When I was a teenager, I made a discovery that would've been impossible if my local library had not blatantly flouted cataloging rules. In direct contravention of accepted practice, it shelved fiction books by the authors’ real names, not pseudonyms. Want to read Mark Twain? You'd find him in the C’s. Lewis Carroll? D’s. George Eliot was in the E’s, but only because her real name was Mary Anne Evans.
Read Children's and YA editor Vicky Smith's last blog about Brian Selznick at Kirkus.
Not, I hasten to add, that I was in the habit of reading 19th-century literary lions at the age of 15. I just cite these as examples. What really made the difference for me, though, was stumbling upon the complete works of Barbara Mertz, which I would never have been able to do in a proper library. You see, Barbara Mertz writes under two pseudonyms: Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.
As Peters, she's become rather well-known among historical romance enthusiasts as the author of the Amelia Peabody mysteries, but before she created her redoubtable Victorian lady Egyptologist, she wrote several titles that pretty much all followed the same delicious formula. Smart young woman becomes involved in an apparent paranormal mystery, develops a fractious relationship with a handsome young man and solves the mystery after some satisfying hijinks. I think my favorite was Summer of the Dragon, in which the smart-young-woman protagonist, a forensic anthropology student, finds herself on the ranch of a zillionaire with an enthusiasm for crackpot paranormal theories.
Michaels, on the other hand, wrote (she doesn't seem to have published anything new recently) genuinely chilling ghost stories in which the smart young woman stumbles upon a haunting, develops a relationship with a solid, handsome young man and solves the mystery after multiple scary situations. In my opinion, her finest in this avatar is Ammie, Come Home, in which our protagonist inherits a Georgetown home that’s haunted by a passel of Revolutionary War–era spirits. (It appears that the original Kirkus reviewer was not as taken by this title as I was—phooey on them. They should've done what I did – read after dark with only one light on.)
Happily, this summer young, and older, mystery-romance readers don't need to depend on bad cataloging practices to discover the same fabulous experience I derived by reading one Barbara Mertz after another.
Rosemary Clement-Moore has given us Texas Gothic, a supersmart, funny, scary paranormal ghost story featuring pragmatic Amy Goodnight, the only member of a family of witches who understands that the rest of the world looks askance at people who solve problems with spells. She and her brilliant witch-scientist older sister are looking after her aunt’s farm for the summer. Into her life rides handsome Ben McCulloch, whose family's ranch completely surrounds Aunt Hyacinth’s farm and who doesn't particularly cotton to witches. Bones have been found on the McCulloch ranch—are they the remains of the legendary—and ghostly—Mad Monk? Paranormal mysteries both genuine and hoaxed catch up Amy and Ben, and the story plays out in eminently funny, satisfyingly scary fashion.
Vicky Smith is the Children's and YA editor at Kirkus.