Gunn, Elizabeth 1927-

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Gunn, Elizabeth 1927-


Born 1927; married; husband's name Philip; children: two daughters.


Home—Tucson, AZ. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, travel writer. Managed an inn with her husband, Philip, in Helena, MT.


Cool in Tucson (part of the "Sarah Burke" mystery series), Severn House (Sutton, England), 2008.


Triple Play, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.

Par Four, Walker (New York, NY), 1999.

Five Card Stud, Walker (New York, NY), 2000.

Six Pound Walleye, Walker (New York, NY), 2001.

Seventh-Inning Stretch, Walker (New York, NY), 2002.

Crazy Eights, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.

McCafferty's Nine, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2007.

Contributor to How We See Thee Lie (novella), Worldwide (New York, NY), 2002.


Born in 1927, Elizabeth Gunn experienced an entire life and career before she began writing. She married her husband, Philip, and raised two daughters, raising them on the site of the motel that she and Philip managed in Helena, Montana. Gunn has acknowledged this issue as a challenge, given the lack of true separation between the home and the business. Always ready for an adventure, Gunn discovered that after the years of feeling confined in the motel, she was restless, and so, she and her husband began to travel. They left Montana for San Diego, California, where they purchased a boat and began sailing. Over the next year and a half, they sailed down to Mexico and explored the area, learning much about the practice of sailing in the process. Further voyages followed in Europe. The traveled across Spain on a series of bus tours that eventually led them across the European continent as well. Their timing was perfect, as they were in Europe when the Berlin Wall was brought down, and were some of the first travelers to visit East Germany. Afterwards, they headed back west, ending up in Barcelona, Spain, when the Olympic Games were held there. Having already traveled through Spain, Gunn and her husband had a vast collection of photographs of the area. Deciding to put them to practical use, Gunn wrote a travel article about Barcelona, an act that started her writing career. In most of her subsequent travels, Gunn continued to write, learning the best ways to make the most of her information, and how to sell her articles several times, by analyzing the markets she approached.

However, as much as Gunn and her husband enjoyed their travels, they knew they could not wander indefinitely. It was this desire to root themselves again that had Gunn searching for a new means of writing, and eventually attempting to produce a novel. The result was her first mystery, Triple Play, the first book of the "Jake Hines" mystery series. Gunn sets these police procedurals in Rutherford, Minnesota, and features Jake as a police detective, who receives promotions as the series progresses. In the first installment in the series, Jake investigates the murder of two men, whose bodies are found in the small town's softball field. The case leads Jake into an investigation of what proves to be a serial killing spree, not the average type of crime for a quiet town where people most typically die from natural causes. John Rowen, in a review for Booklist, dubbed Gunn's effort "a good, fresh first novel with a surprising yet clear mystery at its core."

In Par Four, the second book in the series, Jake has risen to the position of chief of detectives, thanks in part to his work on the murder investigation in Triple Play. Despite the title of the second book in the series, it has nothing in particular to do with golf. Instead, Jake attempts to combat a sudden increase in petty crime. Among recent incidents, Rowdy's Bar, a local establishment, was robbed and the owner, Babe Krueger, was found bound and gagged in the bar's basement. Babe's son, Randy, is considered to be a troublemaker, and in effect becomes a natural suspect. Yet a few days later, both Randy and Babe are found tied together in the river; the previously minor crimes become more dangerous. A contributor to Publishers Weekly stated that Par Four "starts slowly and wraps up implausibly, but clever writing, zesty action and a simmering romance carry the day."

Gunn's "Jake Hines" series continues with Five Card Stud, in which Jake investigates a murder case during a severe Minnesota winter, complete with a major snowstorm. The murder victim is discovered partially clothed in a snowdrift, and the weather conditions make it difficult for Jake to find many clues. Pam Johnson, in a review for School Library Journal, declared that "the story holds details of police investigations both interesting and illuminating." In the fourth book of the series, Six Pound Walleye, Jake faces another Minnesota winter, only this time he confronts three serious investigations at the same time. These cases include the murder of a seven-year-old boy in front of several witnesses and a large fight at the local high school involving the Rutherford police chief's son. Jenny McLarin, in a review of Six Pound Walleye for Booklist, remarked that "neither fans nor first-timers will be disappointed."

Other installments of Gunn's "Jake Hines" series include Seventh-Inning Stretch, Crazy Eights, and McCafferty's Nine. In McCafferty's Nine, Jake is now a police captain and an expectant father. Unfortunately, he is also paranoid that something bad will happen to his wife, Trudy. As he envisions various terrible accidents, he finds himself less concerned about a few small muggings around town. When it seems, though, that the mugger has committed murder, Jake must solve the crime quickly. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews commented that "what Ed McBain was to the big-city police procedural, Gunn is to the small-town force."

