GeezerLit: Plenty of Stories to TellBy Fleur Bradley
A puzzle lady (with a checkered past), a forgetful man in his eighties and Florida’s oldest private eye--not what you’d think of when you imagine a novel’s hero. But they’re today’s answer to a growing, older readership, readers who are just as vibrant as the characters in these novels.
Call it GeezerLit, like writer Mike Fefeler does. Not that having an older main character solving a mystery is something new. We all remember Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher and their amateur sleuth stories.
But age has gotten a new dimension in GeezerLit. Older characters now reflect the changing times and face of old age. No fading into the background for these protagonists—instead, they have vibrant lives, a sense of humor and yes, even a romantic interests. GeezerLit reflects the times, and getting old isn’t what it used to be.
Take Mike Befeler’s novel Retirement Homes are Murder (Thomas Gale/Five Star Mysteries). His eighty-four year-old main character Paul Jacobson deals with short term memory loss, hearing problems and even the loss of a spouse with a sense of humor. When Paul finds a body wedged in a retirement home trash chute, he becomes an amateur sleuth to clear himself as a murder suspect. The novel is full of colorful characters, and deals with the quirks of old age with a healthy sense of humor. “I have arthritis myself,” says the writer of Retirement Homes are Murder Mike Befeler. “Some days it’s worse than others. I look ahead and stay active.” He adds that even though his character is eighty-four, he’s still a vital person, with a girlfriend too.
Or take Parnell Hall’s cursing, gun-toting puzzle lady Cora Felton (dubbed “Miss Marple on steroids” by Kirkus), the main character in his long running Puzzle Lady mysteries. The Puzzle Lady couldn’t do a crossword puzzle to save her life (her niece actually writes the puzzles that appear under her name), but she makes an excellent amateur sleuth. In the eighth and latest installment of the series, You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled (Bantam), Cora Felton is accused of plagiarism, and then of the murder of her accuser. The plot moves quickly, with rich characters and strong wit, and there are even a few crossword puzzles for readers to enjoy. Writer Parnell Hall’s Puzzle lady Cora Felton may look like a sweet-looking grandma type, but she still sees herself as young. “She’s had five husbands,” he says. “And her age is undetermined, a mystery.” She is a lady, after all.
And author Rita Lakin adds to GeezerLit with her character Gladdy Gold, a Jewish self-proclaimed PI who’s as witty and smart as the writer, most recently in Getting Old is Criminal (Dell Mysteries). Together with her sister Evvie and her Florida retiree friends, Gladdy is on the case of a peeping tom around a Florida retirement community—a case that takes the ladies undercover and in danger. Yiddish humor and warm characters make this series a satisfying read for fans. The writer of the Gladdy Gold series Rita Lakin says her main character Gladdy Gold, the leader of a group of five spunky ladies, refuses to be defined by her age.
So who reads these GeezerLit books? You might be surprised that it’s not just those of retirement age enjoy these writers’ work. “People of all ages buy my books,” says Rita Lakin. She enjoys the readers’ comments she gets from her website.
Mike adds, “Sometimes, people get my book for their parents.”
All three writers have their own stories to tell. Mike Befeler began writing after a career in high technology marketing. Rita Lakin used to write for television and worked on shows like Peyton Place and Dynasty and won many awards before writing novels. Parnell Hall had song- and scriptwriting careers, and has several mystery series under his belt, including a PI series.
And all three writers, through their own insight and experiences, put a new face on age with GeezerLit. Most importantly, it’s the sense of humor with which they approach aging that redefines the term ‘old.’ Old now means witty, interesting and not done with living by a long shot.
Rita Lakin sums it up best with her perspective on age. “You’re as old as you feel.”
Dozens of Fleur Bradley's short stories have appeared online and in print. She recently completed a YA mystery her agent is now finding a home for. Fleur lives in Colorado with her husband and two daughters; visit her blog on all things YA at http://yasleuth.blogspot.com/ or her website www.fleurbradley.com.