BookPlate Presents Local Author Peter Heck

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Peter Heck’s “Mark Twain mysteries” — photo courtesy of The BookPlate

Friday, March 8, the BookPlate presents local author Peter J. Heck reading from and discussing his Mark Twain mysteries. The event begins at 6 p.m., and admission is free. The BookPlate, owned and managed by Tom Martin, is located at 112 S. Cross St. between Play It Again Sam’s Coffee Shop and Janes Church. This is one of a long-running series of presentations by poets, novelists, and non-fiction authors at the store.

The series of six mysteries, featuring one of America’s best-loved writers as a detective, is set in the 1890s, and follows Twain as he travels around the United States and to England and Italy, solving murders. Peter says that Twain’s world-traveling career made him an attractive protagonist for a series of books because it allowed him to set the stories in so many different places. Also, he says, Twain’s biting wit and ability to see through pretensions of all kinds made him irresistible to write about.

A Chestertown native, Peter grew up as a voracious reader who benefited from a complete set of Twain’s writings that had belonged to his grandfather, Theodore Jewell. Other youthful influences were Edgar Allen Poe, A. Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” mysteries, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ popular novels. After graduating from Chestertown High School, he studied English at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Indiana University. He taught for several years at Temple University in Philadelphia. Beginning in the mid-1980s, he edited newsletters promoting mysteries and science fiction for the Waldenbooks company. He also worked as an editor at Ace Books and freelanced at Baen and Del Rey books, where his writers included Spider Robinson, Robert Sawyer and Harry Turtledove. Peter has been a regular book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews and Asimov’s Science Fiction for many years.

Peter Heck

Peter began writing the Twain mysteries in 1995, eventually publishing six books, the titles of which are plays on the titles of Twain’s own books. In order of publication, they are Death on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court, The Prince and the Prosecutor, The Guilty Abroad, The Mysterious Strangler, and Tom’s Lawyer. Twain’s adventures are narrated by Wentworth Cabot, Twain’s fictional secretary and the “Watson” of the series. There are minor roles for various historical characters, among them Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, and jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden.

Peter also co-wrote four books in a science fiction series, “Phule’s Company,” with the late Robert Asprin. Peter returned to Chestertown in the late ‘90s, where he continued writing his novels. He also worked for 10 years as a reporter and photographer for the Kent County News. Beginning in 2017, he and his wife Jane Jewell have been co-editors of the Chestertown Spy. In addition to his career as a writer, Peter is also an accomplished guitarist — formerly with the local quartet, Col. Leonard’s Irregulars — and a founding member of the Chestertown Chess Club.

Copies of Peter’s books will be available for purchase during the event, and the author will be pleased to sign copies. We hope to see you Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. at the BookPlate.

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