Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Paretsky's Challenge: Keeping V.I. Warshawski Fresh

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Paretsky's Challenge: Keeping V.I. Warshawski Fresh

Article excerpt

Author Sara Paretsky can't seem to cut the ties with V.I. Warshawski, the gritty and smart female investigator who has solved crimes in 17 of her books -- from "Indemnity Only," published in 1982, to "Brush Back," released in July.

And while Chicago dweller Warshawski is a familiar character to the series' readers, Paretsky introduces new information about the crime-solver in "Brush Back" to keep seasoned and novice followers engaged. Readers will learn more about the death of her mother and her first boyfriend, Frank Guzzo.

"The biggest challenge in a long-running series is how do you stop yourself from painting by the numbers," Paretsky said.

"Meeting that challenge is one way to keep the character fresh. (You have to find) a new way to deliver old information."

Paretsky, who was born in Ames, Iowa, and grew up near Lawrence, is the featured author at the fifth annual Kansas Book Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 12) in the Statehouse. More than 30 authors will speak at the festival.

Last year, the festival, which is free and open to the public, drew an estimated 2,000 people.

Paretsky said she begins writing her books with a "broad idea of a crime" and then develops a story around that. Political payoffs and corruption is the foundational idea on which she built "Brush Back."

"Once you know the overreaching story line, the challenge is to come up with characters that can baffle and confuse the readers (on the road) to solve the crime," she said.

In "Brush Back," Warshawski is visited by Guzzo, who asks her to help with his mother, who has been released from prison after serving 25 years for murdering his younger sister. The mother wants to be exonerated of the crime. Realizing Frank has led a hard life, Warshawski can't decline.

"The book is about family secrets," she said. …

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