When a world-class fiddle is taken from an Irish fiddler and an American country music star becomes a stalker's prey, charming sleuth Regan Reilly puts on the heat to find out what's happening in the music world. From Branson, Missouri, to Ireland and East Hampton, Long Island, Regan weaves together the clues in another spellbinding tale of murder and mayhem.
About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A., Mount Holyoke College, 1978
Read an Excerpt
By Carol Higgins Clark
Warner BooksCopyright © 1999 Carol Higgins Clark
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSATURDAY, JUNE 21 BALLYFORD, IRELAND
The thick sweet scent of turf burning in the chimney of Malachy Sheerin's one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old stone cottage, set back from the road yet not too far from the rugged coastline of the West of Ireland, always made him feel at peace. He lived in a little town called Ballyford, just south of the Ring of Kerry. It was practically the westernmost point in all of Europe.
Outside, the weather was deliciously foul. Even though the calendar said June, the cold rain and lashing wind made the inside feel that much cozier. It was the kind of night when a cup of hot tea or a slug of whiskey never tasted better.
Malachy's one and only door didn't quite meet the jamb. It probably never had. As a consequence the gusty wind whistled shrilly through it and under it, creating its own night music and causing the door to shudder and shake.
Malachy didn't seem to notice. He was well into one of his lengthy oral discourses, expounding into his tape recorder. "... You can see why they used to call the fiddle the 'dance of the devil' or the 'devil's box.' It associated with dancing and drinking. Actually, I see it as one of the first great stress relievers. It helped people let loose after a hard day's work on the land." He lit his pipe again. This was what he loved: sitting in his favorite chair by the fire, inhaling the pungent aroma he cherished, and hearing himself talk.
Old Grizzly, he took to calling himself. His weathered appearance made him look as though he'd done a lot of hard living in the midst of frequent inclement weather. At seventy-four years of age his face was deeply lined, his shaggy hair was gray with dark streaks running through it, and a protruding belly hung over his favorite turquoise belt buckle.
"Music is people's release around here, even more than the rest of Ireland. Always has been. Out in the middle of nowhere like this, there's nothing more brilliant than gathering in the evening in a neighbor's parlor and telling tall tales around the fire. Nothing too small to hang your hat on, God knows. Anything at all that comes to mind is ripe for discussion. Talk of weather, ghosts. Old Granny McBride could talk the hind legs off a donkey with her stories of fairies and leprechauns. But then"-Malachy paused as if to savor the memory-"when the time was right, I'd bring out my magic fiddle and start to play. That moment was always grand. Before you knew it, toes were tapping, arms were raised, and the cares of the day were forgotten as even the most timid got out of their chairs and started to move to the music. Six days ago I bequeathed you the legendary fiddle, my pet, so now it's your turn to let the magic come alive and play on! Play on, Brigid! Ignore what they're saying about its curse. It's a bunch of blarney." He paused. "Now, this fiddle here ..."
Malachy Sheerin, the former all-Ireland fiddle champion and notorious traveling storyteller, laid his pipe on the hearth next to his whiskey. After taking a hearty swig he leaned over to pick up the fiddle that was propped against the side of the chair, but the effort was great. With his arthritic fingers he grasped the bow and the fiddle and rested them in his lap.
"I'll just close my eyes for a minute," he said. A moment later he was asleep.
The tape recorder next to him whirred on.
Within seconds the door opened and the drenched stranger who had been observing him from the window quickly made his move. He stealthily extricated the fiddle and the bow from Malachy's lap and placed them in the case he had noticed in the corner of the room. His eyes brightened when he saw the tape recorder. Hurriedly he took off his raincoat, grabbed the little machine, and wrapped the coat around his stash for further protection from the elements.
He didn't notice the receipt that fell out of his pocket. It fluttered onto the floor, landing between the heap of Malachy's old newspapers and the fireplace.
