(Mary Ellen Dennis, Deni Dietz, Mary Ellen Dietz, Denise Dietz Wiley)
Married Gordon Aalborg (writer under pseudonym Victoria Gordon).
Writer. Formerly worked as a singer, dancer, and Weight Watchers lecturer.
(As Denise Dietz Wiley)Dream Dancer, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(As Denise Dietz Wiley)The Rainbow's Foot, Voices Publishing, 1998.
Footprints in the Butter: An Ingrid Beaumont Mystery Co-starring Hitchcock the Dog, Delphi Books, 1999.
Fifty Cents for Your Soul, Delphi Books, 2002.
Eye of Newt, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2004.
(With husband, Gordon Aalborg, under pseudonym Victoria Gordon)Finding Bess, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2004.
Hallie's Comet, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2004.
(As Mary Ellen Dennis)The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter(romance novel), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2007.
"ELLIE BERNSTEIN/LT. PETER MILLER DIET CLUB" MYSTERY SERIES
Throw Darts at a Cheesecake, Walker (New York, NY), 1992.
Beat Up a Cookie, Walker (New York, NY), 1994.
Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2005.
Contributor to books, including A Highwayman Comes Riding, Avid Press, 2000; and Journeys of the Heart, Avid Press, 2001.
The Rainbow's Foot is being adapted for television.
Denise Dietz once worked as an actress, singer, and journalist before turning to a career as a novelist. She debuted with Throw Darts at a Cheesecake, which would become the first novel in her "Ellie Bernstein/Lt. Peter Miller Diet Club" mystery series. Inspired by a part-time job she held as a Weight Watchers lecturer, Dietz tells the story of diet club members being murdered after they reach their goal weights. The novel introduces readers to dieter Ellie Berstein, who finds herself a potential victim and joins Lt. Peter Miller in solving the murders. The next book in the series,Beat Up a Cookie, centers on a group of people addicted to the old television show M*A*S*H and its star Alan Alda. As a member of the local M*A*S*H fan club, Ellie once again finds her compatriots being murdered and she, and her now boyfriend Peter, embark on the case. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this mystery features zany characters, zippy one-liners and … bizarre comic set pieces."
Dietz left Ellie and Peter behind for several years as she focused on other stand-alone mysteries. However, the duo returned in 2005 with the publication of Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed. Once again, Ellie is trying to lose weight and is a group leader at Weight Winners in Colorado Springs. When she accompanies her boyfriend, Peter, on a vacation to a dude ranch near Aspen, Colorado, she once again becomes involved in a mystery when a dead body is found in a nearby ravine. A subplot involves Ellie's fear of horseback riding and her need to establish a relationship with a black stallion named Satan. "Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed is an intriguing amateur sleuth tale with elements of a police procedural to enhance the who-done-it," wrote Harriet Klausner on the Harriet Klausner Book Reviews Web site.
In an earlier novel,Footprints in the Butter: An Ingrid Beaumont Mystery Co-starring Hitchcock the Dog, Dennis tells the story of Ingrid Beaumont, whose friend and old classmate, Wylie Jamestone, is murdered the day after their high school reunion. In his will, Wylie has left Ingrid a painting and a strange note about a treasure hunt, which leads Ingrid and her dog, Hitchcock, to his murderer. Among the book's pluses noted by Library Journal contributor Rex E. Klett, are its "quick-moving dialog … [and] the idiosyncrasies of Ingrid's dog."
In Fifty Cents for Your Soul, Dietz tells the story of aspiring actress Frannie Rosen, who thinks her career is on the way up when she lands a part as a demon in a horror film. However, once filming starts, Frannie's life begins to fall apart and she suspects that she is possessed. In the meantime, people begin to be murdered and the murderer turns out to be very close to Frannie. "Dietz is a unique and talented writer," wrote Robyn Glazer on MyShelf.com. "This book is very dark and shows the scope of her writing."
Eye of Newt takes place in Manitou Falls, Colorado, where Clive Newton, leader of the rock band the Newts, has been murdered, with parts of his body being systematically sent to other band members. Enter Sydney St. Charles, who does not believe in witchcraft but turns out to have sold a love potion to Clive and to the band's manager, Veronica, who dies in a fire. When Sydney looks for a link between the two deaths, she discovers a similar occurrence dating back to 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. It turns out that Sydney is a witch and a potential target of the murderer. Rex E. Klett, writing in the Library Journal, noted the story's combination "of self-deprecating humor, raucous familiars, and idiosyncratic family."
