Songer, C. J.
SONGER, C. J.
PERSONAL: Born in NY; married (husband a former police detective); children: two. Education: University of Minnesota, B.F.A. (theatre); Florida State University at Tallahassee, M.F.A. (theatre).
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 393, Simi Valley, CA 93062. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Novelist and columnist. Worked for the Glendale, CA, police department.
MEMBER: California Rifle and Pistol Association.
"MEG GILLIS" CRIME NOVEL SERIES
Bait, Scribner (New York, NY), 1998.
Hook, Scribner (New York, NY), 1999.
Line, Scribner (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Women & Guns. Author of column "View from the Home Front" for Firing Line (magazine of the California Rifle and Pistol Association).
Author's works have been translated into German.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A fourth "Meg Gillis" crime novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Mystery novelist C. J. Songer is well acquainted with the day-to-day details of a life of crime and law enforcement. For many years, she worked for the Glendale, California, police department, and her husband is a former Glendale police officer and robbery/homicide detective. "Cops have been a constant in my life for the past eighteen years—sometimes more, sometimes less, but always there," Songer said in an interview with Cathy Sova on TheMysteryReader.com. Songer is also an ardent supporter of weapons and self-defense training. She has trained at a number of prominent shooting schools throughout the country, including Gunsite, and has participated in invitation-only shooting competitions and tactical matches emphasizing street survival skills. "I'm not particularly gung-ho about guns, myself, because I think good defense is as much or more the grit of the person as it is the weapon, and so I really take pains not to train to be 'weapon-reliant,'" Songer remarked in a BooksnBytes.com interview with Jon Jordan. Still, she advocates at least a basic level of firearms knowledge for defense of self and others, stating, "How the heck can you understand what the issues are or what you can do about them until you understand how guns work and how other people think about them?"
Songer also holds degrees in theatre from the University of Minnesota and Florida State University at Tallahassee. She admits to a love of science fiction, but "decided to write mysteries because of the combustible conflict of coming from a liberal arts/liberal family background," and her work at the Glendale police department, she commented to Sova.
Songer has successfully conbined her training into a successful run of mystery novels featuring character Meg Gillis. Bait introduces Gillis, an ex-police officer and cop widow whose police-officer husband was killed in an unsolved shooting. She is co-owner of a business selling home-security systems. When Meg's business partner, Mike Johnson, who is also an ex-cop, fails to show up at work one Saturday morning, she gives it little thought beyond annoyance, thinking that one of his many romantic trysts must have delayed him again. However, when a mysterious phone call meant for Mike reports a kidnapping, her police senses go on alert. Investigating, Meg finds clues to a possible murder, one in which she has inadvertently become the prime suspect. While she is grilled by the police, she is asked uncomfortable questions about Mike's business practices that involve possible drug sales and blackmailing of customers. Detective sergeant Joe Reilly presses the investigation, but Meg is not sure if Reilly is out to solve the crime, implicate her completely, or cover up some wrongdoing of his own. When Meg's stolen car is recovered, it is covered in blood and she realizes she is the victim of a carefully orchestrated frame-up.
"The author's strength in this debut novel lies in her own past experience on the police force, and the nuances of police investigation tactics," commented reviewer Martha Moore on TheMysteryReader.com. "Songer clearly has a good feel for police work and strong dialogue among her cop and ex-cop characters." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Bait a "convoluted, often enticing tale," while Rex E. Klett remarked in Library Journal that the book displays "forceful, gutsy prose, winning characters, and a caustic look at police procedure."
In Hook Meg helps out her business partner, Mike, by serving legal papers on suspected wife abuser Rudolfo de la Peña. When she meets Rudolfo, however, Meg has trouble believing that the sophisticated gentleman is really an abusive brute. When Rudolfo is found dead, Meg suspects a set-up, a theory that is reinforced by the looming presence of a couple of unsavory thugs. She sets out to find answers, and her often-frustrating investigation finally leads to motives in the volatile politics and brutal military dictatorships of Pena's native Argentina. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that Hook "falters" in areas such as dialogue, pacing, and character action. "In the end," the Publishers Weekly reviewer stated, "Hook will snare readers, but not firmly."
"I've always written," Songer said in the interview with Sova, "so to me writing is a natural expression, an art form, my effort at giving a gift. A way to translate, perhaps, between different cultures and feelings. That sounds high-falutin', and truthfully, I don't know that anyone else perceives my books that way, or will care very deeply, but still I have this obligation, the need to express [and] to give back a little, to honor the people and the influences as best I can."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1998, David Pitt, review of Bait, p. 1866.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Bait, p. 141.
Publishers Weekly, June 15, 1998, review of Bait, p. 45; November 15, 1999, review of Hook, p. 58.
BooksnBytes.com, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (July 20, 2004), Jon Jordan, interview with Songer.
C. J. Songer Home Page, http://hometown.aol.com/redsfox/ (July 20, 2004).
CrescentBlues.com, http://www.crescentblues.com/ (July 27, 2004), Donna Andrews, interview with Songer.
TheMysteryReader.com, http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (July 20, 2004), Cathy Sova, interview with Songer; (July 20, 2004) Martha Moore, review of Bait.