Talley, Marcia 1943-

views updated

TALLEY, Marcia 1943-


Born April 12, 1943, in Cleveland, OH; daughter of Thomas (a U.S. Marine Corps officer) and Elizabeth (a registered nurse; maiden name, Tuckerman) Dutton; married John Barry Talley (a professor of music), September 5, 1964; children: Laura Geyer, Sarah Glass. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Oberlin College, B.A. (French), 1965; University of Maryland, M.L.S., 1981. Politics: Independent. Religion: Anglican. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing, travel, knitting.


Home—Maryland. Agent—James Vines, Vines Literary Agency, 648 Broadway, No. 901, New York, NY 10012.


Librarian and novelist. Saint Johns College, Annapolis, MD, head cataloger, 1971-81; TeleSec Library Services, Washington, DC, manager of library support services, 1981-84; American Bankers Association, Washington D.C., head of technical services, 1984-88; U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC, head of library system support, 1988-96; U.S. Naval Academy Library, Annapolis, head of automated systems, 1996-2000. Delegate to OCLC User's Council, 1997-99.


Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Maryland Writers Association.


Malice Domestic grant for best unpublished novel, 1998, and Agatha Award nomination, 1999, both for Sing It to Her Bones; Best Contemporary Mystery designation, Romantic Times, 2001.



Sing It to Her Bones, Dell (New York, NY), 1999.

Unbreathed Memories, Dell (New York, NY), 2000.

Occasion of Revenge, Dell (New York, NY), 2001.

Death's Shadow, Dell (New York, NY), 2004.


(Editor) Naked Came the Phoenix (collaborative novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor) Naked Came the Gryphon (collaborative novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Death by Horoscope, Carroll & Graf, 2001; Blood on Their Hands, Carroll & Graf, 2003; Death by Dickens, Berkeley, 2004; Chesapeake Crimes, Quiet Storm Publishing, 2003; and A Second Helping of Murder: More Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers, Poisoned Pen Press, 2003. Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine.


A new "Hannah Ives" adventure.


Mystery writer Marcia Talley is the author of the "Hannah Ives" mystery series, which finds her amateur sleuth prompted into solving a host of whodunits when assorted friends and family members suddenly find themselves involved in murder. In her debut outing, Sing It to Her Bones, Hannah is trying to rebound after dealing with the triple whammy of enduring a mastectomy, learning her professor husband is being charged by a student with sexual harassment, and being laid off from her job, but a walk in the woods with her sister-in-law's dog soon has her setting her own worries aside. The human skeleton the dog turns up intrigues Hannah, and she soon finds herself going detective, in a story that Library Journal contributor Margaret Hanes praised as "remarkably fresh and original." In Booklist, David Pitt dubbed Sing It to Her Bones a "gentle mystery" that retains reader interest due to its upbeat protagonist and Talley's "quiet character development," while Judith Kreiner described it as "rich in local color as well as plotting" in her review for Washington Times.

In Unbreathed Memories Ives hopes her recovery from breast surgery will be peaceful, and plans for reconstructive surgery. However, her own needs take the back seat to the problems of younger sister Georgina after Georgina finds her psychologist, Dr. Diane Sturgis, dead and herself the prime suspect. Praising Ives as a "wonderful role model who has no time for self-pity" and Ives' creator as "bright light" in the "amateur sleuth gallery," Books 'n' Bytes reviewer Harriet Klausner praised Unbreathed Memories as "intriguing and fun."

In addition to penning her own mysteries, Talley has also acted as a sort of literary concertmaster in her position as editor of Naked Came the Phoenix. The novel, published in 2001, is a joint effort among over a dozen top women mystery writers that Books 'n' Bytes reviewer Harriet Klausner dubbed "entertaining" and benefitting from the "strong entries" of such contributors as Lisa Sottoline, Faye Kellerman, J. D. Robb (the pseudonym of Nora Roberts), Lauri King, Nevada Barr, and, of course, Talley. the novel came about following a suggestion by Talley's agent; Talley thought a collaborative mystery sounded like a fun idea, dreamed up a storyline and characters, and set about tracking down collaborators for the year-long effort. "I gave everybody a month to write her chapter," she explained to Publishers Weekly interviewer Robert C. Hahn in describing the assigned writing rotation. "I was delighted when I got the first chapter back from Nevada and these cardboard characters that I had just made up off the top of my head had come to life!," Talley added.… "Every chapter had a little twist or a surprise in it that just tickled me to death."

