Proposals for Talks

Peggy Ehrhart is the author of Sweet Man Is Gone and Got No Friend Anyhow (Five Star/Gale/Cengage), featuring blues-singer sleuth Maxx Maxwell.  She holds a Ph.D. in English literature and taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University until 2002, when she left to write fiction full time.  Her books were inspired by her adventures playing guitar in her own band. 

Musical Mystery Tour

It’s no mystery why music and mysteries go together.  Musicians are society’s outsiders, from the pioneers of the blues with their devotion to what the straight world considered devil’s music, through the inventors of bebop with their rebellious lifestyles and hipster vocabulary, up to the rock stars of the sixties with their sex and drugs and rock and roll.  These worlds easily lend themselves to evil-doing, and they are fascinating worlds for a cop, a private investigator, or an amateur sleuth to explore.  And when the sleuth himself is a musician, his approach to his job is often as unconventional as his personality.

Join mystery writer Peggy Ehrhart on a tour through mystery novels that exploit the mysterious possibilities of popular music.

(I published an article based on this material in Crimespree magazine, July-August 2008.)

Mysterious New Jersey

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget” was inspired by the real-life murder of a young woman whose body was found floating in the Hudson River near Hoboken. Ever since then, the Garden State has been a fertile source of ideas for mystery writers. Join New Jersey author, Peggy Ehrhart, on a tour of mystery novels whose settings range from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens and Chesapeake Bay region to the state’s cities, suburbs, and small towns.  Peggy will discuss the work of authors such as Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben, Robin Hathaway, Chris Grabenstein, and Richard Price.

Poe, Hoboken, and the Body in the Hudson: New Jersey and the Birth of the Modern Mystery

Edgar Allan Poe, the father of  the modern mystery, was inspired by the real-life murder of Mary Rogers, whose body was found floating in the Hudson near Hoboken.  He had recently published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” introducing his sleuth C. Auguste Dupin.  The tale of Mary Rogers provided much fodder for the tabloids of the day and her murderer was never  identified.  But the case was ready made to become Poe’s  “The Mystery of Marie Roget.”  Join New Jersey  mystery writer, Peggy Ehrhart, to learn about this chapter in the history of New Jersey.

(This talk is based in part on material drawn from Daniel Stashower’s The Beautiful Cigar Girl.)

How Done It?  Taking the Mystery Out of Mysteries

Everybody loves a mystery, whether it’s a classic by Poe, a gritty tale from Raymond Chandler, a cozy in the Agatha Christie mold—or “Murder She Wrote” on TV.  In a sense every mystery is the same mystery: a murder disrupts the orderly functioning of society, and the sleuth—whether cop, private investigator, or amateur—follows the trail of clues that leads to the killer, thus restoring society’s balance.

Join mystery writer—and former English professor—Peggy Ehrhart as she reveals the tricks of the mystery-writing trade: how mystery writers hatch those plots, create effective heroes and villains, build suspense, and come up with all those puzzling clues.

Jane Austen, Mystery Writer: The Case of Emma

The great British mystery writer P.D. James commented that if Jane Austen were writing today, she might well be our greatest mystery novelist, and Austen’s Emma has been described as a mystery without a murder.  Emma’s  pride and willfulness make her blind to the obvious clues about the romantic relationships among the people who surround her, and even blind to the fact that Mr. Knightley is destined to be her future husband.  Austen places these clues to challenge Emma and the reader, just as a mystery novelist would do.