Gunn started a new mystery series with Cool in Tucson, featuring Sarah Burke, a police detective based in Tucson, Arizona. The first book in the series introduces readers to the ambitious Sarah who, despite recently becoming a detective, is after her boss's job. In the meantime, however, she has a brutal murder case to solve, involving the stabbing of a local drug dealer who worked with a major drug lord in town. As Sarah digs deeper into the dead man's background, though, she is puzzled to discover that he lived a clean life—he did not drink or use drugs—in direct contrast with typical drug dealers' behaviors. Later, Sarah's niece is kidnapped, which seems to be related to the case. Emily Melton, in a review for Booklist, found Sarah to be a likeable if not particularly unique character, and noted that she "fits firmly into the vulnerable-but-tough-minded female-sleuth mold created by [Marcia] Muller, [Sue] Grafton, and [Sara] Paretsky."

Gunn told CA: "Travel first got me interested in writing. I was going to interesting places, so I wrote them up and sold them to newspapers and magazines. After I'd sold a few, I conquered my fear of looking foolish, and wrote a novel."

When asked who or what particularly influences her work, Gunn responded: "I study good writers—Elmore Leonard, Sue Grafton, George Pelekanos, and John D. MacDonald.

"In terms of my writing process, I get up early, go for a walk, go to work. Don't skip days—write whether you feel like it or not. Also, I'm lucky enough to have a critique group of friends who are in the same stage of development as I am (many times published, not yet rich and famous). We help each other think.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how generous and open police and forensics experts are about answering questions. I thought research would be the hard part, but it's become a major source of pleasure.

"So far, Six Pound Walleye is my favorite book. I think I nailed some things about life in Minnesota in that one, and the good citizens of Lake City, where the final chapter is set, agreed and selected it as their "community reads" pick that year. That led to a whopper of a signing and a fish supper of historic proportions.

"I hope my books amuse people. If they learn something, of course, that's a bonus."



Booklist, September 15, 1997, John Rowen, review of Triple Play, p. 213; December 1, 1998, Jenny McLarin, review of Par Four, p. 653; May 1, 2000, Jenny McLarin, review of Five Card Stud, p. 1617; May 1, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 1632; May 1, 2002, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch, p. 1477; February 15, 2005, Jenny McLarin, review of Crazy Eights, p. 1064; June 1, 2007, Emily Melton, review of McCafferty's Nine, p. 44; February 1, 2008, Emily Melton, review of Cool in Tucson, p. 30.

Drood Review of Mystery, September 1, 2000, review of Five Card Stud, p. 4; May 1, 2001, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 11; May 1, 2002, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 3; July 1, 2002, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch, p. 1.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch, p. 617; January 15, 2005, review of Crazy Eights, p. 85; September 1, 2007, review of McCafferty's Nine; December 1, 2007, review of Cool in Tucson.

Library Journal, October 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Triple Play, p. 130; December 1, 1998, review of Par Four, p. 161; May 1, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of Five Card Stud, p. 156; June 1, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 224; May 15, 2002, Wilda Williams, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch, p. 130; March 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Crazy Eights, p. 70.

Midwest Book Review Bookwatch, March 1, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Crazy Eights.

New York Times Book Review, July 22, 2001, Marilyn Stasio, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1997, review of Triple Play, p. 73; November 23, 1998, review of Par Four, p. 62; April 10, 2000, review of Five Card Stud, p. 78; April 30, 2001, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 59; November 19, 2001, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 36; May 13, 2002, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch, p. 54; February 28, 2005, review of Crazy Eights, p. 46; December 3, 2007, review of Cool in Tucson, p. 53.

School Library Journal, August 1, 2000, Pam Johnson, review of Five Card Stud, p. 212.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 24, 2001, review of Six Pound Walleye, p. 2; June 16, 2002, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch, p. 6.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February 1, 1998, review of Triple Play, p. 385.


All Readers Web site, (August 20, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch.

Elizabeth Gunn Home Page, (August 20, 2008).

Mystery News Web site, (August 20, 2008), Lynn Kaczmarek, "Elizabeth Gunn: Look Ma, I'm Dancin'!," author interview.

Romantic Times Online, (August 20, 2008), Toby Bromberg, review of Seventh-Inning Stretch.

Words and Worlds of J.M. Hayes Web site, (August 20, 2008), "Conversation with Elizabeth Gunn," author interview.