Webb, Betty 1942–

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Webb, Betty 1942–

(Betty Webb Mace)

PERSONAL: Born August 28, 1942, in DuQuoin, IL; daughter of Gaston (a casino owner) and Jean (a real estate investor; maiden name, Fields) Webb; married Tony Macevicius, January 1, 1966 (divorced, November 20, 1976); married Paul Howell (a psychologist), May 1, 1988; children: (first marriage) Eric, Jason. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Attended Art Center College of Design, Southern Illinois University, and Arizona State University. Politics: Independent. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Genealogy.

ADDRESSES: Home—7822 East Sheridan St., Scotts-dale, AZ 85257. Office—Tribune Newspapers, 7525 East Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85251; fax: 480-970-2360. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Poisoned Pen Press, 6962 E. First Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Worked as an art director for advertising agencies in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY, 1965–90; reporter and book reviewer in Scottsdale, AZ, 1990–94; full-time novelist and freelance writer, 1994–.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime.

AWARDS, HONORS: Top Ten Mystery, BookSense, 2000, for Desert Noir.

WRITINGS:

You Can Have It When I'm Through with It, Daughters Press, 1976.

Also author of the plays The Gospel According to Lewis, produced in New York, NY, and The Prime Time for El Supremo, produced in Phoenix, AZ, on KTAR-AM radio. Contributor of more than 1,000 articles to newspapers.

"DESERT" MYSTERY NOVELS

Desert Noir, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2001.

Desert Wives, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2002.

Desert Shadows, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2004.

Desert Run, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.

WORK IN PROGRESS: More mysteries.

SIDELIGHTS: A Scottsdale, Arizona, resident, Betty Webb chose the city as the setting of her first "Desert" series mystery novel, Desert Noir. Lena Jones, private investigator, enters the Scottsdale art gallery of her friend Clarice Kobe to find that she has been brutally murdered. Lena's first suspect is Clarice's abusive husband Jay, but further investigation reveals an assortment of people who may have wanted Clarice dead, from the neighboring art dealer, to a scorned artist, to several members of her own family. Lena's quest leads her and investigatory partner Jimmy Sisiwan throughout Arizona, from the sprawling desert to the nighttime hotspots. Webb also reveals pieces of Lena's troubled past—she was shot in the head and left for dead at the age of four, eventually ending up in foster care—as the detective tries to find both her friend's killer and herself. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described Desert Noir as a "highly accomplished debut of what promises to be an exciting new series," commenting on the author's success at presenting "a fully realized picture of Arizona" in writing that is "solid and fun." Further praise for the book appeared in Booklist, where reviewer Connie Fletcher maintained that Desert Noir is "strong on atmosphere and insight."

Lena Jones fans next found the investigator infiltrating a polygamist compound in Desert Wives. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca Corbett has been kidnapped by her father and taken across the Arizona border into Utah, where he intends to turn her over to sixty-eight-year-old sect leader Solomon Royal. Lena tracks the two to Purity, a polygamist cult, where she successfully rescues Rebecca. On her way to return the girl to her mother, Lena discovers that Solomon Royal has been murdered, and that Rebecca's mother is the prime suspect. To find the real killer, Lena poses as a polygamist wife and returns to Purity, where she discovers damaging cult secrets. The Publishers Weekly reviewer commented on the book's "dark humor and thrilling action," defining it as "a searing expose of the abuses of contemporary polygamy." The truths revealed in Desert Wives prompted the Arizona state legislature to pass anti-polygamy legislation that made the marriage of children to polygamists a felony, and subsequently forced infamous Arizona polygamist Warren Jeffs to relocate to Texas. The book received more attention when the Lifetime television network expressed interest in adapting Desert Wives for a movie and possible television series.

In Webb's third installment in the series, Desert Shadows, seventy-six-year-old Gloriana Alden-Taylor, high-society owner of the racist-propaganda-based publishing imprint Patriot's Blood Press, is poisoned over dinner at a book exposition. All eyes turn to Gloriana's former employee Owen Sisiwan, Afghanistan war vet and cousin of Lena's sidekick Jimmy. Suspecting Owen's innocence, Lena initiates an investigation into Gloriana's murder, and again into herself as more of the heroine's tragic past is revealed to readers. In a Booklist review, Mary Frances Wilkens depicted the book as "solid series fare" and commented on the heroine's "unusual depth." A Publishers Weekly reviewer considered the book to be a "socially conscious, thought-provoking mystery."

Webb ties Scottsdale history into the plot of her next Lena Jones mystery, Desert Run. Director Warren Quinn hires Lena as security while making a documentary in former prison of war camp Papago Park. The movie highlights the story of Kapitan zur Zee Erik Ernst, a former German military prisoner of the camp and one of several men to escape from captivity in 1944. As the only surviving member of the group, Ernst's input is valuable to the documentary—until he is murdered. Len's investigation uncovers shocking historical secrets and an old murder mystery that may be tied to Lena's latest case. In an interview on her Home Page, Webb revealed: "This is a very, very different Lena Jones book—a combination of present action and true Arizona history."

Webb once told CA: "As a reporter, I see a lot of injustice, so I write mysteries because I so dearly want to see bad guys caught and good guys triumphant. I also like to explore various social issues through my writing, including the environment and spousal and child abuse. My biggest influences are Sue Grafton and Peter Robinson (for plotting) and Friedrich Buechner (for moral and ethical issues). I write from four to eight in the morning, because I'm half-asleep at that time and too groggy to get distracted. As a reporter, I am most inspired by news stories—especially those about old or unsolved crimes, and as a resident of one of the most beautiful areas in the world, I am very much aware of how environment affects the psyche."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Desert Noir, p. 1852; July, 2004, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Desert Shadows, p. 1826.

Library Journal, January, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Desert Wives, p. 163.

Publishers Weekly, May 21, 2001, review of Desert Noir, p. 85; December 16, 2002, review of Desert Wives, p. 49; June 21, 2004, review of Desert Shadows, p. 47.

ONLINE

Betty Webb Home Page, http://www.bettywebb-mystery.com (January 3, 2006).