Hart, Carolyn G(impel)

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HART, Carolyn G(impel)

Born 25 August 1936, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Daughter of Roy W. and Doris Akin Gimpel; married Philip D.Hart, 1958; children: Philip, Sarah

Carolyn G. Hart is an extremely popular and prolific author of mystery novels. Her work appeals mostly to fans of the traditional murder mystery, in which the reader matches wits with an amateur detective as a series of clues are presented that eventually reveal the identity of the murderer. Hart is best known for a series of novels in which the investigator is the owner of a mystery bookstore.

Hart earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma at Norman in 1958. She worked as a newspaper reporter for the Norman Transcript from 1958 to 1959 and as editor of Sooner Newsmakers, a newsletter for University of Oklahoma alumni, from 1959 to 1960. She became a freelance writer in 1961.

Hart began her career as an author of fiction by writing mystery and suspense novels for young adults. Her first novel, The Secret of the Cellars (1964), won the "Calling All Girls" Prize from publisher Dodd Mead. Encouraged by this success, Hart wrote more juvenile novels, often involving serious themes. No Easy Answers (1970) dealt with the Vietnam war, and Danger! High Explosives! (1972) involved the controversy over the presence of the military on college campuses.

After publishing two novels for adults and a history of the University of Oklahoma, Hart went through a time when her work went unpublished in the United States. Although she had five novels published in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1984, four of these books were never reprinted in the U.S. She worked as an assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma from 1982 to 1985.

Hart returned to freelance writing in 1986 with the publication of The Devereaux Legacy. Originally planned as a mystery novel, it was rewritten as a romance novel at the suggestion of Hart's agent. At a time when publishers were purchasing very few mysteries by American women but the popularity of romances was at its height, the agent's strategy worked. However, Hart would soon win great popularity with mystery novels that were not disguised as other types of fiction.

In 1987 Hart published Death on Demand, the first in a series of humorous, traditional murder mysteries designed to appeal to avid readers of the genre. The series, set on a resort island off the coast of South Carolina, deals with the amateur investigations of Annie Laurence, owner of the Death on Demand bookstore. The novels are full of references to classic mystery stories. Hart also adds a touch of romance to the series with the relationship between Laurence and Max Darling, who are married in Honeymoon with Murder (1989).

Hart reveals her knowledge and love of traditional mysteries throughout the series. The Christie Caper (1991) takes place during a conference on Agatha Christie, the epitome of the classic British mystery writer. Hart fills the novel with references to Christie and even includes a treasure hunt with clues based on Christie's works, with answers included at the end of the book. Southern Ghost (1992) is an affectionate tribute to and parody of traditional Gothic mysteries.

Hart began a new series with the publication of Dead Man's Island in 1993. This series deals with the adventures of Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins, known as Henrie O, who is a retired journalist. Although the Henrie O series is similar to the Death on Demand series in its lighthearted tone, it differs from it in lacking the references to other mystery writers. The two series also differ in the fact that the Death on Demand books take place in a limited geographical area, while the investigations of Henrie O take her to locations ranging from Hawaii to the Caribbean. Dead Man's Island was later adapted into a television movie.

Hart has won numerous awards for her novels. She won the Agatha Award for Something Wicked (1988), Deadly Valentine (1990), Southern Ghost, and Dead Man's Island. She won Anthony awards for Something Wicked, Honeymoon with Murder, The Christie Caper, and Southern Ghost. She won Macavity awards for A Little Class on Murder (1989), Deadly Valentine, The Christie Caper, and Southern Ghost.

Hart has also been active as an editor of anthologies of mystery stories and as national director of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1986 she was one of the founding members of Sisters in Crime, an organization for women who read, write, publish, sell, or review mysteries. She served as president of the organization from 1991 to 1992.

Other Works:

Dangerous Summer (1968). Rendevous in Vera Cruz (1970). Flee from the Past (1975). A Settling of Accounts (1976). The Sooner Story, 1890-1980 (with Charles F. Long, 1980). Escape from Paris (1982). Castle Rock (1983). Death by Surprise (1983). The Rich Die Young (1983). Skulduggery (1984). Brave Hearts (1987). Design for Murder (1988). Scandal in Fair Haven (1994). Mint Julep Murder (1995). Death in Lovers' Lane 1997). Death in Paradise (1998). Yankee Doodle Dead (1998). Crime on Her Mind (1999). Death on the River Walk (1999). White Elephant Dead (1999).


Reference works:

CANR (1997). Detecting Women (1994). Encyclopedia Mysteriosa (1994). Great Women Mystery Writers (1994). St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers (1996).