Malachy was now snoring gently, but the increasing momentum of the snores made the stranger nervous. One good snort and Malachy would wake himself up. The intruder stole a final glance around the room, grabbed the whiskey bottle for a quick gulp, and slipped out the shaky door to his waiting car. He wanted to make as quick an escape as possible on the dangerous and winding coastal roads. Roads that hugged magnificent cliffs and overlooked the angry roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the same body of water that lapped at shores nearly three thousand miles away on the South Fork of Long Island, on the famous beaches known simply as the Hamptons.
Excerpted from Twanged by Carol Higgins Clark Copyright © 1999 by Carol Higgins Clark. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
On Wednesday, April 1st, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Carol Higgins Clark to discuss TWANGED.
Moderator: We are so pleased you could join us this evening to discuss TWANGED, Carol Higgins Clark. Welcome!
Carol Higgins Clark: It's great to be here.
Ted Betz from Central Jersey: Carol...When you begin to write a story, do you begin with the end in mind? Or do you just start writing and let the ending even surprise you? In addition, since your stint on Imus, are you now going to share a home in the Hamptons or rent your own?
Carol Higgins Clark: I'm going to see if I can get a house in the Hamptons with a much smaller group -- just a couple of friends as opposed to a group house. And as far as the end of the book goes, I always have in mind what I want the climax scene to be. But I always like to surprise myself when I'm writing. You have to have an idea of where you are going, or else your story will be all over the map.
Marcia from Bethlehem, PA: You have such catchy titles for your book. Where do they come from? Do you come up with them before you begin writing? What were some of the alternative titles for TWANGED? Thank you for taking my questions.
Carol Higgins Clark: You're welcome. The reason I started with the "-ed" titles was because my mother thought up the name DECKED for my first book, which was set on a cruise ship. When I wrote my second book about a murderer at a panty hose convention, I said, "Well, this has to be SNAGGED." Thus the birth of the "-ed" titles. TWANGED was always going to be TWANGED because of the fiddle and country music. People are always giving me suggestions for titles of books -- some you can't repeat!
Brigitte Perreault from firstname.lastname@example.org: Dear Carol: I met you and your mother in the South of France at the Cannes Film Festival several years ago at a dinner party, on a beautiful boat. We also ended up staying at the same hotel in Paris, La Tremoille. Anyway, the purpose of this message is that I am currently writing my first book, and it has quickly become a passion and a commitment. However, I need a certain guidance. Do you know of an excellent book that could guide me on how to write a novel? Or perhaps your own advice? Thank you.
Carol Higgins Clark: I can't think of a book offhand, but I would suggest maybe taking a writing class or getting into a writer's group, so that you can get some feedback from people as you're working on it. By the way, nice to hear from you. The important thing is to keep going with your story and get it down on paper. And also be warned that you will probably have to do some rewriting, but just get it down first. Good luck with it.
Dot from Cyberspace: How do you come up with the ideas for your books? For instance, how did TWANGED come about?
Carol Higgins Clark: I wanted to do something with country music. When I read about country music, I realized it had its roots in Irish music. The Irish immigrants brought their fiddles over to Appalachia. I wanted to use my Irish background, so I went to Ireland to do research and discovered that the Irish are very superstitious. One of their superstitions is that there are certain trees that fairies live in. If you cut one of these trees down, you will have an accident or face death. In TWANGED I have a fiddle made from the wood of one of these trees. A country music singer, Brigid O'Neal, has been given a fiddle by her mentor from Ireland, a former All-Ireland fiddle champion. She brings it back to the States. It turns out that it has a curse on it if it leaves Ireland. She's been invited to a music festival in the Hamptons and my character, Regan Reilly, is asked to be her bodyguard for the Fourth of July week because the fiddle is attracting so much attention and also a stalker. Country music and Irish superstitions got me started with TWANGED.
Dorothy Mitchell from Green Bay, WI: Hello, Ms. Clark. Will you ever go back to acting? Do you have any acting projects in the works? Thanks.
Carol Higgins Clark: After this chat I'm having dinner with a woman who wants to produce a play with me acting in it. So we'll see what happens with that. In general, I'd still like to do other acting as well. Lately the books have kept me busy, though.
Bethany from Aurora, CO: Hello Ms. Clark. Do you have any serious passions outside of writing? Thanks! I am a big fan...
