Friday, June 29, 2018
Open Book - Dixieland Dead
Dixieland Dead was published in 2016 by The Wild Rose Press.
Penny explained how the title and inspiration of Dixieland Dead came to be. “I originally named the main character after my mother, Dixie Lee, and the MC’s beauty shop, Dixieland Salon. However, after I finished the first draft, my mother decided she didn’t want her name used so I changed the main character’s name to Jolene Claiborne. I kept the salon name in her memory. Since the murder takes place in the beauty shop, I added dead to the title: Dixieland Dead,” she said. “A fellow cosmetology student had a violent allergic reaction to a mask used in the facial room. I remembered the incident years later while practicing Aesthetics and decided it would make a cool murder weapon in a cozy mystery story.”
The theme of Dixieland Dead is, don’t judge a book by its cover. Jolene, and the town, judged Scarlett by her appearance and social behavior. Forced to work with Scarlett to solve the mystery of her death, Jolene slowly discovers another side of Scarlett’s personality. “I continue this theme throughout the series,” Penny said. “We don’t know someone until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
Dixieland Dead takes place in the fictional town of Whiskey Creek, Georgia. “Whiskey Creek is a typical small Southern town where quaint, locally-owned shops line rustic brick sidewalks, black antique lampposts and square planters filled with seasonal flowers and scrubs border Main Street,” Penny explained. “Restored Victorian homes offer respite from the blazing summer heat with broad, covered porches and tall, ancient magnolias and live oaks branch out like sentries, and beneath their leafy canopies, bright swaths of azaleas, hydrangeas, camellias, and rose’s dot well-manicured lawns. American flags are proudly displayed in yards and businesses and Sunday’s are quiet family times.” Penny added, “Besides being a friendly and beautiful town, the traffic is manageable and the crime rate is low. The countryside is littered with farms and fields and the weather is agreeable most of the year. The schools are adequate and we have a top-rated local agricultural college. The University of Georgia is a short drive north.”
In Dixieland Dead you’ll meet the protagonist, Jolene Claiborne, cosmetologist and co-owner of Dixieland Salon. She is quirky and out-spoken and emotional. Being the eldest of three sisters, she’s strong-willed and dedicated to the preservation of her family unit. She wears her heart on her shoulder, loves tight clothes and high heels, and carries a pink .32 caliber snob-nosed revolver with pearl grips, fondly named, ‘Mini Pearl’. She can communicate with the dead. Divorced, with a grown daughter, Jolene has no interest in serious relationships or matrimony.
The hero, logical, Samuel Bradford, WCPD homicide detective, is pragmatic and realistic. He’s a no nonsense type of guy with a one track mind: putting away the bad guys. His military background has left him serious and intense. He’s loyal and courageous and doesn’t believe in the afterlife. To him, when you’re dead, that’s it. Period.
You’ll also meet tempter, Scarlett Cantrell, local TV celebrity, who is the personification of the modern day Southern belle. She’s sassy and confident, vain and eccentric, bossy and off-putting, and has a heart of gold underneath the tough exterior. She’s beautiful and sinful, and hell-bent on getting her way. Scarlett is blind to her own faults, and possesses the ‘Bitch’ factor.
“Jolene’s goal is to solve the murder and thereby rid her beauty shop of Scarlett’s ghost and restoring her normal world,” Penny said. “Scarlett’s goal is to find out who and why she was murdered. She needs the information for her angelic defense team in Heaven. All arriving saints are given a trial to determine their permanent place of residence. Sam’s goal is to investigate the murder and build a case for the prosecution.”
Other interesting characters in Dixieland Dead are: Deena Sinclair, middle Tucker sister, co-owner of the salon, and Jolene’s closest ally. She’s the epitome of a middle sister. She is the salon manager, and Jolene’s go-to person. Deena abhors guns. Billie Jo Hazard, youngest Tucker sister, barber and co-owner of the salon. She’s bold and out-spoken, and the easiest sister to manipulate. She’s always open to adventure. Billie Jo carries a Cobra Derringer. She is a supporting character. Annie Mae Tucker, mother of the Tucker sisters, and limited partner of Dixieland Salon. She is a supporting character. Antagonists, Richard Payne and the Georgia Mafia are out to control the town and its political positions to line up with their future agenda. Richard and his associates rigged the mayoral race to favor Richard’s son, Henry Payne.
Penny explained the key elements in Dixieland Dead. “With a little bit of tweaking, I based the three Tucker sisters after my mother and her two youngest sisters. In them, I found the glue that holds siblings together through good times and bad. Setting – Although Whiskey Creek is a fictional town, I based it on two South Georgia towns I’ve lived in. I combined the best of each to suit the needs of the story. I wanted to convey the continuity of small town living in the South. Theme – Never judge a book by its cover. My favorite part of writing this book was learning along with Jolene about the evil of judging people without knowing their life story. Life is about evolving. Always. Like the seasons, people change with the experiences the hand of fate brings. Walk a mile in my shoes, and you’ll see another hidden point of view.”
In Dixieland Dead you’ll learn that life is to be lived with love and laughter and plenty of adventure.
Dixieland Dead is Book One in the Haunted Salon Series. “Each book is a standalone, and offers the readers another ghostly adventure with Jolene and Scarlett as they try to solve a new murder,” Penny said.
You can find more about Penny and her books here:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dixieland-dead-penny-burwell-ewing/1124410832
Let’s get a closer look at Dixieland Dead.
When the economy tanks in Whiskey Creek, Georgia, hairstylist, Jolene Claiborne expands her business to include skin care. A wise move until Scarlett Cantrell, a local celebrity, is murdered in the facial room. The police brush aside Jolene’s suspicions that the incident is tied to a recent break-in, and to complicate matters, the victim’s ghost threatens to make Dixieland Salon her permanent place of residence if Jolene fails to expose the killer.
Scarlett’s last words provide the only clue: “Find the jade elephant. Explains everything.” That is until a book of poetry turns up with a dangerous secret inside. Dealing with a diva ghost ain’t easy in the Bible belt. Throw in a sexy police detective, a crooked mayor with connections to the mob, a family cover-up, a mother who hasn’t cut the apron strings, and you get one stressed out middle-aged hairstylist with murder and mayhem on the brain.