, needlepoint, and shooting.

ADDRESSES:

Home—IL. Agent—Susan Raihofer, David Black Literary Agency, 156 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Corporate Ink (freelance writing and sales promotion business), owner, 1992-2003. Has worked as a freelance book reviewer for newspapers including the Grand Rapids Press, Grand Rapids, MI. Worked for Busch Creative Services, St. Louis, MO, sales and promotion, for five years.

MEMBER:

International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime.

WRITINGS:

Isabella Moon: A Novel, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2007.

(Editor, with Pinckney Benedict) Surreal South: An Anthology of Short Fiction from Press 53, Press 53 (Winston-Salem, NC), 2007.

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to the magazine Ellery Queen Mystery. Contributor to anthologies, including Best Mysteries of 2001. Also author of the blog Notes from a Handbasket. Reviewed books for newspapers, including the Grand Rapids Press, as Laura Philpot Benedict.

ADAPTATIONS:

Isabella Moon was adapted as an audiobook, Brilliance Audio.

SIDELIGHTS:

"After years of reviewing books and having some small success with short stories and essays, I published a story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine," author Laura Benedict noted on her home page. "‘The Hollow Woman’ wasn't so much a mystery story as a murder story. But it wasn't until four years and two practice novels later that I began Isabella Moon and realized that I'd finally found the material that I think I was meant to write."

In addition to her short stories, Benedict also reviewed books for newspapers in Michigan and elsewhere before writing her book Isabella Moon: A Novel, which was called "a small-town thriller with a hint of the supernatural and compelling, well-drawn characters" by Library Journal contributor Karen Kleckner.

The story takes place in the idyllic town of Carystown, Kentucky, where nine-year-old Isabella Moon disappears on her way home from school. Just a few months earlier, Kate Russell, a young woman who seemingly has no past, came to town. Two years after Isabella's disappearance, Kate goes to the local sheriff, Bill Delaney, and informs him that the young girl's ghost has told her where she is buried. Delaney, who has been bitterly disappointed because he never solved the case, immediately suspects Kate of the crime. However, he is soon facing more mysteries. An athlete drops dead while playing basketball, and Francine, the mother of Kate's best friend, is murdered. In the meantime, Kate's newly found idyllic life is rocked by turmoil, and she cannot confide in her boyfriend, Caleb, after lying to him about her past. The reader learns of Kate's past through a series of flashbacks focusing on her former life with an abusive husband. In a subplot, Kate finds that she can get no solace from her friend Francie, who is too busy with her own problems, namely her mother's death and her affair with a local playboy even though she is married. "As Sheriff Delaney tries to make sense of the chaos threatening his usually peaceful jurisdiction, he continues to wonder if it is all somehow tied to Kate," wrote Sarah Rachel Egelman on the Bookreporter.com Web site.

Still focusing on Kate, Sherrif Delaney continues his investigation and, in the process, discovers some startling secrets about Carystown's past. The quaint town that the sheriff loves turns out to be a hotbed of unsavory doings, including drug use, lies, and murder. Before long, it is not only Kate who is assailed by the supernatural but the entire town of Carystown as its past comes back to haunt it. In the meantime, Kate soon finds that her own life is also at stake.

Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, noted that the author "creates an entertainingly lurid atmosphere as she peoples a small southern town with not one but two psychopaths." Bookreporter.com Web site contributor Sarah Rachel Egelman called the novel "a sexy and violent thriller with a surprising conclusion," adding that the author's "style is straightforward, and … the combination of traditional thriller and ghost story makes this book a unique read."

Benedict, along with her husband, Pinckney Benedict, is also the editor of Surreal South: An Anthology of Short Fiction from Press 53. The book features dream-like stories and poems by some of the best living southern writers. Writing in the book's introduction, the Benedicts note: "Put away literary notions. Put away schoolchild considerations of theme and symbol and interpretation. Forget notions of allegory. If there is allegory here, it is the allegory of the self, as we find it in the best work of Poe, for instance: the hidden self of the writer and the unrealized self of the reader. It's the sort of allegory that not only does not require analysis, but that actively struggles against it." Among the contributors are Robert Olen Butler, Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Abbott, Andrew Hudgins, and William Gay. A contributor to the Perpetual Folly Web site called Surreal South a "a pretty spectacular anthology."

In an interview with Rose Bunch on the Southeast Review Web site, the author commented on how she and her husband live and work in the same house. "We often work in our respective offices in the morning and later go out for lunch together. It's nice because writing can be so solitary, and it helps to have a partner who doesn't take it personally when I wander out of my office dazed and distracted, only to go running back inside without saying a word. We don't read one another's work in progress; that's just a habit we've gotten into." The author also noted in the interview that film has influenced her work, from movies by director Alfred Hitchcock to television shows such as The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. The author told Bunch: "They instilled a sense of wonder and possibility in me, even if they were a little hokey."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2007, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Isabella Moon: A Novel, p. 46.

Books, October 27, 2007, Paul Goat Allen, "Few Tricks, Many Treats: Southern Illinois Writer's 1st Novel Joins a Cornucopia of Stellar Debuts," p. 7.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Isabella Moon.

Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Karen Kleckner, review of Isabella Moon, p. 47.

Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2007, review of Isabella Moon, p. 43.

ONLINE

Blogcritics,http://blogcritics.org/ (October 2, 2007), Amanda Bittle, review of Isabella Moon.

Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (June 20, 2008), Sarah Rachel Egelman, review of Isabella Moon; (June 20, 2008), brief profile of author.

Fantasy Debut,http://fantasydebut.blogspot.com/ (September 30, 2007), Tia Nevitt, review of Isabella Moon.

Laura Benedict Home Page,http://www.laurabenedict.com (June 20, 2008).

Laura Benedict MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/laurabenedict (June 20, 2008).

Perpetual Folly,http://perpetualfolly.blogspot.com/ (December 23, 2007), review of Isabella Moon.

Southeast Review,http://www.southeastreview.org/ (June 20, 2008), Rose Bunch, "Interview with Laura Benedict."

Surreal South MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/surrealsouth (June 19, 2008).

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