Carol Higgins Clark: That's nice. Well besides acting, I love to be with friends and family. I like to play sports. I love to read. That keeps me pretty busy.
Summer from Atlanta, GA: What do you think of the Internet, Ms. Clark? Do you ever spend time surfing around? Have you ever gotten book ideas from your Internet excursions? I can't wait to read TWANGED.
Carol Higgins Clark: Well, Summer, after you read TWANGED you'll realize that the Internet plays a part in solving the mystery. I do love going on the Internet and exploring, although I do need to get an expert in here to help me figure some of it out!
Mitch from Chicago, IL: I read that in TWANGED Regan needs to protect a country music star who is being stalked. Have you ever been stalked by a fan? I hope this question isn't too personal...
Carol Higgins Clark: No, I haven't been stalked, although I have gotten a few weird letters, I must say. Nothing too serious, though.
Terry from Piscataway, NJ: What will your next Regan Reilly book be about? Could you please five us a hint? Thanks, Ms. Clark.
Carol Higgins Clark: It will be set in Manhattan. And it involves a television series that's being filmed here. I'm still trying to come with a good name. Any suggestions?
Susan from Galway, NY: I think you and your mom are wonderful! Your books are always set in these glamorous vacation locales -- a cruise, Aspen, and now the Hamptons. Do you like to travel? What is your favorite place to take a vacation?
Carol Higgins Clark: Thank you, Susan. My friends always tease me about picking glamorous locales for my books. But I say it's all in the name of research! But seriously, I do like to pick locations that the readers will enjoy learning about. Everybody hears about the Hamptons, Aspen, South Beach, so I like to give an inside look at them. I do love to travel, and I'm always looking at the map for the next good place to send Regan Reilly for her next adventure.
Kim Waage from Clayton, MO: What I love so much about your books is that you always succeed in cracking me up. Where do you come up with these ideas -- like the guy who is always rearranging furniture, etc? How important is humor to you in plotting out the story lines and characters of your book?
Carol Higgins Clark: Well, Kim, I'm so glad I make you laugh. If I can make myself laugh when I'm sitting at the computer writing, I think it's a good sign. I came up with the character who rearranges the furniture because I had a friend in California who called in a feng shui expert when he moved into a new house. The guy told him that his bannister was in the wrong place. When you opened the door, all the energy flowed out of the house. I was fascinated by this, thus a new character was born. So I pick these things up in life.
Howard Webb from Oakton, VA: How much did your mother's influence effect your decision to become a writer, and do you discuss each other's novels during development?
Carol Higgins Clark: I used to retype my mother's books for her. It started before she had a computer. Even after she had a computer, I kept doing it for her. It was a lot of fun to talk over her stories and what was going to happen next. If I hadn't started doing it with her, I don't know if I would have become a writer. Now we show each other our works in progress and discuss them. Last year our family went on a trip to Hawaii, and my mother and I both had deadlines for our books. During the day we sat in her hotel room together at a table opposite each other with our laptops and worked on our books.
Marikay from East Troy, WI: Good evening, Ms. Clark! Do you think that you and your mother might ever write a book together? Thanks!
Carol Higgins Clark: Good evening, Marikay. We probably won't write a book together, but maybe a play. We both have different book publishers and are busy writing books for them. A play would be a fun experiment to work on together.
Seth from Brooklyn, NY: So, was this at all inspired by your summers at the Hamptons? Reading this book got me all excited for Memorial Day weekend, when my share starts. What do you like about the Hamptons the most? What are your favorite places?
Carol Higgins Clark: I'm glad it got you psyched for Memorial Day, Seth. Because I had the group share there for the last two summers, I though I should set a book there. My share was in Southampton, so 75 Main Street was one restaurant we went to. We also went to lots of parties at friends' homes. Have fun this summer.
Chandra from San Francisco, CA: Hello, Carol Higgins Clark! Did you need to do some research on country music for this book? Or are you a fan? Did you happen to attend the Garth Brooks concert in New York's Central Park last year?
