Herndon, Nancy 1934- (Elizabeth Chadwick, Nancy Fairbanks)
HERNDON, Nancy 1934-
(Elizabeth Chadwick, Nancy Fairbanks)
PERSONAL: Born May 29, 1934, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Robert Stanley (an industrial engineer) and Ruth Edna Fairbanks (a homemaker; maiden name, Tutein); married William Cecil Herndon (a professor of chemistry), December 27, 1956; children: William Robert, Matthew. Ethnicity: "White." Education: University of Missouri, B.A. (English), 1956, B.J. (journalism), 1956; Rice University, M.A., 1958. Politics: Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Home and offıce—6504 Pino Real Dr., El Paso, TX 79912-2928. Agent—Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Associates, Inc., 171 East 74th Street, New York, NY 10021. E-mail—[email protected] and [email protected]
CAREER: Novelist. Foley's Department Store, Houston, TX, advertising writer and proofreader, 1957; Darcy Advertising Co., New York, NY, advertising proofreader, 1958; Howland's Department Store, Bridgeport, CT, advertising copywriter, 1959; New York University, New York, NY, lecturer in English, 1959-61; University of Mississippi—Oxford, lecturer in English, 1962-63; Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, lecturer in English, 1965-66; University of Texas—El Paso, lecturer in English, 1976-81; freelance writer, 1989—.
"ELENA JARVIS" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS
Acid Bath, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1995. Widows' Watch, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
Lethal Statues, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.
Hunting Game, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.
Time Bombs, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.
C.O.P. Out, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1998.
Casanova Crimes, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.
Author of "The Fourth Gift," a short story published A Wilderness Christmas, Leisure Books, 1999.
under pseudonym elizabeth chadwick
Wanton Angel, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Widows' Fire, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Virgin Fire, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Bride Fire, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1992. Reluctant Lovers, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Elusive Lovers, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1994.
"CAROLYN BLUE" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS UNDER PSEUDONYM NANCY FAIRBANKS
Crime Brûlée, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.
Truffled Feathers, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.
Death à l'Orange, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 2002.
Chocolate Quake, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.
The Perils of Paella, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Although Nancy Herndon has written several popular novels under the pen-name Elizabeth Chadwick, she has become well known under her own name for her series of mystery books chronicling the adventures of Elena Jarvis. Jarvis, a detective of the Crimes against Persons unit of the Los Santos, Texas, police department, first appeared in several short stories that Herndon published in anthologies. The story "Murder by Snail" was expanded into the 1995 novel Acid Bath.
Widows' Watch continues Jarvis's exploits. The novel centers around a string of mysterious murders of elderly men. In each case, the wife of the victim was playing cards with her bridge club when the attack took place. It is Jarvis's job to sort out the details, even as she must deal with the eccentricities of her ex-flower child mother. Claire Rosser in Kliatt called the story "slightly wacky entertainment, which brings a region, a community, and a family to life." Rosser especially noted the characterization of Harmony, Jarvis's mother, who brings to the story "humor, instinct, grace, and beauty."
Jarvis reappears in the novel Lethal Statues. This time, the detective is called in to investigate a murder at the local university. A beautiful young female computer genius has been killed by a falling statue in the library, and there is reason to suspect that the statue tumbled as a result of foul play. Jarvis's investigation starts off poorly—although many students knew the work of the victim, Analee Ribbon, very few knew her more than in passing. The local campus police officer, while eager to help, makes terrible mistakes and unwittingly hinders the investigation at every turn. Even worse, the campus feminist group and the campus right-to-life group bicker incessantly, threatening to topple statues on each other. Jarvis is soon juggling too many investigations at once. Catherine M. Nelson of Armchair Detective praised the story as "fun" and "an interesting read." "In spite of it all," Nelson wrote, "Elena Jarvis . . . manages to come up with both a suspect with a motive and the evidence to put him away. . . . Things twist and turn and end up in Jarvis's lap. Which is what a story like this should do."
Herndon once told CA: "I write novels because writing, particularly fiction, is a compulsion and a source of pleasure. I enjoy the creation of character, complete with a background that influences personality and actions, and the construction of dialogue, which I often dictate, taking all the parts, assuming different voices and emotions appropriate to the fictional situation.
"I am also interested in women's issues—Carolyn Heilbrun is a favorite author both in fiction and criticism—and in social problems. Many of my heroines are feminists of the past and present. From the nineteenth century, Jessica Parnell in Virgin Fire has a law degree and wheels and deals in the Spindletop oil field; Merrill Fox runs a sheep ranch outside Flagstaff in 'The Fourth Gift,' and Kat Fitzgerald is a suffragette and business woman in Reluctant Lovers. Contemporary detective Elena Jarvis of the Los Santos, Texas, Police Department, is a modern feminist and a tough cop."
Recently Herndon began writing under a new pseudonym, as Nancy Fairbanks. She told CA: "My editor's interest in culinary mysteries and my recent travels resulted in the 'Carolyn Blue' series. The comic elements and academic characters found in the Elena Jarvis series are still there; otherwise, the new series is a departure for me in that it features a different background for each book, and shifting first-person points of view, not to mention an amateur sleuth as the main protagonist.
"Carolyn is 'forty-something,' a wife, mother, and giver of dinner parties for her husband's colleagues, who suddenly finds herself with an empty nest, the time and opportunity to travel, and a career writing about food. When she comes upon a mystery, her curiosity and conviction that citizens have a duty to help the police propel her into dangerous and, for her, very unusual situations. Her investigations are conducted in different locations (New Orleans, New York, northern France, San Francisco, and Barcelona) where she is a visitor, often an 'accompanying person' at a scientific conference, and often in restaurants, about which she writes in a newspaper column called 'Have Fork, Will Travel.'
"In the various books Carolyn's college-professor husband, college-age children, feminist mother-in-law, and strangers are participants in her travels and sleuthing. The points of view vary from her own and her husband's, to those of several murderers, a gay ex-football-pro private detective, and a xenophobic Catalan homicide inspector, all of whom comment on her as she does on them. I take great delight in exploring how men and women see each other and how differently they view the same events."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Detecting Women 2, Purple Moon Press (Dearborn, MI), 1996.
Armchair Detective, winter, 1997, Catherine M. Nelson, review of Lethal Statues, p. 110.
Kliatt, spring, 1995, Claire Rosser, review of Widows'Watch, p. 10.
Romantic Times, 1990, p. 48; July, 1992, p. 67.