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By John Darrin

Judith Cutler is Birmingham, England’s Queen of Crime. Not committing them, you understand, but writing about them. All perfectly legal. And wholly enjoyable for us, her readers.

As she’s the reigning Queen of Crime, I was looking forward to interviewing royalty. I had questions about coronations and crowns and polo and general debauchery (that’s part of it, right?). Here’s a couple of samples of what I got:

  • “I’ve got to go and retrieve the new-baked bread from the oven.”
  • “I collect spectacle cases, homely but very intimate artifacts.”
  • “No, don’t get me started on politics.”
  • “I was Birmingham’s Queen of Crime because I was the only one available.”

Not exactly a trove of exciting and interesting topics. And since she’s already had two profiles done here at The Big Thrill, it kind of leaves me speechless. Or, in this case, contentless. 

So I’ll start with why she’s already had two other profiles. That one is easy – she had twenty-eight novels published, so far, and two waiting in line. The list takes up two pages on her web site! We should be asking why she doesn’t have like, eleven profiles. This latest profile comes with her newest book, Ring of Guilt, the third installment in the Lina Townend series, with another in the works. Judith summarizes the book:

“Bright, sharp and pretty, antiques dealer Lina Townend, the illegitimate daughter of Lord Elham, she is making a name for herself as a restorer. In an often shady world, she and Griff, her much loved partner and friend, have a national reputation for honesty. When she spots the body of a young man lying inaccessibly in a field, she does the obvious thing and calls the police. It promptly disappears. Life gets even worse. A colleague is murdered. She herself is framed for a serious crime. And worst of all the man she thought was dead turns out to be very much alive.”

When discussing Ring of Guilt, Judith uses what I believe must be her favorite phrase – actually happened to me. She claims to live an unadventurous life, yet it seems that every exciting event in her books is preceded by that phrase. Or, in some cases, post-ceded. Is that a word? No, clearly not, but it describes well one of those events. Seems she used her office building for the setting for some crime in an early novel only to end up being assaulted in that same building and having the perpetrator use the same escape route she’d described. Coincidence?

Explaining this ‘actually happened to me’ phenomenon, she simply says, “I do try to take every day events and spin them into something.” Like the drunken college student she found passed out in a field and who later became the disappearing body in the inciting incident of Ring of Guilt. Or the irritating piano player on her cruise to Hawaii who ended up dead, in one of her earlier books, at least. Be warned and take care if you do mingle with her.

And if you are mingling, it’s likely to be at something much more interesting and adventurous than she lets on with her bread-baking and spectacle-collecting aphorisms. How about on-stage playing David, the kid with the sling who introduced Goliath to migraines? Or a teaching at a new-age venue on the Greek Island of Skyros? Or tennis, or ballroom dance.

But simple spin doesn’t explain it all. Take, for instance, her claim that teaching was just a thirty-year dalliance. Visions of eager young minds and playing games at recess and class trips to museums, right? No, in addition to her college teaching, she taught “natural lifers” in the British prisons. For all of us colonials, a natural lifer is someone who gets out in a box. At least the playing games part is accurate – she was also the cricket coach.

Possibly the excess of interesting events has to do with her family – she’s married to celebrated mystery writer Edward Marston, the subject of no profiles here at The Big Thrill. Why not? According to Judith, “I’m not engaging in any discussion about which is the better writer – how could I? It’s MEEEEE of course.” (Edward – if you’re reading this, she says she was just kidding.)

Alas, as she says, her days of Queendom are over, having moved from Brum (Birmingham, again for us colonials) to the hill country of west-central England. “There are so many writers living here in the Cotswolds I’m not even going to be a minor princess.” But she’s still better than Edward.

And stay tuned for her fourth profile after Guilty Pleasures, Lina Townend’s fourth adventure, gets published. I hope someone besides me has to figure out how to write yet another profile on this adventurous lady.

John Darrin