Carol Higgins Clark: Yes, I did attend the Garth Brooks concert with a couple of friends. We had our blanket spread out on the grass in Central Park. He was great. I always like the lyrics of country music, but didn't know that much about it until I started doing research for TWANGED.
Nicole from Sudbury, MA: How autobiographical is Regan to Carol Higgins Clark? Other than the fact that you both haver writer mothers....
Carol Higgins Clark: I think we're a lot alike. A writer has to write about what he or she knows! A lot of Regan's reactions are reactions that I would have in the same situation. My friends think that I'm Regan Reilly.
Daria from Olympia, WA: Do you think that being an actress has helped you out at all in terms of your writing -- just the ability to put yourself in other frames of mind, etc. Thanks, Carol! Your books are always a great read.
Carol Higgins Clark: Thank you. Being an actress has definitely helped. My acting training taught me about the awareness of your senses, how it feels to have hot coffee in your hands, what songs remind you of, smells that bring back memories. I also inhabited different characters. When you bring a scene to acting class, you have to do everything. You have to set up the stage, decide on the costumes, props, make all the artistic decisions with your scene partner. When you write and face the blank computer screen, it's the same way. So my years of studying acting gave me a certain awareness of character, story line, and other things like sense memory, which prepared me to be a writer.
Becky from Austin, TX: Do you think reviewers are any easier or harder on you because of your mother? Also, do you even read your reviews? Do you care what they have to say about your books?
Carol Higgins Clark: No matter what any author says, I think they care about reviews. I do read them, and it's hard to say whether they're harder or easier on me because of my mother. Many times they compare me to my mother. It's nice when they say I'm following in her footsteps. Being her daughter obviously draws attention. There's nothing better for the soul than when you get a great review! As a writer, you want people to enjoy your work and feel something when they read your books.
Marikay from East Troy, WI: Hello, Ms. Clark! I saw you and your mom on a program called "Literati," in a segment where your mom was interviewing you. That had to have been a unique experience. Do you do many interviews on television? Thanks for being online!
Carol Higgins Clark: You're welcome. I'm on TV a fair amount, especially when a new book is out. My mother and I do some interviews together. On May 8th we will be on "The View" for a Mother's Day interview. It was a funny experience when my mother interviewed me.
Tina from Delaware: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who were some of your favorite authors as a child?
Carol Higgins Clark: There are certain books I've always loved, like GONE WITH THE WIND. As a child I loved to read the Nancy Drew stories. I guess that's where Regan Reilly has her roots. Now I like to read many different authors. A lot of my friends are authors and I read their books. Of course, Frank McCourt's ANGELA'S ASHES was wonderful. And Mary Higgins Clark is pretty good too!
Penelope from Albany, NY: Do you prefer writing Regan Reilly books, or would you prefer to start off with a new character each book? Any chance you will write a non-Regan book in the near future?
Carol Higgins Clark: Right now I'm contracted to write two more Regan Reilly books. I do like working with her. In each book I get to invent a lot of new characters, so I don't feel that it gets stale. Eventually I'm sure I'll try something else as well as Regan Reilly, but for now, she keeps me pretty busy.
Eileen from North Carolina: Do you find it difficult to come up with interesting names for your characters? And how do you overcome writer's block -- or do you avoid it with careful plotting? I read recently that you and your mother often put your heads together on stories...
Carol Higgins Clark: I keep lists of names. If I'm invited to a benefit and there are lots of names on the invitation, I throw it into my file. Sometimes it can be difficult coming up with a unique name or a name that means nothing to you. Especially since I have some eccentric characters in my book. You don't want people to think that you are modeling them after people that you know. My mother and I talk about our books with each other, but we've never collaborated or come up with ideas together.
Rory from Florida: Hello, Carol. I have two questions for you: 1)How do you overcome writer's block? 2)What advice did your mother give you when you began writing? Thanks a bunch!!!!
