Sunday, August 14, 2011

Esprit de corpse

A conversation of sorts with Violet Wilkinson Parnell from Mary Jane Maffini’s MacPhee mysteries.

Have a seat. I appreciate you dropping in and lending a little extra life to this place. I’m happy to give you a bit of information, as long as you assure me you’re not working with the police. As they say around here, we’re too soon old and too late dead. Tell me about it! I’m way beyond long in the tooth and yet, I’m still ticking. In fact, I think I may be better than I’ve been in forty years. Who would have ever expected it? I attribute most of that to my new friends Ms. Camilla MacPhee of Justice for Victims and her assistant, that young lad Alvin Ferguson.

Since I met Camilla life’s taken a turn for the better. I was pretty bored on the sixteenth floor of that high-rise until I got to know my neighbor down the hall in 1604.

Currently, I’m here in the rehab center which is full of World War II vets like me. I am recovering from a fall, but life is still interesting. The food is better than I’d make at home, since all I did was open the odd can. There’s this lovely pub that we’re sitting in and I’m getting quite a lot of attention from the Major and the Colonel. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that just because you’re past eighty that you can’t have a life.

Would you mind refilling my Harvey’s Bristol Cream? No, no need to hold back. The stuff’s full of vitamins and sherry is like money, you can’t take it with you. Might as well drink up while we’re still alive. After all, the sun’s over the yardarm somewhere in the world.

Where was I? Oh yes, our Ms. MacPhee. She’s inclined to meddle in murder, perhaps because she was a legal aid lawyer and later a victim’s advocate. She’s all about justice. Not the most domesticated gal. That’s one of the things I like about her. She’s not much good with technology and that’s where I come in, you see. Never met a communication device I didn’t take to. I put it down to all my mechanical training overseas in the war. The men were too busy with combat duties. It was up to us girls to drive the trucks and repair them too. Teaches you not to fear machines. I recommend that kind of experience to women. And of course, my career did help me to find my way around information systems that might not be open to just anyone later on. Enough said. Still classified.

Where was I? Oh yes. I’m glad our author lets us be ourselves, warts and all. She puts us in some awful pickles. Although I do say, at my age, I’d appreciate a fewer falls and bangs on the head. But I’ve made that point and it’s getting better. One thing I like about her is that she keeps her promises. Early on, when I started to spend a lot of time helping out and taking a bit more space and time in the books, she told me to step back a bit. ‘You’ll get your chance Violet. Be patient. Everyone would like to hear the story about your time in World War II.’ I guess she didn’t realize that would connect with a contemporary murder. I was surprised that she dug up all those letters my friend Hazel wrote me after I signed up and went overseas with the Canadian Women’s Army Corp in 1941. Five thousand Canadian girls went overseas, not that you hear much of that. We had great adventures and then the world forgot. Of course, once a year on Remembrance Day people do give a thought to it. Come to think of it, that’s when my latest adventure kicked off: Remembrance Day.

The book with my story in it is called The Dead Don’t Get Out Much (can’t argue with that) and from my point of view it was a ripping yarn. It is the fifth book in the Camilla MacPhee series and I am glad to say that Ms. MacPhee had a few more troubles than I did and not everyone got out alive at the end (life’s like that). But I found it satisfying, partly because I got that excellent trip to Italy and partly because I got the answers to some troubling old questions. Well, it turned out to be a bit dangerous, but I was trained for that. Plus I’ve reconnected with Hazel after being so angry at her for all those years. Not only that, but I’m still alive and ticking. And did I mention that it all started off when I ran into a dead man in the Remembrance Day veterans' march? Sure did. Cheerful as anything although he shouldn’t have been. Talk about esprit de corpse!

Hold on, here comes the Major and the Colonel! I have a few stories cooked up for them. Men love a gal who can tell a tale with a few explosions or near mid-air collisions with Spitfires. I’ll have to join them. What about you? Have you had any adventures in Italy? Got any good tales of explosions to share with the lads? They’re always glad when a pretty girl comes around. I’ll give you a chance. Do you have any experience with tanks? That’s always a good icebreaker.

The Dead Don't Get Out Much was shortlisted for the Barry Award, thanks mostly to Violet Parnell. To find out more about the six Camilla MacPhee books (in which Violet always gets a good part) check out and follow the links.


  1. Please urge your author to be more careful about the rough stuff and to encourage people to be properly appreciative of the service of all of our veterans.
    Best wishes for success of your newest venture.

  2. Do be careful, Violet. Our authors sometimes forget that we're real people, with bones that can break. Come tell us your stories any time!

  3. I think you're in good hands, Violet! Hang in there.

  4. Oh dear, I've been hunting for Violet to get her to drop in and respond to your kind comments, but she seems to AWOL. There's a rumor about that she's meeting the Colonel and the Major at the shooting range. I hope they don't bet against her for best score. She has a dead aim.

  5. Violet, what a fascinating life you've led. I'm curious about that excellent trip to Italy and must learn more!

    ~ Krista