Matturro, Claire Hamner 1954–
Matturro, Claire Hamner 1954–
PERSONAL: Born 1954, in AL; married; husband's name Bill. Education: University of Alabama, M.A., and J.D. (with honors).
CAREER: Attorney, educator, and novelist. Journalist in Alabama; Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, former staff attorney; Dickinson & Gibbons (law firm), Sarasota, FL, partner for nine years; Florida State University College of Law, faculty member for six years; former reference librarian and college instructor in Tallahassee, FL.
AWARDS, HONORS: First prize, SEAK Inc. legal fiction writing contest; Best First Mystery, Romantic Times, 2005, for Skinny-Dipping.
Skinny-Dipping (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Wildcat Wine (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Bone Valley (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
Editor, Trial Advocate Quarterly.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Another "Lilly Cleary" novel tentatively titled Bugfest, Georgia.
SIDELIGHTS: Claire Hamner Matturro drew on her own experience as an attorney and a resident of Florida to create her mystery series featuring Lilly Belle Cleary, an eccentric, six-foot-tall female lawyer from the Deep South. Lilly is an attorney, and an obsessive health-food devotee who defends doctors, professionals, and hospitals in medical malpractice cases. She first appears in Skinny-Dipping, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer called a "witty, intelligent novel of suspense." In this story, Lilly finds herself the subject of a choking attack, has one of her clients die mysteriously, and is shot at. Furthermore, she is saddled with an odious client in a tricky malpractice trial. The suspenseful plot is also peppered with humor, for as Matturro explained in a Publishers Weekly interview, "With the trial attorneys I knew, they were all funny; humor was very important to them to balance the stress." She also knew that she wanted her book to be "legalistic without being boring, which is very tricky." Cheryle M. Dodd, a reviewer for Florida Bar Journal, wrote that, thanks to Lilly's "cheeky" personality and an eccentric cast of secondary characters, the author "succeeds in entertaining the reader." A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that the plot of Skinny-Dipping is a bit thin, but maintained that the book is "funny, sharp, savvy both as to the courtroom and the human condition."
In Wildcat Wine, Matturro's second novel featuring the vegetarian attorney, Lilly finds herself involved in a strange episode involving her first love, a man known as Farmer Dave, who turns up at her house with a truck full of stolen organic wine. On a trip to a local park to look for wildlife, Dave happens upon a bag of cash and a dead body. Soon he is under suspicion of murder. Lilly still cares for Dave, though she is not in love with him, and she sets everything else aside to clear his name. Reviewing the book for the Miami Herald, Wanda Demarzo noted approvingly that "Matturro devises a unique and complex plot with a lot of high-energy juice. She is a welcome addition to the growing list of notable crime writing novelists inspired by the beauty and insanity of Florida." A Kirkus Reviews commentator found Matturro's plot to be somewhat light, but called Lilly an "authentic charmer." Harriet Klausner, reviewing the novel for MBR Bookwatch, called it "a light hearted chick lit mystery."
Matturro told CA: "Reading To Kill a Mockingbird in fifth grade hooked me. I wanted to be both a lawyer and a writer after reading that book, which is the best legal thriller ever in my opinion.
"I read a lot of mysteries so it's hard to way what influences my work; I probably am influenced in ways I don't really know by these books. But I know I owe a great deal to Barry Hannah, an extraordinary writer who was also my creative-writing professor at the University of Alabama. I write everything first in my head, mostly at three a.m. or during long walks in the woods or the country side. Then it's just a matter of typing. I work in the afternoons, and do a great many revisions and edits and rewrites.
"Perhaps the most humbling thing I've learned as a writer was what I learned from my copyeditor, to whit, I really didn't know my grammar nearly as well as I thought I did.
"Bone Valley is my favorite book, because it deals with two important subjects near and dear to my heart: wildlife and animal rehabilitation and stopping the phosphate mines' destruction of central Florida. And yet, despite these serious topics, it's still a funny book.
"Primarily my books are to entertain. I hope my readers will laugh. But each book also has a serious message in it that I hope the readers will learn and act upon."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, October 27, 2004, Carol O'Connell, review of Skinny-Dipping.
Florida Bar Journal, January, 2005, Cheryle M. Dodd, review of Skinny-Dipping, p. 59.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of Skinny-Dipping, p. 782; April 1, 2005, review of Wildcat Wine, p. 390.
MBR Bookwatch, May, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Wildcat Wine.
Miami Herald, June 8, 2005, Wanda Demarzo, review of Wildcat Wine.
Publishers Weekly, May 17, 2004, John F. Baker, "Four Novels Signed before Debut," p. 12; September 20, 2004, review of Skinny-Dipping, p. 44; Alia Akkam, interview with Claire Hamner Maturro, p. 44.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 11, 2005, John Goodger, review of Wildcat Wine.
Claire Hamner Matturro Home Page, http://www.clairematturro.com (September 27, 2005).
WMNF Radio Web site, http://www.wmnf.org/ (September 26, 2005), biographical information on Claire Hamner Matturro.