Jack Benny’s death

220px-Life_ad_benny_1937Jack Benny died on Dec. 26, 1974, at the age of 39. (Okay, he was really 80.) His real name was Benjamin Kubelsky, and he really did play the violin–quite well, as it turns out, not horridly, as his stage character often demonstrated. He started in vaudeville where he met up with the Marx Brothers, who would be his friends for life, especially Zeppo.

Because of his solid vaudeville experience, I incorporated Jack Benny and to a lesser extent, Zeppo Marx, in my first book, The Impersonator. I made Jack a friend of my fictional protagonist, Jessie. He helps her out with some advice and some investigating. My story takes place in 1924, when Jack was a young performer of 30. He was good looking, unmarried at that point, so I made him a bit of a ladies’ man. I know he wouldn’t have minded! jbpose

Published in: on December 21, 2014 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

THE IMPERSONATOR doesn’t win the literary award . . .

. . . but we have a great time at the presentation dinner at the Library of Virginia!

On Saturday night, Oct. 18, the Library of Virginia literary award winners were announced by Virginia author Adriana Trigiani. There were 5 finalists in my category (The Impersonator is far right on this screen).


The winner (drumroll) was David Baldacci for KING AND MAXWELL. Here we are, post award.  image1









But I had a very nice consolation prize–the following day, Sunday’s New York Times book review section reviewed SILENT MURDERS, which just came out last month. (If you click on the newspaper, I think you can make it large enough to read.)




Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now Available in Paperback

adaf6-impersonatorHooray! My Roaring Twenties mystery, THE IMPERSONATOR, originally published by St. Martin’s/Minotaur Press last September in hardback, has just been made available in paperback form at all bookstores and online. The paperback version has a section at the end with suggested questions for book clubs, something they don’t do in hardcover versions, for some reason . . . probably because most book clubs choose books that are available in paperback to keep costs down. 


Published in: on August 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm  Comments (6)  

Why am I writing about “Candleshoe,” a 1977 Disney movie?

MV5BMTY2NDUyMzQ5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjI5OTUyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_Why am I talking about Candleshoe, a 1977 Disney movie starring young Jodie Foster and the incomparable David Niven? Because someone told me my mystery, The Impersonator, reminded me of that film. Curious, I ordered a copy from Netflix.

Hard to believe a Disney movie existed that I had not seen–in fact, I had not even heard of it! I figured this one must have been a flop to fly so low under my radar. So I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed it very  much. Jodie Foster was one of those rare children who really can act. She was 15 when she starred in this film, although her character was younger, like 13-14.

So why did a reader think my story reminded her of Candleshoe? There are several similarities: an orphaned girl who looks like a missing heiress is discovered by an unscrupulous con artist, who plans to get his hands on some loot in an English castle. In the case of Candleshoe, the lure is a missing pirate’s treasure (I have no pirates or missing gold coins in my story, rather an inheritance of family business worth millions). There is a scene where the con man takes young Casey to eat at a fancy restaurant, as there is in my book. And there are other children and a sharp grandmother in both. 

For those with young children, this is a great movie–harmless fun with a castle, orphans, pirate treasure, some silly humor, and a happy ending (of course!). There is a bit of violence in the form of some inept sword fighting and the con man slaps Casey at one point, but no one is killed. The best line? During the Disney-esque sword fight between David Niven and the evil con man, Niven’s character slices off the con man’s tie. “You swine!” shouts the con man, “My regimental tie!” 

Review of The Impersonator in the Library Journal


A great review for The Impersonator from the Library Journal. I particularly like the reviewer’s clever last line about the killer not planning to let Jessie act anymore, anywhere. Wish I’d thought of that!

