Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

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Female Detectives

Julie Smith

Julie Smith, a native of Savannah, Georgia, attended the University of Mississippi majoring in journalism. After college Smith worked as a journalist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune but soon moved to San Francisco and the Chronicle. The author of a successful San Francisco based mystery series centered around lawyer Rebecca Schwartz, Smith began publishing the New Orleans Skip Langdon series in 1989 with the Edgar-winning work, New Orleans Mourning. Skip, a physically powerful New Orleans cop outnumbered in a world of male policemen and estranged from her socially prominent New Orleans family, embodies the classical ideal of alienation. In a June 2001 interview for the online journal Writers Write, Julie Smith described how this alienation sprang from her own life:

“When I was young I always heard that Southern writers always write about the South-eventually. However, I never thought that applied to me because I never understood my hometown and never fit in. So how was I going to write about it…one day it came in a blinding flash—I could work with a character who was as alienated as I was. And thus was Skip Langdon born!”

All of Smith’s characters are intricately written and eerily lifelike. For example, Skip’s arch enemy since The Kindness of Strangers, Errol Jacomine, exhibits the evil controlling nature that Smith noticed in cult leader Jim Jones after meeting him during her days at the San Francisco Chronicle. She remembered Jones made “my scalp prickle” and she later “gave the experience to my detective, Skip Langdon.” The Baronness of Pontalba or “Talba,” a character from 82 Desire, was not in Smith’s words, “going to be satisfied with the bit part she got the first time” and was given her own series in Louisiana Hotshot. Her mother “Miz Clara” was based around a poem Smith heard one Sunday in the French Quarter of New Orleans by Mada Plummer written about her mother.

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