Simpson, Allen 1934-
SIMPSON, Allen 1934-
(M. D. Lake)
PERSONAL: Born 1934. Hobbies and other interests: Playing piano.
CAREER: Minnesota University, Minneapolis, MN, professor of Scandinavian languages and literature; writer. Military service: U.S. Marines.
AWARDS, HONORS: American Mystery Award for best original paperback, 1992, for Poisoned Ivy; Agatha Awards, 1994, for "Kim's Game."
UNDER PSEUDONYM M. D. LAKE; "PEGGY O'NEILL" MYSTERY NOVELS
Amends for Murder, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.
Cold Comfort, Avon (New York, NY), 1990.
A Gift for Murder, Avon (New York, NY), 1992.
Poisoned Ivy, Avon (New York, NY), 1992.
Murder by Mail, Avon (New York, NY), 1993.
Grave Choices, Avon (New York, NY), 1995.
Once upon a Crime, Avon (New York, NY), 1995.
Flirting with Death, Avon (New York, NY), 1996.
Ties of Blood, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Midsummer Malice, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Death Calls the Tune, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Work represented in anthologies, including Funny Bones.
SIDELIGHTS: Allen Simpson uses the pseudonym M. D. Lake to author various mystery novels featuring heroine Peggy O'Neill, who works in law enforcement at an American university. Lake introduced O'Neill to readers in 1989 with Amends for Murder, and in the ensuing years he has produced ten more novels featuring the resourceful character who was described, in a Publishers Weekly review, as "clever and winning."
Prior to writing, Lake conducted courses in Scandinavian languages and literature. "I taught at the University of Minnesota for twenty-seven years, before taking early retirement to write full-time," he told a Crescent Blues interviewer. But in a Minnesota Daily interview, he also revealed that he turned to writing as a means of venting a murderous desire. "I wanted to murder somebody, and I wrote a novel," he admitted. "So out of what I consider to be a real tragedy came my writing career."
In the Crescent Blues interview, Lake disclosed that he created the O'Neill character following discussions with Regan Metcalf, an acquaintance who worked as a campus cop. "I was incredibly impressed," he said, "since I'd never seen a woman doing the kinds of things Regan did—especially alone, outside, in the middle of the night." He added, "The routine things [O'Neill] does and sees on her patrols, I got from Regan and from a few other cops I spent time with later."
In Amends for Murder the heroine investigates the demise of an English professor presumed murdered during a burglary. During the course of her work, however, O'Neill learns that the killing may have been planned by one of several suspicious campus figures.
A Publishers Weekly critic called Amends for Murders "implausible," and Kathleen Maio, in her Wilson Library Bulletin assessment, contended that O'Neill is "just not believable the way she is." But an Armchair Detective reviewer deemed O'Neill "lively and likable."
Among Lake's earlier "O'Neill" mysteries is Cold Comfort, in which O'Neill agrees to investigate the death of a friend's brother. The police have determined that the death was a suicide, but O'Neill soon finds evidence of mayhem. She also makes the acquaintance of several seamy individuals, including a CIA agent and a pornography peddler. Armchair Detective reviewer Allen J. Hubin proclaimed the volume "pleasant enough."
The next "O'Neill" mystery, A Gift for Murder, concerns treachery within a campus writing collective. A Publishers Weekly critic, in reviewing A Gift for Murder, described O'Neill as a "campus cop with a . . . talent for stumbling onto murder victims." The following novel, Poisoned Ivy, involves O'Neill with an unappealing dean who is targeted for murder. A Publishers Weekly reviewer affirmed that "it is great fun trailing around with [O'Neill] as she digs up the dirt."
In an ensuing tale, Murder by Mail, O'Neill probes the death of an individual suspected of sending racist hate mail. Gail Pool, in her Wilson Library Bulletin appraisal, deemed the book "sturdy and thoughtful," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that O'Neill is "as clever and winning as ever." Grave Choices, meanwhile, finds O'Neill investigating the murder of a painter/professor on campus. Armchair Detective critic Catherine M. Nelson summarized this book as an "enjoyable read."
In the next O'Neill case, Once Upon a Crime, the intrepid crime solver becomes involved in danger while on medical leave. A Library Journal critic called Once upon a Crime "the best O'Neill yet." A later tale, Midsummer Malice, concerns the murder of a blackmailer. In this book, as a Publishers Weekly critic observed, Lake "keeps the tension high."
Although Lake has become an established novelist in the years since he published his first mystery novel, he told a Sisters in Crime interviewer that writing remains an arduous process. "Writing can be fun," he said, "but it's also hard work, lonely, and—for me, anyway—nerve-wracking." He added, "I never know where the creativity comes from or if its going to continue to come, and that's stressful."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, fall, 1991, Allen J. Hubin, review of Cold Comfort, p. 407; winter, 1993, Marvin Lachman, review of Amends for Murder, p. 54; spring, 1996, Catherine M. Nelson, review of Grave Choices, pp. 233-234.
Library Journal, July, 1995, review of Once upon a Crime, p. 152.
Publishers Weekly, September 22, 1989, review of Amends for Murder, p. 48; February 3, 1992, review of Poisoned Ivy; November 23, 1992, review of A Gift for Murder, p. 58; October 25, 1993, review of Murder by Mail, pp. 56-57; November 10, 1997, review of Midsummer Malice, p. 71.
Wilson Library Bulletin, December, 1989, Kathleen Maio, review of Amends for Murder, pp. 116-117; February, 1994, Gail Pool, review of Murder by Mail, pp. 66-67.
Crescent Blues,http://www.crescentblues.com/ (June 17, 2001), interview with M. D. Lake.
Minnesota Daily,http://www.mndaily.com/ (June 17, 2001), "Dial M. D. Lake for Murder."
Mystery Net,http://www.mysterynet.com/ (June 17, 2001), "Twilight Lane on Mystery Net."
Sisters in Crime,http://www.sinc-ic.org/ (April, 1999), Louise Guardino, interview with M. D. Lake.*