Dying to Get Published
by Judy Fitzwater
(Fawcett, $5.99, NV) ISBN -0-449-00294-2
****
Dying to Get Published is a funny, fast-paced story by new author Judy Fitzwater. Aspiring writers everywhere will be nodding their heads in agreement as they follow the escapades of Jennifer Marsh, would-be mystery writer who's had enough of form rejection letters and snotty agents.

Jennifer is tired of writing manuscripts that go nowhere. She has a neat filing cabinet of agents, contacts, rejections letter everything but that all-important contract. Her writing is clean, crisp, suspenseful. But ultimately, she always just misses being saleable. At this rate, her unborn (and as yet unconceived) baby, Jaimie, will never see the light of day. An impoverished writer with no steady guy isn't exactly mommy material. What's a gal to do?

Turn to Oprah, what else? Jennifer happens upon a program featuring a woman who was unjustly accused of murdering her husband and who subsequently wrote a best-seller. Now that's a hook! But whom can a part-time caterer and aspiring author find to murder?

How about the snakiest literary agent in Atlanta?

Penney Richmond makes a perfect target. She's rude, crude, and unscrupulous, and is immediately assigned to the category of "career S.O.B." by Jennifer. It will be easy. All Jennifer needs is a method and a perfect alibi, and before you can say "contract", she'll have one. To write, that is.

Only things start getting confused from the start. At a party being catered by Jennifer and her friend Dee Dee, Jennifer is hit on by TV anchor Steve Moore. She also meets Sam Culpepper, a newpaper reporter who wants her help investigating the mysterious suicide of another TV anchor. Was Steve Moore involved? Penney Richmond lives in an Atlanta high-rise, and while scoping out the place, Jennifer becomes entangled with elderly Emmie Walker, who lives in the building. And her critique group keeps offering ideas for this mythical crime, with no idea what Jennifer's real intentions are.

Jennifer, of course, can't bring herself to go through with it. By this time, she's way too busy untangling a real murder anyway, and wondering whether Sam might be the man for her (and Jaimie).

To voracious readers, the best books are "one-sitting reads", in the sense that you can't put them down. Dying to Get Published certainly qualifies. I especially enjoyed the characterizations of Jennifer and Sam. Jennifer is presented as intelligent and full of initiative, which makes her involvement in solving a murder plausible. Sam is a little more mysterious; I wanted to know what was going on inside his head, but the author gives us little clues along the way.

And the supporting characters are a hoot. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing, and it would have been easy to let the rest of the cast take over the show. Fitzwater wisely keeps them in check, while giving them plenty of scenes. They balance the story nicely, and provide quite a few laughs to boot.

I'm glad to see that Dying to Get Published is the first in a planned series of books starring Jennifer Marsh. Let's hope she doesn't get published too quickly. I'd like to see her solve more crimes first.

--Cathy Sova


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