Carol Higgins Clark: Writer's block hits every writer at some point or other. What I do is read more books on the subject that I'm writing about or sit and sketch ideas. You can't just walk away from the computer. There's always something you can do to move your story forward. Of course there are days when you don't feel quite as creative as others, but there's always something you can do. My mother's advice was, "Keep writing, no matter how hard it can be, just stick with it." And "Don't let yourself get bogged down." She was always encouraging me.
Asterisk** from Seattle, WA: I liked the feng shui expert, Ned, in TWANGED. You sort of poke fun at the whole spiritual movement throughout this book (not at all in a malicious way). Are you a spiritual person? What do you think about feng shui? Is it big out in the Hamptons?
Carol Higgins Clark: I do think I'm spiritual. I like to poke fun at a lot of things in my books. That's where you get the humor. I don't even know if there are any feng shui experts in the Hamptons. I think feng shui is a very interesting concept. It certainly helps when you have your furniture in the right place!
Marie from Sun Valley, ID: I loved ICED! Is TWANGED similar at all to ICED?
Carol Higgins Clark: I think so, yes. It has Regan Reilly in it, of course. This time it's summer in the Hamptons, instead of winter in Aspen. It has fun characters, and people who have liked ICED have told me that they really enjoyed TWANGED.
Rory from Florida: Carol, two more questions: 1)What are your future plans for writing? 2)How does it feel to carry the family name that is famous for suspense novels? Thanks again:-) :-) :-) :-)
Carol Higgins Clark: 2) It's a lot of fun being in the same business as my mother. We have a good time together, and so far she hasn't minded a bit that I've joined her in the writing field.
David Rosenfeld from my computer: At what time of day and/or which day(s)of the week do you prefer to write?
Carol Higgins Clark: I get up in the morning, make coffee, and turn on my computer. I work for several hours each day. When I'm nearing the end of a book, I work a lot more. I usually work weekdays, Monday through Friday, and occassionally on weekends.
Amy Z from Hampton Bays, NY: Hello, Ms. Clark. The character of Chappy Tinka cracked me up. Did you have an inspiration for him? What a cad.
Carol Higgins Clark: Hi, Amy! Chappy Tinka I made up in my mind. I don't know where I get these ideas! Someone asked me once what kind of bedtime stories my mother told me. She seems like such a nice woman, how does she think up these murderous plots? I guess the same can be said about my characters. I don't know where in my brain they come from!
Nicolette from Murrysville, PA: Are there any plans to make TWANGED into a movie? What about any of your previous novels? Would you ever act in any of your books in movie form?
Carol Higgins Clark: I have a meeting this Friday with someone who is interested in the Reagan Reilly series. We'll see what happens with that. I would love to be a part of anything they do with them.
Nancy Miller from Los Altos, CA: Are you happy with the cover of TWANGED? Do you have any say on what the final cover is? Do you help design it?
Carol Higgins Clark: I loved the cover of TWANGED. I loved the bright green background and the white lettering. My publisher submits it to me to see what I think. When they showed me TWANGED, I thought it was great. A lot of people have commented to me that they really liked the cover.
Alisa from Los Angeles, CA: How much of the researching needed for your books is done by you? Do you hire researchers to assist you?
Carol Higgins Clark: I do all the research myself. I always go to the location I'm writing about. I like to get a feel for the place. I love to buy the local newspapers and buy books about the town, such as Southhampton, or the Hamptons in general, or Aspen. Some kinds of research you can only do on your own. You can only get a feel for a place by actually being there.
Moderator: It has been a pleasure having you online tonight, Carol Higgins Clark, and we certainly hope you will join us with your next book. Before you go, any last words for your online readers?
Carol Higgins Clark: It was great to be here. As we are closing, I am hearing the rumble of thunder outside my window. A good night to curl up with a book. Thanks for joining me tonight at barnesandnoble.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I always enjoy reading this series. Regan keeps me wanting more. Can't wait till I read the next one.
This is a fun, easy read. It's good for the beach or a lazy summer day. Really though, four or five stars??? Not!
Carol Higgins Clark has become one of my favorite writers. Her books are an easy read - nice light mysteries. I really enjoyed Twanged - it kept me guessing.
What a good read. It was truly a thrilling book and was suspenseful to the end.