Mayhem and Murder is Their Genre

Anne R. Allen, Jessica Heckman and Sue McGinty doing a reading at the Let’s Talk program at the Cayucos Library. (Photo by Ruth Ann Angus)

MORRO BAY It was Let’s Talk on a fourth Friday at the Cayucos Library when three Central Coast authors and an audible book narrator gathered to present a reader’s theater for mystery lovers.

Mystery writers Anne Allen, Victoria Heckman and Sue McGinty along with audible narrator Chester (Charlie) Perryess featured scenes from their novels that are mostly set on the Central Coast. The readings were refreshing as they were acted out with each author and Perryess taking parts.

Allen who has both written plays and acted in them took the moderator’s role explaining the variety in the mystery genre as there are many subgenres of crime fiction. “People always ask why do you want to write about murder,” she said. “That seems to be such a downer. Why don’t you write about something more comforting?”

According to Allen and her fellow authors, mysteries do give comfort in the solving of the crimes with the use of human logic and ingenuity. “We humans generally feel better about ourselves when we’re actively engaging our brains in something,” Allen explained, “Many mystery readers are also crossword puzzle fans.”

Edgar Allen Poe became the first author of detective fiction with “Murders on the Rue Morgue” in 1841 and the genre has been growing ever since. It is the most popular type of novel in the United Kingdom and sales in the United States are way up. As Allen has stated on her popular blog, mysteries give us the illusion that reason and law and order can prevail.

Allen says she began writing “as soon as I could hold a crayon.” McGinty did time as a technical writer at Lockheed and McGraw-Hill while Heckman began writing novels about 20 years ago. Heckman had seen a flyer for a short story contest sponsored by the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, one of the largest writer organizations. There are many members here on the Central Coast.

Each author picked mystery writing after developing a love for it reading novels by Nancy Drew, Earl Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers and even James Patterson, whose novels are psychiatric thrillers.

Like many of us, Allen likes BBC TV mysteries as they are her go-to comfort TV watching. “I like to say I find it soothing to watch English people killing each other,” she said with a chuckle. She feels she should watch those Dateline/48 Hours type of true-crime stories but finds them a little boring. “Real people have such sad little motives for killing each other,” she said.

Heckman loves crime shows on TV “but not true crime” and finds they don’t help with her writing which lately has channeled into paranormal suspense. She has a series with a character that can speak to cats and the cats talk back.

In relation to the abundance of violent video games, they all feel these are a problem for youth. “I think they are an aberration,” McGinty said. “But are probably protected under free speech. It’s really up to parents to control their use,”

Allena agrees saying that they terrify her. “I fear they teach kids to have no empathy or moral compass and they often grow up with no social skills and lots of anger.”

None of the writers has done a memoir yet but the seed of suggestion is lurking. Allen often writes comedic mysteries and some of her first novels were Chick-Lit comedies. McGinty’s latest book “The Sojourner Chronicles” is historical fiction set in her hometown of Detroit, Mich., set during World War II.

Allen’s writing is at its finest with a splash of comedy and her Camilla Randall series are Comedy-Mysteries. Her fifth novel, “The Lady of the Lakewood Diner” is a literary comedy.

Each author utilizes the natural settings of the Central Coast towns in their books especially featuring Los Osos and Morro Bay. Heckman states that she loves reading books set in other places and Allen’s novels are often centered in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada. McGinty has put Morro Bay on the map with her novel “Murder in Mariposa Bay.”

Charlie Perryess is not to left out as he also writes and comes to life as an audible narrator and has won awards for this skill. He narrates Allen’s novel “No Place Like Home” one of the Camilla Randall mysteries.

Find more about Anne Allen’s books at htpps:// or and check out Sue McGinty at  and Victoria Heckman at and Chester Perryess at https://[email protected]


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