Friday, October 11, 2013

Favorite Autographed Books: The Secret Agent

This Fall Mystery Playground is featuring guest posts every Friday where readers and authors share stories about a favorite autographed book. Today our guest post is by Kerry Hammond

I’ve been reading mysteries all my life.  I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and worked my way up to Agatha Christie at such a young age that I often had to ask my mom what words meant.  I’ll never forgot having to ask what the heck a perambulator was.  

But it wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that I might someday want to write a mystery of my own.  It was probably always marinating in the back of my brain, but it came to the front in 2003 when I read The Secret Agent by Francine Matthews. I finished the book and immediately searched the Internet for the author’s website, something I rarely used to do.  

I remember reading her bio and being fascinated with her life and what she had accomplished by the time she became an author.  But what really stuck with me was the part where she described trying to explain to her young son what she did for a living.  He saw her sitting in front of her computer all day, sometimes in the house, sometimes outside.  I am paraphrasing, but she basically told him that her job was to make up stories for other people to read.  That was when I decided that someday I would definitely attempt writing myself.  I liked the idea of a lifestyle where I worked where I wanted and could make up stories for other people to read.  

I moved to Denver in 2006 and in 2008 attended Left Coast Crime, which was held in downtown Denver that year.  I still haven’t finished writing a book, but I love to attend conferences for inspiration.  I went into the signing room and there was Francine Matthews.  I have to admit that I had forgotten the name of the book that had inspired me so much, but had not forgotten the story line and the wonderful writing that made me fall in love with it.  I went up to Francine and started with a babble that went something like “what was that book you wrote that was a spy novel and they were stranded in Bangkok during rain that flooded the city, then on ski slopes in the Alps…..”  She told me it was The Secret Agent and I walked over to a bookstore stall, purchased the book, and had her sign it.

I didn’t tell her that the book made me want to be a writer, but I did tell her how much I loved her work.  She was extremely friendly and to this day I cherish that signed copy more than any other book I own.  I walk by the book shelf and think, someday my name will be on the cover of a book.

If you’re not familiar with the works of Francine Matthews, who also writes under the name Stephanie Barron, you’re missing out.  She grew up in Washington, D.C., worked as an Intelligence Analyst for the CIA, and attended Princeton and Stanford.  She currently lives in Colorado, but I swear I didn’t move here to stalk her.