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Gala features Page-turning author

October 02, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Katherine Hall Page's latest mystery novel, "The Body in the Gallery," touches on two issues that have received a lot of attention in the news in recent years - cyberbullying and a downturn in the economy.

Page said she doesn't necessarily grab from the headlines for plot points, but once she did base one of her mysteries - "The Body in the Bookcase" - on a real event in her life. Her home had been burglarized.

"It's pretty much exactly what happened to us, including the first policeman on the scene who looked at my kitchen door (splintered from a crowbar) and asked, 'Was this like this when you left?'" Page said. "Police kept saying, 'These were professionals.' Like that should be comforting to me."

What Page, 61, does find comforting is libraries, which she said are one of the dearest things to her heart.

Page will talk about writing and answer questions Saturday night at the Washington County Free Library's Gala in the Stacks 2008: Jazz It Up fundraiser.

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The gala will help raise funds toward the $18 million renovation and expansion that will double the size of the downtown library, Library Director Mary Baykan said. Baykan hopes to break ground for the library project in January 2010.

Page is working on the 18th book in her "Body in the" series. The series centers around caterer Faith Fairchild, who has a knack for discovering corpses. She uses her access as a caterer and a reverend's wife to aid her amateur sleuthing.

Page remembers the first library from her childhood in Livingston, N.J. The library was an old farmhouse. The children's section was in the kitchen. The grownup books were in the parlor and dining room.

"I read everything that was in the children's section by the time I was about 10," Page said. So Mrs. Rockwood, the librarian, took her into the parlor and dining room, handing her books appropriate for her age.

"(That) made me feel so empowered as a reader and a person," Page recalled. "That's the way books have always made me feel."

Page has won three Agatha Awards , including two for her "The Body in the" series.

Page, who had taught high school English and history in Boston, had just finished her doctorate when her husband took a sabbatical in France. It was there that Page's idea for a novel and a character, Fairchild, took shape.

When Page wrote "Belfry" in 1986, she wasn't setting out to start a series, but then her editor asked her when the second book could be expected. The books don't have to be read in order and Page works to creatively introduce Fairchild and some recurring characters in each book in a way that won't bore regular readers of the series.

Fairchild also is a mom from the start of the series.

"That's who she is. People I knew at the time, even if they didn't have kids, they were juggling things - not necessarily bodies," Page said.

Something else Page's series have had since the fifth book, "The Body in the Cast," is recipes. After all, Fairchild is a caterer.

"Anyone can make them. They're not expensive or exotic ingredients," Page said.

The recipes are at the end of the books.

"I didn't want to interrupt the narrative: Faith finds the badly bludgeoned body and then there's a brownie recipe," Page joked.




If you go ...



WHAT: Gala in the Stacks 2008: Jazz It Up with mystery author Katherine Hall Page

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4

WHERE: Washington County Free Library, 100 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $100 per person.

CONTACT: For tickets, call 301-739-3250, ext. 128.

MORE: Partygoers will receive a signed copy of Page's "The Body in the Gallery."

The Scott Silbert Jazz Trio and magician Mike Rose will perform. There will be hors d'oeuvres, desserts, cocktails and a cash bar for mixed drinks. Have a souvenir caricature drawn by local artist Rob Rock.

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