in the series of Claire Gray mysteries by Michael Craft
published March 2004
Fifty-four and single, Claire Gray has recently embarked upon a new life.
Having lived for some 30 years in New York, where she established herself
as one of Broadway’s most respected directors, she has agreed to
head the theater department of a recently built college near Palm Springs,
The powerful film producer Spencer Wallace has seen Tanner act, and he
agrees—Tanner is sensational. In fact, Wallace has signed Tanner
to appear in his next major movie, Photo Flash. Widely known as
Mr. Blockbuster, Wallace has high hopes for this project; he wrote the
script himself, based on his own photography hobby.
The novel Desert Spring shares the same plot as my stage play, Photo Flash, which was drafted about a year prior to the book. Because a play is a more compact literary form than a novel, I wanted to address the restrictions and challenges of that medium first, then “open up” the story in its novelized version. While the novel contains much familiar dialogue from the play, it brings considerably more depth, detail, and texture to the story, primarily through the introspection of Claire Gray, who serves as narrator.
Both the novel and the play have a certain self-consciousness, as they deal with a play, a movie, and the writing of their respective scripts. What’s more, “Photo Flash” is not only the title of the play and the title of part one of the novel; it is also the title of the film within the story. And we quickly learn that the screenplay of the film has spelled out a recipe for murder concerning tainted photographic chemicals. Photography is embedded in the thematic core of the story and emerges, as if through the layers of an onion, to the surface level of the story’s language.
While the whodunit is told with a good deal of humor, it is underlaid by a romantic subplot dealing with Claire’s evolving relationship with the much younger actor, Tanner Griffin. He is on the verge of stardom, which was Claire’s goal, but ironically, their success spells the end of their offbeat romance. This bittersweet reality is an ambiguous emotional thread running throughout the entire story, which stands in contrast to the humor and serves to frame the central murder plot in a way that I found curiously satisfying to write.
I hope you will take similar pleasure in reading Desert Spring.
Click here to read an excerpt from Desert Spring.
Click here to read a related interview by Alice Anne Conner.
Click here to order Desert Spring from Amazon.com.
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