Hallie's Comet features portrait artist Alice "Hallie" O'Brien. When Hallie begins following her urge to paint portraits of things she's never seen, including people, old towns in the late nineteenth century, and brothels, she seeks to find out what is driving her. Initially, Hallie is to meet her friend, Joshua Quinn, to go to Cripple Creek, Colorado, to investigate the source of her inspirations, but Joshua sends his brother, Gabriel, instead. Hallie is astounded when she sees Gabriel because she has painted his portrait without ever seeing him. "Sub-genre readers will enjoy this intriguing paranormal romance," wrote Harriet Klausner on the Harriet Klausner Book Reviews Web site, adding: "The story line moves forward at a fast clip."
Dietz turns to romance in her novel The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter, written as Mary Ellen Dennis. Set in the eighteenth century, the romance involves successful writer Elizabeth Wyndham who meets wounded soldier Rand Remington, whose experience fighting in the colonies has also destroyed his spirit. Rand becomes a robber who steals from the wealthy and meets Elizabeth after reading one of her books. Shelley Mosley, writing in Booklist, noted that the author's "wonderful retelling of Alfred Noyes'The Highwayman is, quite simply, remarkable."
Dietz told CA: "I have always written. When I was in the third grade, the class assignment was to write a one-page story with an ink pen. I wrote a three-page story, first person, called ‘The Pencil Who Grew Up to Be a Stub.’ Because the pencil was my narrator, I used a pencil rather than a pen, and my teacher gave me a failing grade. In high school I wrote and illustrated a children's book about a giant who lived in a town of nearsighted people who didn't know he was a giant until one day, a peddler came to town selling glasses.
"My work is influenced by authors such as Dean Koontz, Susan Isaacs, Daphne DuMaurier, Anya Seton, Ira Levin, Leon Uris, and William Goldman. It was Goldman's novel Boys and Girls Together that made me exclaim: ‘I want to be a writer!’
"I write every day from seven a.m. to three p.m. I don't actually plot my mysteries. I start with a premise and let my imagination take over. I rarely go with my first impulse or idea. Instead, I try and find a less clichéd motivation and conclusion.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that I can quit writing at three o'clock and pick up where I left off the next morning. And I suppose I'm surprised that men like my books as well as, if not better than, women.
"Of all my books, I have a special fondness for Eye of Newt. The research on witchcraft and the 1692 Salem witch trials was fascinating. I was lucky to find old journals; they were hard to decipher but infinitely rewarding. This book also allowed me to combine my two favorite genres: mystery and historical fiction.
"I write to entertain: to touch emotions; to make readers laugh, cry, and savor a phrase; and, most importantly, to make readers believe that my protagonists are their friends. I have had readers tell me they were depressed over an illness, or even the death, of a loved one, and that my books gave them a smile, or helped them survive a very difficult period in their lives. That's the ultimate compliment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 1, 2007, Shelley Mosley, review of The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter, p. 38.
Drood Review of Mystery, July 1, 2004, Melinda C. Burton, "Double, Double Toil and Trouble," review of Eye of Newt, p. 7.
Library Journal, June 1, 1994, Rex E. Klett, review of Beat Up a Cookie, p. 168; August, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Footprints in the Butter: An Ingrid Beaumont Mystery Co-starring Hitchcock the Dog, p. 145; October 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Eye of Newt, p. 62.
Publishers Weekly, September 21, 1992, review of Throw Darts at a Cheesecake, p. 77; June 13, 1994, review of Beat Up a Cookie, p. 54; May 14, 2007, review of The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter, p. 30.
Deni Dietz Home Page,http://www.eclectics.com/denise (November 28, 2007).
Harriet Klausner's Book Reviews, http://harrietklausner.wwwi.com/review/(November 28, 3007), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Eye of Newt, Fifty Cents for Your Soul, Hallie's Comet, and Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed.
MyShelf.com,http://www.myshelf.com/ (November 28, 2007), Robyn Glazer, "May 2002's Author! Author!," interview with author and review of Fifty Cents for Your Soul.
Mysterious Musings,http://juliabuckley.blogspot.com/ (July 29, 2006), Julia Buckley, "Denise Dietz Dishes about Writing Humor, Her Exciting E-Mail Romance, and How We Can Eat All the Chocolate Cake We Want."