Writers of the Purple Sage

Barbara Burnett Smith, Author
Barbara Burnett Smith, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (250p) ISBN 978-0-312-11352-0
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-373-26214-4
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The second book this fall with a title punned from Zane Grey (see Joe R. Lansdale's Writer of the Purple Rage, reviewed above) is a neatly crafted debut set in the town of Purple Sage, Tex. Narrator Jolie Wyatt, a fledgling mystery writer, has lived there for three years, drawn from Austin by her now defunct marriage. A writers' group she has started is full of colorful women-and then full of suspects after a venerable judge is murdered with a ploy taken from Jolie's novel-in-progress. Her novel and a recent altercation with the judge draw suspicion to Jolie, who sleuths to exculpate herself. Her investigations lead her to focus on a number of the writing group's members, including a newspaper reporter with a secret; a woman whose father killed himself long ago after selling land to the judge; and another whose youthful indiscretion with marijuana put her in the deceased's courtroom. While solving the murder, Jolie grows to understand her struggles with independence, allowing her to decide whether to return to Austin. Despite the self-consciousness of novice Smith's writing about a novice writer, the story is briskly told, the characters well rounded and Purple Sage promising as a rich setting for future tales from this talented newcomer. (Nov.)
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