Brooks, Janice Young 1943-
Brooks, Janice Young 1943-
(Jill Churchill, Amanda Singer, Valerie Vayle)
Born January 11, 1943, in Kansas City, MO; daughter of J.W. (a surgeon) and Louise (a homemaker) Young; children: three. Education: University of Kansas, B.S.Ed., 1965; graduate study at University of Missouri—Kansas City, 1965-67. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, genealogy, needlepoint, knitting.
Novelist. Teacher in public elementary schools, Turner, KS, 1965-68; Kansas City Star, Kansas City, KS, book reviewer, 1978-92. Instructor and planner at Avila College Writers Conference, 1978-86, and J.C.C.C. Writers Conference, 1985-87. Instructor at North East Oklahoma Romance Authors Conference, 1984, and at Rocky Mountain Romance Writers Conference, 1984, 1989; guest instructor at Hutchinson (Kansas) Junior College, 1982, and American Library Association Convention and Johnson County (Kansas) Junior College, both 1983.
Novelists, Inc. (first national president, 1989-90), Sisters in Crime, Mensa.
Thorpe Menn Award, American Association of University Women, 1982, for Seventrees; Malice Domestic's Agatha Award and Macavity Award, both 1990, both for Grime and Punishment.
(Under pseudonym Amanda Singer) Ozark Legacy, Avalon (New York, NY), 1975.
Forbidden Fires, Playboy Press (New York, NY), 1977.
In Love's Own Time, Playboy Press (New York, NY), 1977.
Seventrees, New American Library (New York, NY), 1980.
(Coauthor, under pseudonym Valerie Vayle) Lady of Fire, Dell (New York, NY), 1980.
(Coauthor, under pseudonym Valerie Vayle) Seaflame, Dell (New York, NY), 1980.
(Coauthor, under pseudonym Valerie Vayle) Oriana, Dell (New York, NY), 1981.
Still the Mighty Waters, Dell (New York, NY), 1983.
Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Dell (New York, NY), 1984.
Glory, Dell (New York, NY), 1985.
Season of Desire, Dell (New York, NY), 1986.
The Circling Years, New American Library (New York, NY), 1986.
Crown Sable, New American Library (New York, NY), 1987.
Cinnamon Wharf, New American Library (New York, NY), 1988.
Guests of the Emperor, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1990.
The Herron Heritage, Headline (London, England), 1992.
"JANE JEFFRY" MYSTERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM JILL CHURCHILL
Grime and Punishment, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989, second edition, 1992.
A Farewell to Yarns, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.
A Quiche before Dying, Avon (New York, NY), 1993.
The Class Menagerie, Avon (New York, NY), 1994.
A Knife to Remember, Avon (New York, NY), 1994.
From Here to Paternity, Avon (New York, NY), 1995.
Silence of the Hams, Avon (New York, NY), 1996.
War and Peas, Avon (New York, NY), 1996.
Fear of Frying, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
The Merchant of Menace, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
A Groom with a View, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Mulch Ado about Nothing, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
The House of Seven Mables, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Bell, Book, and Scandal, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
A Midsummer Night's Scream, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
"GRACE AND FAVOR" MYSTERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM JILL CHURCHILL
Anything Goes, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
In the Still of the Night, Avon (New York, NY), 2000.
Someone to Watch over Me, Avon (New York, NY), 2001.
Love for Sale, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
It Had to Be You, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Who's Sorry Now?, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Kings and Queens: The Plantagenets of England (nonfiction) Thomas Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1975.
Also author of The Buddha Bust (serialized mystery), Universal Press Syndicate, 1984. Anthologized in Fiction Writer's Market, Writer's Digest Books, 1981, 1982, 1991. Contributor to periodicals, including Baby Talk, Mensa Bulletin, National 4-H News, Novelists, INK, Woman's Day, Writer, and Writer's Digest.
Guests of the Emperor was adapted as the made-for-television movie Silent Cries, NBC-TV, 1993. Several of Brooks's titles have been adapted as audiobooks.
Janice Young Brooks has written numerous historical novels under her own name and is the author of two successful mystery series published under the pseudonym Jill Churchill.
