Thursday, December 4, 2008

ACME Welcomes Betty Webb, Woman of Mystery


After 20 years of journalism, where she interviewed everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel prize-winners, serial killers, and polygamy runaways, Betty Webb left the life to write mysteries full time. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the National Federation of Press Women, and the National Association of Zoo Keepers. Her mysteries are published by Poisoned Pen Press.

From the hard-edged desert of Arizona to the sunny shores of California, Betty Webb’s two mystery series reveal the dark and light sides of life.

And Now, Here's What Betty Has to Say for Us:

The Sunny Side of the Dark Side

After reporting on real life crimes for two decades, I grew tired of the daily “been there, done that, got the bloodstains to prove it” mindset at the newspaper. Besides, I wanted to make things up for a change; facts can be so pesky. So I decided to write a book. It would be a sweet book, too, nothing like my reporting on real humans carving each other up for fun and profit. But two false starts later (a literary coming-of-age novel and a historical romance), I realized that crime was in my blood and gave way to my baser instincts.

Thus began my hard-boiled Lena Jones mystery series, which Publishers Weekly described as “mysteries with a social conscience.” Each Lena Jones novel was based on real crimes I’d covered as a reporter. Desert Noir, the first in the series, took to task Arizona land developers and politicians for their misuse of eminent domain. The second book, Desert Wives -- Polygamy Can Be Murder, revealed the rampant welfare fraud that had turned Arizona’s polygamy “prophets” into multi-millionaires. Desert Shadows showcased the darker side of book publishing (serial killers’ memoirs, anyone?). Desert Run, Lena Jones’s first cold case file, discussed America’s last mass execution (we hanged seven German POWs in Kansas in 1945); and Desert Cut put the spotlight on a grim, quasi-medical procedure performed on millions of little girls throughout the world in order to keep them “pure.”

Although the Lena Jones mysteries received high-profile rave reviews (the New York Times called Desert Wives “eye-popping,” and muttered something about a Pulitzer) eight years of writing novels about the dark side of human nature started giving me the willies. To save what was left of my sanity, I decided to write the kind of mystery usually described as a cozy. No blood, no bad language, no sex -- just a non-neurotic protagonist and several cuddly animals. I could even use some of my experiences volunteering at the Phoenix Zoo!

Halfway through the first chapter of The Anteater of Death I discovered that when you’re dark, you’re dark. My sweet little cozy devolved into a blood-drenched tale of murder and mayhem at a California zoo. Although protagonist Teddy Bentley, a dedicated zookeeper-turned-amateur- sleuth, remained upbeat and non-neurotic, her parents became adult delinquents only one step removed from the laughing academy. Or prison. But at least everyone in the book was funny, right down to Lucy, the giant anteater suspected of murder. And in the best cozy tradition, I even gave Lucy a couple of chapters of her own, taking the reader on a merry trip through the mind of a shaggy beast whose idea of a midnight snack is a snuffle though a blood-drenched ant colony.

One day, perhaps, I’ll seek professional help to find out why I can’t stay away from the dark side, but for now, the dark side seems to be working for me. The haunted Lena Jones peacefully co-exists with cheerful Teddy. In every other book, Lena’s arid Arizona desert gives way to the foggy California harbor where Teddy moors her houseboat. So I guess you could say that I have the best of all possible worlds -- bloody though both worlds may be.

To learn more about the Lena Jones books, visit
For the Teddy Bentley zoo books, visit
Visit my blog at


Morgan Mandel said...

Hi Betty,
Welcome to Acme Authors Link.
I hope you have a great time.

Morgan Mandel

Debra St. John said...

Hi Betty! Welcome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today. You seem to have the perfect background for writing mysteries.

June said...

Hello, Betty!
Very interesting post. Thank you for being here today, and keep the mysteries coming!!

Anonymous said...

Betty -- so great to have you at last at ACME. How we have awaited word from you, knowing your extensive background and creds, not to mention your outreach to so many other writers, advice and shoulder to cry on on DL and Murder Must Advertise. You're so generous with your advice, lists, experience. Thanks for visting as our guests today at ACME. Enjoyed the light side of the dark side entry so much.
Rob Walker

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Hi, Betty. I'm so anxious to read your new series.

Also, thrilled you'll be at the Public Safety Writers conference in June.

Folks, if you'd like to spend some time with Betty, do consider coming to the conference--she'll be giving a luncheon speak and will be on several panels.


Helen Ginger said...

You made me laugh with your plans to write the cuddly side of mystery! My son volunteers at the local zoo. He worked as a keeper for awhile and now does electrical work for them (it's a rescue zoo). I can see how "cuddly animals" could become part of a dark (and even funny) mystery!

Janette Rallison said...

I can hardly wait to read it!

Personally, I think anteaters have gotten away with too much already. I'm sure most of them are criminal masterminds.

Anonymous said...

I love Lena; it'll be interesting to see what happens with Teddy. And even a little less horror is probably good for you.

Anonymous said...


Welcome to ACME.
Cuddly could join cozy and we'd have a cuddly cozy mystery-a great sub-genre.