BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times July 12-18, 2006
by Philip K. Jason
Part-time Neapolitan Karen Harper has published over forty novels (several as Caryn Cameron) since the first one appeared in 1982. Many of her early titles are historical romances such as The First Princess of Wales, which will be reissued in December. More recently, she has be writing contemporary suspense novels, like Empty Cradle and Baby Farm, and historical mysteries. Indeed, perhaps her most significant achievement is the Queen Elizabeth I Mystery Series, from St. Martin’s, that will conclude this winter with the publication of the ninth book, The Hooded Hawke. This meticulously researched series showcases Harper’s ability to blend fact with imagination. Perfectly rendered settings allow readers to fully enter the worlds she creates. “If I have setting,” Harper asserts, “everything else seems to follow.”
Perhaps the penchant for research is something this author inherited from her father, an amateur Dickens scholar. A literature major who attended the University of Ohio as an undergraduate and Ohio State as a graduate student, Harper credits her success, in part, to extensive travel, along with studies in the classics and in European history. These experiences gave her the background she needed, and once she broke through as a novelist, she was able to leave behind her seventeen-year career teaching college and high school English.
Karen Harper won the 2006 Mary Higgins Clark Award for Dark Angel, which was published last year. This award, sponsored by Simon & Schuster and given to authors who write suspense fiction in the mode of Mary Higgins Clark, was presented in April at the Mystery Writers of America Gala Banquet in New York.
Southwest Florida residents and visitors can get particular pleasure out of Harper titles that conjure up this fascinating region. Having been a snowbird for twenty-one years, she has come to “love the area and find it a rich treasure trove for themes, plots and settings.” Her latest title, Hurricane (from Mira Books), is a great summer beach read. Published last month and available everywhere, it is set on the 10,000 Islands and on Marco Island. This suspenseful romance derives in part from interviews that Harper did with local residents who had suffered through hurricanes (though its composition preceded Wilma). Just reissued, also from Mira, is Black Orchid, with scenes set in Naples, the Everglades and Chokoloskee Island. The plot involves endangered panthers, the Seminole Indians, and rare orchids. Harper also did all the research for that book locally. The book she’ll be working on this winter in Naples will once again use Southwest Florida settings.
Keep up with this enormously talented writer at her website: karenharperauthor.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at firstname.lastname@example.org.