The Jane Jeffry mysteries are light-hearted comedies featuring Jane Jeffry, a widowed mother of three who repeatedly finds herself mixed up in murder. Jane, her best friend Shelley, and her boyfriend Mel team up to solve crimes in such books as Mulch Ado about Nothing, A Groom with a View, and The Silence of the Hams. Representative of the "cozy" mystery genre, the books often focus more on Jane's gardening, cooking, and family life rather than on intricate plots or violent action. A Publishers Weekly critic called the second in the series, A Farewell to Yarns, a "skillful genre tale" that demonstrates "that daily life provides a full complement of successes, failures and challenges." In a review of A Groom with a View, GraceAnne A. DeCandido noted that Jane works "with calm efficiency and occasional grace," and that she is "companionable, smart, and down to earth." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called A Groom with a View "charming, if somewhat predictable," and concluded: "Churchill delivers a satisfying plot laced with subtle humor and some enjoyable gothic flourishes."
Since the series outset in 1989, Brooks has added over a dozen titles. Jane makes her seventh appearance in Silence of the Hams, in which an unpopular local at- torney is killed when a shelf full of hams falls on him during the opening of a deli. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called this title a "breezy mystery." In War and Peas, the first hardcover publication of the series, Jane investigates the shooting death of the director of a local history museum during the annual pea festival. A contributor for Publishers Weekly found this a "swift and agreeably perplexing tale." In the ninth installment in the series, Fear of Frying, Jane and friend Shelley venture to a remote camp in Wisconsin, part of a group of people examining the installation for their local school's use. Homicide, however, diverts their initial intention in this "breezy" mystery, as Library Journal contributor Rex E. Klett described it. Praise also came from Booklist reviewer John Rowen, who called the novel "a pleasant, hard-to-solve mystery, with evocative autumnal atmosphere." A Publishers Weekly reviewer thought praised the "evocation of … [a] damp weekend at camp."
Mayhem at Christmastime is the theme of the tenth novel in the "Jane Jeffry" series, The Merchant of Menace, a "lighthearted caper," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, felt this addition to the series was a rather "wobbly mystery," but one, nonetheless, that readers would eat like a "plate of Christmas cookies." Klett, writing in Library Journal, had a more positive assessment, calling The Merchant of Menace a "welcome addition." Mulch Ado about Nothing finds Jane and Shelley investigating a murder at a gardening class they are taking. For a Publishers Weekly critic, this title had "too little sleuthing going on … to appeal to anyone except gardeners."
The House of Seven Mabels finds Jane and Shelley investigating the murder of a female general contractor at a Victorian home which they, the intrepid sleuths, are redecorating. A Kirkus Reviews critic found this novel "highly readable," DeCandido, writing in Booklist, also found the book and series "appealing." Jane and Shelley attend a mystery conference and hope to become mystery writers in Bell, Book, and Scandal. An actual murder at the conference takes their attention in this "lightweight and fun" book, according to Klett, writing in Library Journal. In the fifteenth book in the series, Midsummer Night's Scream, Brooks blends needlepoint and theater lore to fashion a "punningly titled cozy," as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the book. Booklist contributor DeCandido thought this title would appeal to those "who like plenty of daily life mixed with their mysteries."
In her "Grace and Favor" series, also published under the pseudonym of Jill Churchill, Brooks presents a brother-and-sister sleuthing team. Lily Brewster and her brother Robert are from a wealthy New York family, but lose everything in the Great Depression. Fortunately, they inherit a family mansion on the Hudson River and, if they reside there for ten years, they will also inherit a fortune. Robert and Lily find themselves under suspicion of murdering the uncle who left them their home in the series debut, 1999's Anything Goes. Reviewing this title for Mystery Reader, Kay Black found it the start of a "great new series." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly also thought this first title in the series "makes for a pleasant, albeit light, diversion." The second installment in the series, In the Still of the Night, finds the pair trying to stay financially afloat by taking in weekend guests, although their plan goes awry when one of their guests turns up dead. When a body is discovered under the mansion's ice house, Robert sets out on the trail of the murderer in Someone to Watch over Me, while Lily helps out a member of the local ladies' league whose husband has just died under questionable circumstances. A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted a "lack of momentum" in this third installment. Pam Johnson, reviewing the same title for the School Library Journal, was more positive in her assessment, however, calling the book a "historically accurate portrayal of the people and the time."
The series continues with the 2003 Love for Sale, a book that "brings the Depression era to appealing life," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. In this installment Robert and Lily regret renting out rooms to mysterious fellows when one of them turns up dead. The Publishers Weekly reviewer thought this was a "well-plotted cozy," while Booklist writer DeCandido commended the presence of "period and local color, and not a few stalwart women." The siblings go to work in a nearby nursing home in the fifth installment in the series, It Had to Be You, only to get involved in a murder of one of the elderly patients. While DeCandido, writing in Booklist, thought this entry was lacking in the "energy and plotting" of other titles in the series, she also went on to note that it was "rich in period color," and that it successfully blends "the historical mystery with the village cozy." In Who's Sorry Now, the siblings solve not one, but two murders, in a "delightful" novel, as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the book. Similarly, Booklist contributor Jenny McLarin, called the same work a "nice mix of Depression history and cozy ambience."