“In 1917, a young heiress went missing from her family’s Oregon manor, and seven years later, her fortune will be distributed if she doesn’t return soon to claim it. A con artist–Uncle Oliver–finds a charming vaudevillian actress willing to tackle the role of Jessie Carr; the deal is they will split the money. The new Jessie handles her part with aplomb, winning over most of the Car family. But the orphan actress gradually realizes how much she likes this new lifestyle and family, and she finds the web of deceit a struggle. Unfortunately, the deadline looms, and someone sinister hasn’t been fooled at all. That person doesn’t plan to let “Jessie” act anymore, anywhere. VERDICT: Miley’s clever historical debut successfully portrays an intricate puzzle featuring multiple cons. Her protagonist dazzles us with her fearlessness. Inspired by Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, Miley’s stand-alone is the winner of the Minotaur Books. Mystery Writers of America First Drime Novel Competition.”

And here’s the one from Booklist’s Allison Block. 

“Talk about your challenging acting roles. In Miley’s spirited debut (winner of the 2012 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition), vaudeville starlet Leah Randall is hired to impersonate heiress Jessie Carr, who went missing seven years earlier, in 1917. Leah is granted the irresistible offer by Jessie’s creepy uncle Oliver, who proposes to share his niece’s $10 million inheritance in six months’ time, when Jessie would have turned 21. Leah takes on the assignment (her primary vaudeville gig has been cancelled, and she certainly can use the funds), which proves daunting from the start. Ensconced in the Carr estate in Oregon, she must master every detail of Jessie’s life in an effort to convince the Carr clan she is indeed the missing girl. (The Pinkerton detectives hired by the family are fastidious to a fault). Adding to Leah’s anxiety are a series of local murders, in which the victim’s heads are shaved in strange ways. Compelling characters, an engaging story line, and a heroine with lots of moxie make this a thoroughly enjoyable read.”   

Published in: on December 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Audio Book for The Impersonator

I didn’t know the publisher was making an audiobook of The Impersonator until it had already happened. If you go to the amazon.com page for the book, you can click on the icon below the cover image, the icon that says “Listen,” and hear a short passage being read by Tavia Gilbert. And I discovered that the audiobook has a different cover image. I like it!  

51mqUstf5iL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_And here’s a review of the audiobook by Judy Purdee on her blog Love2Listen: www.audiobookslover.blogspot.com/2013/10/audiobook-review-impersonator.html.


Published in: on November 10, 2013 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  

ANOTHER REVIEW from http://readingthepast.blogspot.com

Reading the Past


The Impersonator by Mary Miley, a novel of vaudeville, deception, and mystery in the Roaring ’20s

Although Mary Miley’s heroine may be a con artist, her fresh narrative voice and down-on-her-luck desperation invite you to understand the choices she makes and why. On the vaudeville circuit, Leah Randall’s youthful looks have helped her go far, but her newest gig stands to test her acting skills to the utmost.

When Oliver Beckett spots her on stage in Omaha in 1924, he’s less impressed by her routine than her eerie resemblance to his niece, Jessie Carr, a lumber heiress who disappeared nearly seven years ago, when she was 14. Jessie is set to inherit the Carr fortune when she turns 21, but now she’s nowhere to be found.

Oliver offers Leah the permanent role of Jessie under the condition that she’ll split the dough with him once she gets it. After she’s let go from her longtime role in a family act, she knows it’s a challenge she can’t refuse.

Leah is easy to root for, since she doesn’t have evil intentions. She’s just a young woman who has the talent and needs the money, and her story will make you forget where you are and lose yourself in the show. The part calls for improvisation, special training, and quick, intense study, with her greedy and unscrupulous “Uncle Oliver” feeding her many of the details she’ll need. To succeed, she must convince the trustees of Carr Industries that she’s really Jessie, then insinuate herself within Jessie’s family at the Carr estate of Cliff House, an enormous “summer cottage” along Oregon’s coast. And not everyone there is happy to welcome Jessie back.

The Impersonator, winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award for 2012, offers many mysteries in one, and they coil suspensefully together to form a complicated puzzle. Will Leah’s depiction be convincing enough? Why do dangerous accidents keep following her? What happened to the real Jessie, and will she resurface to put in her own claim?

