Murder mystery author to speak in Hagerstown

September 05, 2009|By NATALIE BRANDON / Special to The Herald-Mail

Murder mysteries and teddy bears -- that's the recipe John J. Lamb mixes up in his popular "Bear Collector" series.

Lamb will speak about teddies and his books at the Washington County Free Library from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Hagerstown. "The Treacherous Teddy" is the fifth and final book in his "Bear Collector" series; it was released this week.

Lamb didn't simply use his imagination to write about murder in his characters' fictional world. He is a former police officer and investigated real murder cases professionally.

Lamb began his civilian law enforcement career in 1979 as a deputy sheriff with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in California. During his 18 years as a Southern California police officer, Lamb was a homocide investigator, hostage negotiator and a detective sergeant. He retired for medical reasons in 1997.


"There's no question that my background as both a CSI (crime scene investigator) and a homicide detective gives me an advantage over most other crime fiction writers," Lamb says, "I've investigated murders, so I don't have to imagine the various sights, sounds or aromas of a homicide scene. However, that police experience is only valuable when it has been incorporated into a good story."

In 2004, Lamb, along with his wife Joyce (a former latent fingerprint expert and crime analyst), moved from San Diego to the Shenandoah Valley and set out to pursue his other passion: writing.

"In high school, I always enjoyed writing," he says, "There was just something so fulfilling about being able to create an imaginary world that other people were interested in exploring."

After the release of his second book and mystery genre debut, "Echoes of the Lost Order," in 2005, Lamb claims, "I realized this was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life."

Shortly after "Echoes" completion, Lamb was approached by his literary agent to write a "cozy" mystery -- a genre "which means there are no graphic representations of violence or sex and the language stays pretty clean," he says.

The "Bear Collector" series began in August 2006 with "The Mournful Teddy," which made the Independent Mystery Bookseller Association's (IMBA) best-seller list and was a finalist for the Dilys Award.

Other books in the series include "The False-Hearted Teddy," "The Crafty Teddy" and "The Clockwork Teddy" -- all of which made the IMBA best-seller list.

Lamb credits the new surroundings at his home in the Shenandoah Valley as the initial inspiration for his "Teddy" chronicles.

"We were living ... in a house full of golden retrievers, cats, quilts and teddy bears," he says, "It suddenly occurred to me that I was living (in) a cozy (mystery book)! I also thought that there would be ample opportunities for weaving humor into the tales by turning a tough, homicide detective into a teddy bear artist."

Lamb's series follows retired homicide inspector Brad Lyon, his wife Ashleigh and their family who have moved from San Francisco to the Shenandoah Valley. The couple works together making artisan teddy bears and are also avid teddy collectors.

"Unlike many cozy mysteries, my books offer a realistic view into how murders are really solved," he explains, "My books are primarily intended for an adult audience."

He notes that although he has worked countless murder cases, he has never used any of them as the basis for a book.

"The premise of the books is that my fictional detective is married to a teddy bear artist," he says, "I was able to showcase my wife's investigative skills by slowly turning Ashleigh into a first-rate investigator. Her background in making teddy bears provides her with a different perspective from that of her husband."

With the final installment of the "Bear Collector" series now available to the public, Lamb has a new project in the works.

"My agent has made me swear not to reveal any details on what I'm working on right now," he says, "All I can say is that it is quite different from the 'Bear Collector' mysteries and that I'm very excited ... I'm moving on with no regrets."

If you go...

WHAT: Author John J. Lamb will speak about his popular "Bear Collector" book series.

WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9

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

COST: Admission is free. Seating is limited.

CONTACT: Reservations are recommended. Call 301-739-3250, ext 136, to reserve a seat.

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