Although Brooks has been highly praised for her Jill Churchill mystery novels, her favorite genre remains historical fiction, particularly her 1980 novel Seventrees, "partly," she once told CA, "because it's set in home territory, but mostly because I set out with one simple plan: to write exactly the sort of book I most love to read. It's a big family saga, with three generations, realistic characters and situations, lots of subplots and local flavor. Although it's far from the best selling book I've done, it's been the one that's provoked the most gratifying response from readers.
"I keep hearing that the historical novel is dead, its place in the women's fiction market taken by the sexy, short contemporary paperbacks, but I'm hanging in there anyway. Publishing trends change and I want to be there waiting with a big backlist when the historical readers come back to the fold. My dearest dream is to someday be classified with Anya Seton, Susan Howatch, and Catherine Gaskin, the real greats in my field."
"Every book is my favorite while I'm writing it," Brooks once explained. "I think writers have to feel that way or they'd never get through a single project." In an interview with iVillage, she advised aspiring authors to "write a really good book and don't let anybody who calls you ‘honey’ criticize it." Brooks also encouraged beginning writers not to "listen to advice," but rather "write from your heart."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1997, John Rowen, review of Fear of Frying, p. 309; October 1, 1998, review of The Merchant of Menace, p. 310; September 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of A Groom with a View, p. 71; April 15, 1999, review of The Merchant of Menace, p. 1460; December 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Mulch Ado about Nothing, p. 695; September 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Someone to Watch Over Me, p. 56; August, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The House of Seven Mabels, p. 1929; June 1, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Love for Sale, p. 1748; February 1, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of It Had to Be You, p. 953; November 15, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of A Midsummer Night's Scream, p. 564; January 1, 2006, Jenny McLarin, review of Who's Sorry Now?, p. 66.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1997, review of Fear of Frying, p. 1416; October 1, 1998, review of The Merchant of Menace, p. 1420; September 15, 1999, review of A Groom with a View, p. 1447; November 1, 2000, review of Mulch Ado about Nothing, p. 1519; September 15, 2001, review of Someone to Watch Over Me, p. 1325; July 15, 2002, review of The House of Seven Mabels, p. 995; May 1, 2003, review of Love for Sale, p. 643; August 15, 2003, review of Bell, Book, and Scandal, p. 1046; February 15, 2004, review of It Had to Be You, p. 156.
Library Journal, October 1, 1997, review of Fear of Frying, p. 130; November 1, 1998, review of The Merchant of Menace, p. 129; October 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of A Groom with a View, p. 138; August, 2002, Rex Klett, review of The House of Seven Mabels, p. 150; October 1, 2003, Rex Klett, review of Bell, Book, and Scandal, p. 121; February 1, 2004, Rex Klett, review of It Had to Be You, p. 128; July 1, 2005, Ann Kim, review of Who's Sorry Now?, p. 58.
Publishers Weekly, November 22, 1991, review of A Farewell to Yarns, p. 47; June 3, 1996, review of Silence of the Hams, p. 81; September 23, 1996, review of War and Peas, p. 59; October 27, 1997, review of Fear of Frying, p. 56; September 21, 1998, review of The Merchant of Menace, p. 77; May 10, 1999, review of Anything Goes, p. 64; August 23, 1999, review of A Groom with a View, p. 50; October 30, 2000, review of Mulch Ado about Nothing, p. 50; March 26, 2003, review of Love for Sale, p. 52; October 13, 2003, review of The House of Seven Mabels, p. 61; October 18, 2004, review of A Midsummer Night's Scream, p. 51; November 29, 2005, review of Who's Sorry Now?, p. 27.
School Library Journal, February, 2002, Pam Johnson, review of Someone to Watch Over Me, p. 154.
Washington Post Book World, September 20, 1998, review of The Merchant of Menace, p. 6.
Book Loons,http://bookloons.com/ (April 18, 2006), Mary Ann Smyth, review of It Had to Be You.
iVillage,http://www.ivillage.com/books/ (January 11, 2001), "Jill Churchill: I Love It When I Have to Do Research."
Jill Churchill Home Page,http://www.jillchurchill.com (April 18, 2006).
Mystery Reader, http://www.themystreryreader.com/ (April 18, 2006), Kay Black, review of Anything Goes, and Jennifer Monahan Winberry, review of The Merchant of Menace.