My cousin Aly is getting married Saturday on a plantation on Edisto Island, S.C. Aly is the daughter of Gail, my one-and-half times first cousin (our mamas are sisters and our daddies first cousins), and along with her sister Meg and me, make up the mystery-writing team of Caroline Cousins. We have written three cozy mysteries set on a South Carolina low country island we call Indigo, but which is a semi-disguised version of Edisto, where we spent summers as kids, where our parents retired, and where Meg and Gail eventually built houses next to each other on Sand Creek. I rent a beach house on Edisto in the fall/winter, or bunk in with my mom or the cousins for shorter visits.
I talked to Meg this morning, who wanted to know why I wasn’t there yet to help her green-in the wedding bouquets. Like Margaret Ann (Mam) in our books, she does wedding flowers. Unlike her one-half-times first cousin Lindsey in the books, I am not a free-lance writer and acting manager of Pinckney Plantation. And sister Gail, who is Bonnie in the books, is not an environmental lawyer. But she is a smart blonde. We have never found a dead body in an old plantation house, discovered a dying woman in the restroom at a reptile park, or tripped over skeletal remains in an overgrown cemetery. As we like to say, our books are all made up, except for the part that’s not. (Aunt Boodie’s name is really Boodie).
But I had to call Meg this morning. Because we have had the funny (as in funny-peculiar) experience of having had things we write about subsequently happen. We wrote about identity theft long before it made the cover of Newsweek. We invented a mobile meth lab before some rednecks borrowed the idea. And spookiest of all, we created a “ghost gator” out of thin air, and right when our book was published, the law came down on someone we knew about “rescuing” an albino alligator.
The mystery in our second book, Marsh Madness (2005), plays out against a plantation wedding. I called Meg because I wanted to make sure no bridesmaids have gone missing (although several have failed to RSVP for the elaborate luncheon we are having on Friday). We won’t have to worry about picking up jellyfish off the beach because the ceremony is not right on the ocean.
“I hope we don’t have attacking seagulls,” Meg said, laughing. Probably not, because the bridesmaids are not carrying brandy snifters with goldfish in them (see bookjacket illustration). And she said she didn’t think she’d have to use kudzu for greenery in the flowers, but “you never know.” The MOB — mother of the bride Gail — had gone to take flowers to the cake lady. “She doesn’t have hives, does she?” I asked. “Not yet,” Meg said. “I did tell you our caterer shut her business down till April. But she promises me she’ll have our chicken salad here at 9 a.m. Friday.”
Still, this wedding is not going to turn into marsh madness. Hurricane Lisa’s too far away.
People always want to know when we’re going to write another book. It’s been three years since Way Down Dead in Dixie, and we are still on hiatus. We three can’t seem to get on the same page what with weddings, graduations, grandbabies, funerals, sickness, work, vacations and family, family, family. The latter give us our best material, though. Meg was just telling me that one of our aunts is real upset because she’s having to break in a new hairdresser. The woman who used to do her hair recently got sent to prison for murder.
Open Book: Obviously, this post is shameless self-promotion of Marsh Madness (John F. Blair). But you asked what was up with “the cousins.”