Viets, Elaine 1950–
Viets, Elaine 1950–
PERSONAL: Born February 5, 1950, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Henry Frederick (an electrician) and Elaine (a homemaker) Viets; married Don Crinklaw (a writer, journalist, and actor), August 6, 1971. Ethnicity: "German-American." Education: Attended University of Missouri—St. Louis, 1968–70; University of Missouri—Columbia, B.J., 1972. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, walking.
CAREER: Novelist and freelance journalist. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO, fashion writer, beginning 1972, became youth page editor, and then columnist, beginning 1979. Host, Travel Holiday Magazine (syndicated radio show).
MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America (president of Florida chapter, 2000; former member of national board), Sisters in Crime (former member of national board).
AWARDS, HONORS: Local Emmy Award, St. Louis, MO, 1990; named Florida author of the year, Pompano Beach Friends of the Library; Agatha Award for best short story, 2005, for "Wedding Knife."
Backstab, Dell (New York, NY), 1997.
Rubout, Dell (New York, NY), 1998.
The Pink Flamingo Murders, Dell (New York, NY), 1999.
Doc in the Box, Dell (New York, NY), 2000.
Murder with Reservations, New American Library (New York, NY), 2007.
"DEAD-END JOB" MYSTERY SERIES
Shop till You Drop, Signet Book (New York, NY), 2003.
Murder between the Covers, Signet (New York, NY), 2003.
Dying to Call You, Signet Book (New York, NY), 2004.
Just Murdered, Signet (New York, NY), 2005.
Murder Unleashed, New American Library (New York, NY), 2006.
How to Commit Monogamy: A Lighthearted Look at Long-Term Love (essays), Andrews McMeel (New York, NY), 1997.
Contributor to anthologies, including Blood on Their Hands, edited by Lawrence Block, Berkley (New York, NY), 2003; Show Business Is Murder, edited by Stuart Kaminsky, Berkley (New York, NY), 2005; and Drop-Dead Blonde, Signet (New York, NY), 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Syndicated columnist, 1997–2000.
ADAPTATIONS: Backstab, Rubout, The Pink Flamingo Murders, and Doc in the Box have been published in audio format, read by Viets, Americana Publishing; Viets read her essay "An Unimportant Town" for Spirit of the American Voice, Americana Publishing.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist, journalist, and columnist Elaine Viets is the author of the "Dead-End Jobs" mystery series. The novels are anchored in the world of low-pay, little-advancement jobs, often in the service industry, that form the background for series regular Helen Hawthorne's sleuthing. Notably, Viets researches these jobs first-hand, taking positions and performing tasks that add depth and verisimilitude to her storytelling. In the first book of the series, Shop till You Drop, high-powered businesswoman Helen finds an unpleasant surprise when she comes home one day: her stay-at-home husband and the next door neighbor in a romantic clinch. Overwhelmed with anger, she takes a crowbar to her husband's car, then later finds herself forced to pay alimony to the cad because of his position as househusband. Bitterly refusing to do so, Helen quits her high-paid job in business and goes into hiding, fleeing to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and working low-pay, cash-only jobs in seedy shops and dubious businesses, just to make ends meet.
In Just Murdered, the fourth book in the series, Helen has found a job in an upscale bridal salon, but working at Millicent's is no more fun than the other jobs she has had. Weddings, it seems, turn otherwise normal and pleasant people into monstrous jerks. Kiki, for example, is a rich mother determined to attract more attention to herself than her daughter on her daughter's wedding day. Obnoxious and almost universally disliked, Kiki makes enemies with abandon, oblivious to the distress she inflicts, shielded behind her money. When the wedding day rolls around, Kiki is found murdered and stuffed into a closet. Few people mourn this turn of events, but Helen feels the pressure to dive in and solve the case, especially since the police consider her the prime suspect in the killing. A reviewer for MBR Bookwatch called the novel a "hilarious chick-lit mystery."
Murder Unleashed, fifth of the "Dead-End Job" series, finds Helen as a worker at an exclusive pet boutique. With a clientele that includes some of the area's richest, and craziest, dog owners, Helen has a challenge just keeping up with the demands of people who see their pets as members of the family. The star dog-groomer at the Pampered Pet Boutique, Jonathan, is a local celebrity and object of desire for the city's women, but he is also petty and prone to outbursts of anger. When Helen drives out to the gated community where Tammie Grimsbie lives to deliver the woman's newly buffed and shined Yorkie, she discovers Grimsbie dead, stabbed with a pair of dog-grooming shears. Terrified and panicked, Helen flees the scene without reporting the crime. Later, a confrontation with Willoughby Barclay ends with Helen and boutique owner Jeff being threatened with a lawsuit over letting Barclay's prize "labradoodle" Barkley get dognapped. When Barclay also ends up a victim of murder, Helen takes up the case in order to find out who is slaying the dogs' best friends. "Viets has a wry way with humor," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who concluded that "the snapshots of lunatic dog owners are priceless."
Viets is also a writer of nonfiction and, in How to Commit Monogamy: A Lighthearted Look at Long-Term Love, she addresses a serious topic in an amusing way. Married to the same man for more than twenty-five years, Viets draws from her personal experience as well as research to explain the many joyful merits of a healthy, stable, monogamous relationship. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "the author goes a long way toward clearing monogamy's bad name."
Viets told CA: "I live on the ocean in Florida. Every morning I take a long walk on the beach and think about killing people. Writing mysteries is a relaxing life.
"I am a mystery addict. I read four or five a week. My favorite authors include early Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, and Dorothy L. Sayers. I write the kind of book I like to read: fast, funny, tightly written, and well plotted.
"My books are known for their accurate depiction of modern newspapers. I've spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business, and the evil editors of my books are based on composites of editors who can be found at any newspaper. My ideas for my mysteries are based on events that I covered as a reporter, from a transvestite beauty pageant to the Leather and Lace Bikers Society Ball."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of Murder Unleashed, p. 266.
Library Journal, June 15, 1997, Elizabeth Caulfield Felt, review of How to Commit Monogamy: A Lighthearted Look at Long-Term Love, p. 87; September 15, 1997, Ravonne A. Green, review of How to Commit Monogamy, p. 120.
MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of Just Murdered.
Publishers Weekly, June 2, 1997, review of How to Commit Monogamy, p. 63; June 12, 2000, review of Doc in the Box, p. 58; March 6, 2006, review of Murder Unleashed, p. 49.
St. Louis Journalism Review, February, 1996, Staci D. Kramer, "Viets-Post Marriage on the Rocks? Editor Woo Takes over Negotiations," p. 1; September, 1996, Burt St. John, "Viets' Future with the Post Uncertain; She Continues to Build Syndication," interview with Elaine Viets, p. 18.
Elaine Viets's Home Page, http://www.elaineviets.com (October 15, 2006).