What Inspired Me to Write this Book by Rebecca Marks

Rebecca Marks is here today in conjunction with Stone Cold Sober (Black Opal Books), the latest entry in her Dana Cohen Mystery Series. Cohen, a fortysomething retired NYPD detective, moved back to her family’s home “on the crags over the Long Island Sound” with the intention of settling down and helping her aging father with his winery. You can’t turn off twenty-two years of cop instincts, however, and Cohen keeps finding herself drawn into investigations, with or without the blessings of local law enforcement.

What Inspired Me to Write this Book

The basis for Stone Cold Sober was a bit of a “labor of love.” In addition to writing, my passion is music—I’m a singer and harpist and performer, and for several years both in Boston and New York, I was a cast member in Revels, which began in Town Hall, New York City, in 1957, as the brainchild of concert baritone and educator John Langstaff. The critically acclaimed production, with its traditional songs, dances, mime, and a mummer’s play, was a celebration of the winter solstice, that time that heralds a dark, foreboding winter to come but needs the joy and participation in music to stave off the darkness.

Ten years later, the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” Christmas special highlighted Langstaff’s creation, calling it A Christmas Masque but using his framework that he dubbed Christmas Revels. Langstaff continued his teaching career, but in 1971, his daughter persuaded him to revive The Christmas Revels, and they staged three performances at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The production was so successful, that it continued for decades (and still continues, not only in Cambridge but also in many cities all over the United States), and spawned recordings, sheet music, and books.

Over the years, it has become the thirteenth largest performing arts organization in the Greater Boston area, and Christmas Revels is performed for an average of 18,000 people annually. Each year, the theme revolves around music from a different culture or community, with some of the themes being Victorian English, Mesoamerican, Russian, Slavic, French Canadian, French Renaissance.

I have loved Revels for many years, both as an audience member and then as a performer. Although there has never ever been any hair-raising story of crime associated with this wonderful production (and I am quite sure there never will be!), I continued to think about a plot, perhaps called Murder at Revels, or something of that sort. I came up with the idea for Stone Cold Sober, as it would involve a murder at a similar production (in my book, the production takes place in the springtime in Long Island and is called Spring Fling, but it incorporates some of the same arts as Revels, including Morris Dancing, folk singing, and a mummer’s play).

Obviously, the plot of the murders in this book has nothing to do with Revels, but the idea of an amazing variety show, full of joy, ruined by a terrible crime and then being able to be “resurrected” and performed for charity appealed to me. I have also dedicated the book to the many groups of immigrants and those of us who honor our immigrant heritage, who keep world music and arts alive.

Rebecca Marks has been writing, playing music, and singing for as long as she can remember. Stone Cold Sober, a Dana Cohen mystery, joins the two other books in that series: On the Rocks and Four Shots Neat. Marks is also the author of About Time and About Face. Visit her website at RebeccaMarksAuthor.com

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