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Carlson, Patricia M(cElroy) 1940- (P. M. Carlson)

CARLSON, Patricia M(cElroy) 1940-
(P. M. Carlson)

PERSONAL: Born February 3, 1940, in Guatemala City, Guatemala; citizenship: American; daughter of James Benjamin (an engineer) and Alene (a teacher; maiden name, Jones) McElroy; married M. A. Carlson (a professor), August 20, 1960; children: Geoffrey, Richard. Education: Cornell University, B.A., 1961, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1974.

ADDRESSES: Home—421 Third St., Apt. 3, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Agent—Vicky Bijur Literary Agency, 333 West End Ave., New York, NY 10023.

CAREER: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, instructor and lecturer in psychology, human development, and statistics, 1973-78; editor of Mystery Writers Annual, 1993-95. Chairperson of Ithaca's Environmental Commission, 1975-78; member of board of directors of Bloomington Restorations, Inc., 1982-84, and Historic Ithaca.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America (member of board of directors, 1990—), Sisters in Crime (president, 1992-93).

AWARDS, HONORS: Anthony Boucher Award finalist, World Mystery Convention, 1986, for Murder Is Academic; Macavity Award finalist for best mystery, 1988, for Murder Unrenovated; Agatha Christie award, 1989, 1992; Edgar Allan Poe award, Mystery Writers of America, 1991.



Audition for Murder, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.

Murder Is Academic, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.

Murder Is Pathological, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.

Murder Unrenovated, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.

Rehearsal for Murder, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.

Murder Misread, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

Murder in the Dog Days, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Bad Blood, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.


Gravestone, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993. Bloodstream, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.


(With Marion Potts, Rodney Cocking, and Carol Copple) Structure and Development in Child Language: The Preschool Years, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1979.

(With Richard Darlington) Behavioral Statistics: Logic and Methods, Free Press (New York, NY), 1987.

(Under name P. M. Carlson) Renowned Be Thy Grave:The Murderous Miss Mooney (stories), Crippen & Landru (Norfolk, VA), 1998.

Contributor to books, including Child Development: A Study of Growth Processes, edited by Stewart Cohen, F. E. Peacock, 1971; (under name P. M. Carlson) Mr. President: Private Eye, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Francis M. Nevins, Jr., Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988; and (under name P. M. Carlson) Sisters in Crime 2, edited by Marilyn Wallace, Berkley, 1990.

SIDELIGHTS: Psychology professor Patricia M. Carlson has used her insights into human nature in several ways: She has conducted and published the results of her psychological research and, under the name P. M. Carlson, pens two popular mystery series featuring female sleuths Maggie Ryan and Marty Hopkins. While Ryan is a New York statistician married to an actor and Hopkins a sheriff living in rural Indiana, the two sleuths have important similarities. According to an essayist for the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Ryan and Hopkins "are both good detectives because they are intelligent, resourceful, courageous, and physically fit. They serve as believable, proactive role models for contemporary women, challenging the traditional image of women as the weaker sex and encouraging an active response rather than passivity in threatening situations."

The first three installments of Carlson's "Maggie Ryan" series take place during the sleuth's college years in the 1970s and present a view of that tumultuous era. Drood Review critic Jim Huang, considering the first three "Ryan" novels, asserted that "the series works so well for three reasons: Carlson's characters are firmly rooted in their historical context; she portrays her characters with unusual warmth and empathy; and the social issues she covers are skillfully linked to the mystery plot and are highly personalized, so that her books are never didactic." Throughout the "Ryan" series Carlson continued to develop her protagonist, and by the final installment, 1991's Bad Blood, had created a "more honest" Ryan who figures in a "genuinely moving" tale, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. A Publishers Weekly contributor also noted Carlson's emphasis on human relations, concluding that Bad Blood "succeeds more for its insights into family dynamics than for its plot."

In the mid-1990s Carlson published her "Marty Hopkins" novels, Gravestone and Bloodstream. Set in Indiana, south of Bloomington, the first revolves around Hopkins's efforts to solve the murder of a white man married to an African American as well as the murder of a young woman who disappeared many years earlier. As the title might suggest, the story involves stone—the stone of the limestone caves and quarries in that area—gravestones, and literal and metaphorical fossils. In the view of a Publishers Weekly commentator, readers will "enjoy the company of intelligent, down-to-earth Marty." In Bloodstream Hopkins investigates the disappearance of a young man, this 1995 novel earning praise as a "powerful mystery" from another Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Carlson branched out into another literary genre in the late 1990s by publishing a collection of short historical mysteries titled Renowned Be Thy Grave: The Murderous Miss Mooney. Bridget Mooney is a late nineteenth-century actress-turned-detective who solves "ten high-spirited cases," to quote a Kirkus Reviews critic, Mooney's cases involving such historical figures as Sarah Bernhardt, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Alva Edison, Jesse James, Lillie Langtry, Ida B. Wells, and Mack Sennett. A Drood Review contributor called the volume "lively and full of verve," and two of the stories in the collection were additionally honored as finalists for the prestigious Agatha award.

Reflecting on her enthusiasm for writing mysteries, Carlson once told CA: "The same interest in people that drew me into psychology persists in my mystery writing. Mysteries are enduringly popular because they deal with humanity's big problems—death and evil—and with our moral and psychological responses to those problems. Mysteries range from simple fables of just revenge to deeply ambiguous tales of conflicting needs and loyalties. My own books tend toward conflict. My detectives are parents, and I find that this changes the moral resonances of the stories. Parents are not primarily interested in proving their manhood, nor even in eye-for-an-eye justice; they strive to enhance the future, to protect the innocent from further harm, to grope for responsible answers in an unjust society."



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Armchair Detective, fall, 1993, review of Gravestone, p. 119.

Drood Review, November, 1987; November-December, 1998, review of Renowned By Thy Grave: The Murderous Miss Mooney.

Kirkus Reviews, 1991, review of Bad Blood; April 1, 1993, review of Gravestone, p. 410; May 15, 1995, review of Bloodstream, p. 675; May 15, 1998, review of Renowned Be Thy Grave, p. 699.

Los Angeles Daily News, May 26, 1985.

New York Times Book Review, July 4, 1993, Marilyn Stasio, review of Gravestone, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, November 11, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Bad Blood, p. 51; April 19, 1993, review of Gravestone, p. 53; April 10, 1995, review of Bloodstream, p. 56.

Purloined Letter, October 7, 1987.*

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