For the second Muse blog leading up to the Maintaining Pace in Mystery Panel on Saturday, October 10th at 1 pm at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC, panelist Hilary Davidson is sharing a very personal muse.
It’s not hard for me to name my muse. Actually, I dedicated my most recent book, Blood Always Tells, to her. The inscription reads, “In loving memory of my grandmother, Maude Elizabeth Dallas, for teaching me that if you’re going to sin, sin big.”
My grandmother was quite the dame. When I was growing up, I took for granted her red lipstick and varnished nails, her sharp suits and high heels. Her hair was dyed dark and always perfectly set, and she never lost the Northern Irish accent she brought with her when she immigrated to Canada.
She wasn’t like other grandmothers. She enjoyed knitting, but she did so while watching pro wrestling. She never told me to behave, but she did tell me about the time she punched out a guy on a street corner for making an obnoxious remark to her. My grandmother was a voracious reader who sometimes read two books in a single day. She bought me armloads of books, including a complete set of Nancy Drew novels from the 1930s, with blue cloth covers and pen-and-ink drawings inside. She also passed along issues of The National Enquirer, and introduced me to film noir.
As far as my grandmother was concerned, Barbara Stanwyck was the greatest actress who ever lived. Her favorite actor was Tyrone Power, on whom she had a huge crush. (It’s no coincidence that Lily Moore, the amateur sleuth in my first three novels, has an ex-boyfriend who looks just like Mr. Power.) The classic movies we both loved were shown on television late in the evening. Sometimes we would snap them up on videotape. We would often debate the merits of a movie’s ending. The classic Double Indemnity was a favorite, though we both took issue with the femme fatale suddenly going soft at the very end. (My grandmother’s cynical explanation is still the best: “That’s what you get with men making movies. They always think the woman goes swooning for the man in the end. Good luck to them.”)
My grandmother passed away sixteen years ago, but I think about her every day. There’s a photograph of her on my desk that keeps me company as I write. She gave me a love of reading — and in storytelling — that is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Being Irish, my grandmother had a litany of sayings, and one of her favorites was, If you’re going to sin, sin big. She believed that you had to put your heart and soul into whatever you did, because once you went off on your own path—in a big way or a small way—you were going to face the consequences for it. Those are words I live by.
Hilary Davidson has won the Anthony Award, the Derringer Award, the Crimespree Award, and two Ellery Queen Reader’s Choice Awards. Her debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, published by Tor/Forge, launched a series featuring travel writer Lily Moore, which continues with THE NEXT ONE TO FALL—set in Peru—and EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES, about a missing journalist in Acapulco. Toronto-born and New York City-based, Hilary is also the author of 18 nonfiction books, as well as dozens of short stories, which have been published in Thuglit, Ellery Queen, Beat to a Pulp, and other dark places. Her latest book is the hardboiled BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS, her first standalone novel. Visit her online at www.hilarydavidson.com