Talley told CA: "I don't usually recommend getting breast cancer as a way of helping you decide what you want to be when you grow up, but for me, it was the wake-up call that gave me 'permission' to quit my job in Washington, D.C., leave the commute behind, and 'write what you know.'

"The first draft of Sing It to Her Bones—which I saw as one of those serious, sprawling, Southern learning-to-deal-with-it novels—went with me to the Sewanee Writers Conference at the University of the South, where my mentor, John Casey, told me—and I remember EVERY word!!—'when I read the first chapter I said to myself, I'm in the hands of a born storyteller; but the rest of the novel is crap.'

"Thus encouraged, I went home, threw out everything but Chapter One, and thought about it for a long time. I was with a writers' group by then and they encouraged me to write what I loved reading: mysteries.

"I trace my love of mysteries back to my mother, who was a charter subscriber to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and introduced me to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, and other classic writers of the Golden Age of Mystery—roughly, the period between the two world wars. Nancy Drew I discovered on my own; I devoured every one of her adventures, and those of the Hardy Boys too. It was Nancy's independence and pluck that appealed to me—and her snappy blue roadster, of course.

"For my own mysteries, I had always been intrigued by a case that took place in my husband's hometown in western Kentucky. The body of a young girl, missing for five years, was found in a well. They knew who did it right away—an elderly farmer who was not exceptionally bright—but the subsequent trial tore the tiny town apart. That upheaval interested me; what happens when a place is rather set in its ways and someone comes along from outside to upset the status quo.

"In Sing It to Her Bones, that place is Pearson's Corner and the monkey wrench is Hannah Ives. Also, I was haunted by a photo on the front page of the local paper of the dead girl's parents walking across a field. Ten minutes before that picture was taken, their missing daughter could have been smoking dope in Haight-Ashbury, trying to break into acting in New York City, demonstrating against the Vietnam war in Chicago. But the moment that shutter snapped, they know she was never coming home again. I stared at the picture and thought, 'What is going through their minds?' I knew, then, that I had to write about that. Sing It to Her Bones has been followed by two more 'Hannah Ives' adventures—Unbreathed Memories and Occasion of Revenge—which, like the first, are based on true cases.

"Hanna and her husband Paul, a math professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, live in Annapolis, Maryland, and all the novels are set in the Chesapeake Bay region, an area I have grown to love. One of the joys of being a novelist is that you get to go places you enjoy and write about them. And it's tax-deductible!

"Fans are always asking me, 'Marcia, are you Hannah?' To answer, I must paraphrase Sue Grafton speaking about her heroine, Kinsey Milhone. Hannah is younger, thinner, prettier, braver, and funnier than I am. She's like a best friend; I'm sad when I finish a book because I know she won't be visiting me for a while. Hannah says—and does—the things I would like to say—and do—but would probably never have the nerve. I doubt that I'd break into a doctor's office and rummage through his files, for example, but Hannah would. That said, I do know how to pick locks, courtesy of a college roommate who was always locking me out of our dorm room while I was down the hall in the shower."



Booklist, August, 1999, David Pitt, review of Sing It to Her Bones, p. 2026; August, 2001, Mary Francis Wilkens, review of Naked Came the Phoenix, p. 2098.

Library Journal, March 15, 2000, Margaret Hanes, review of Sing It to Her Bones, p. 156; August, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Naked Came the Phoenix, p. 169.

Publishers Weekly, July 2, 2001, interview with Talley and review of Naked Came the Phoenix, p. 55.

Washington Times, October 17, 1999, Judith Kreiner, review of Sing It to Her Bones, p. 8.


Books 'n' Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (January 26, 2004), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Unbreathed Memories.

Marcia Talley Web site,http://www.marciatalley.com (January 26, 2004).*

About this article

Talley, Marcia 1943-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article