To assuage her growing sense of guilt at deceiving her newfound relatives, Leah launches her own secret investigation into Jessie’s disappearance and stumbles into more than she bargained for.

Miley takes a world that has vanished into the shadows of nearly a century ago and pulls it back onto center stage. Her re-created atmosphere of Prohibition-era America hums with vibrant life: the decadent glamour of vaudeville, the crafty trade of smuggled hooch, and the racial tensions threatening to boil over in the culturally diverse Pacific Northwest. She also includes just enough period lingo to give a sense of the era without overdoing it. It’s a tightly woven performance, and a totally enjoyable one.

The Impersonator will be published on September 17th by Minotaur Books ($24.99, hb, 358pp). Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.  Visit the author’s website, her blog Mary Miley’s Roaring ’20s, and also her site on History Myths Debunked.  Tune in next Tuesday, also, when she’ll be stopping by with a fun article about vaudeville memorabilia.

Posted by at 9:00 AM 


  1. Great review, Sarah. This book sounds fabulous. Adding it to my Goodreads list right now and looking forward to reading it. Your reviews have never let me down!


  2. Thanks, Jessica – we must have very similar tastes in books! This book was a lot of fun, and I’m thinking I have a new favorite decade to read about. I’m fascinated by vaudeville.

  3. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Terrific review! Can’t wait to read Mary’s book.


  4. Hope you’ll enjoy it also!

  5. Already on my wishlist!! Looking forward to it.


  6. This one had been on my wishlist for a while, ever since a librarian friend told me about it. It’s a good one if you like reading about women of the early 20th century. If you read it, I’d be interested to hear what you think!

  7. Excellent write-up, Sarah, and I agree with every word. And FYI, Minotaur has already agreed to publish the second book in the series, and Mary just finished writing a third.


  8. That’s excellent news that there will be more. Leah/”Jessie” wasn’t your typical amateur detective, so it wasn’t apparent that this was first in a series, but I’m glad it is!

  9. It was great! I seriously hated to put it down.


  10. Glad you agree!


Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 7:10 am  Leave a Comment  


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Impersonator by Mary Miley

Posted by Cristal | Book Addict at 12:00 AM

 Impersonator final

Publication: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Minotaur Books
In 1917, Jessie Carr, fourteen years old and sole heiress to her family’s vast fortune, disappeared without a trace. Now, years later, her uncle Oliver Beckett thinks he’s found her: a young actress in a vaudeville playhouse is a dead ringer for his missing niece. But when Oliver confronts the girl, he learns he’s wrong. Orphaned young, Leah’s been acting since she was a toddler.

Oliver, never one to miss an opportunity, makes a proposition—with his coaching, Leah can impersonate Jessie, claim the fortune, and split it with him. The role of a lifetime, he says. A one-way ticket to Sing Sing, she hears. But when she’s let go from her job, Oliver’s offer looks a lot more appealing. Leah agrees to the con, but secretly promises herself to try and find out what happened to the real Jessie. There’s only one problem: Leah’s act won’t fool the one person who knows the truth about Jessie’s disappearance.

Set against a Prohibition-era backdrop of speakeasies and vaudeville houses, Mary Miley’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition winner The Impersonator will delight readers with its elaborate mystery and lively prose.

The Impersonator has just about everything that I enjoy in a good historical mystery novel.  And it happens during one of my very favorite time periods; the 1920’s.
All her life, Leah has been involved in show business. Left alone in the world after her mother’s death at a young age, she’s called Vaudeville her home.
Until one night when a man named Oliver Beckett spots her on stage and offers her a job that would very much test her acting skills. After losing her job and having no other viable options, she agrees to what Oliver has planned.
She and Oliver set off to the Carr mansion in Oregon. Where if she succeeds in proving to the Carr family and the trustees of the estate, that she really is Jessie, a nice sizable fortune awaits her and Uncle Oliver.
Learning all about Jessie might be as easy to Leah as learning new lines in a script, but there is something mysterious and possibly dangerous about the Carr family.
And the further she slips into Jessie’s world, the more curious and determined Leah becomes in finding out the truth behind Jessie’s disappearance.  A truth that could jeopardize Leah’s life. Especially when she discovers information about other young women in the area being murdered…
The Impersonator was an engaging and original story that quickly captured my attention and imagination. Lies, booze, betrayal, and murder. This book had just the right amount of those items to make this story very fun to read. The pace was great, writing was fluid, and the details and descriptions of everything seemed to make Leah’s world be interesting to discover.
A fan of all things 1920? Love a good murder mystery set in the past? Then I would recommend that you check this one out.
RATING: 4 out of 5.


** I received this book on behalf of the Publisher in exchange for nothing, but my honest opinion. Thank you. **
Amazon B&N Kobo
Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 7:49 am  Comments (1)  

New Discovery on an Old Vaudeville Program

Scan 132810002

I bought this 1910 vaudeville program a few years ago for $6. I have several programs–they give me good information about acts, names of acts, and jargon that I can use in my mystery series. But thanks to Valentina, a reader of this blog, I learned something I didn’t know about this particular program.

I’d wondered about Act D “Lester and Mildred: Novelty Sister Act.” I mean, come on, how many sisters were named Lester? Well, it is likely that this act is Mae West and her sister, Mildred. According to Valentina (and other sources), Mae West performed as a male impersonator in her younger years and she also performed with her sister, Mildred. They would have been 17 (Mae) and 12 (Mildred) years old at the time of this program, not too young in the vaudeville world. Mae had been performing since she was 5 and would make it to Broadway in 1911, when she was 18. 

I mention Mae West briefly in The Impersonator, when Jessie, my main character, tells a group of men that she knew Mae on stage. My fictional character Jessie and Mae West were the same age, and both were in vaudeville, so the claim rings true.  

And I’ll bet my $6 program is worth millions now, don’t you think?

Published in: on October 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s Here! It’s Here!

Impersonator finalThe Impersonator has finally arrived! It’s available at bookstores, chains (like Barnes & Noble), online (like amazon.com), and your local independent.

You have no idea how long a road this has been.

I think I started writing this in 2006. I had an agent for another book, she read my first draft of The Impersonator and didn’t like it. She wanted revisions. I revised. She still didn’t like it. She fired me. (Didn’t know that could happen, did you?)

I got another agent. She loved it. But wanted revisions. I revised. She sent it out to a dozen publishers. Some liked it. Wanted revisions. I revised. They passed. She sent it out to others.

About that time—this is 2 or 3 years ago—I came across something about a national writing contest sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and St. Martin’s Press. There was no charge to enter, so I packed my manuscript in a box, mailed it off, and promptly forgot all about it, because I never win anything.

You know those junk calls you get “Congratulations! You have won . . . “ and it’s about a timeshare in Florida? When the senior editor at St. Martin’s called to tell me I’d won the contest, that’s what it sounded like to me. I nearly hung up on her. She managed to slip in one question before I slammed down the phone, “Didn’t you enter a writing contest?” I vaguely recalled that I had. “Yes,” I told her, “but that was 2 or 3 years ago.” She said, “No, it was 9 months ago.” She loved my book and wanted to publish it. Of course, she wanted revisions. I revised. And happily, it’s received rave reviews from all the professional reviewers (Library Journal, Booklist, etc. . . ) and a rare “starred” review from Publishers Weekly.

I’ve told you all this so you won’t think, as most people do, how effortless it was to get my first novel published. The Impersonator is my 8th or 9th novel. None of the others were published, but they were written. This is my first novel that was published, not my first novel. And it debuts TODAY!

My other good news is that the publisher, St. Martin’s Minotaur, liked it so much, they contracted for the second in the series, which comes out a year from now. I’ve already finished it. I’m sure it will need revising . . .

Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm  Comments (8)