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The acknowledged queen of the mystery genre enters the room to a round of applause.  She takes the stage, sits down, and comments about the phallic-shaped mic in her hand and how it reminds her of Ranger a character in one of her books. Only one person can get away with that. Janet Evanovich.

By adhering to my rule of reading no more than a single book by any author (except for … well, that’s another story), I have missed the evolution and intrigue that surrounds Evanovich’s most famous character, Stephanie Plum.  Plum is a female bounty hunter who has a pet hamster Rex and several love interests, including Ranger.  And as legions of Janet Evanovich’s fans the laughter rippling across the room attest, Stephanie Plum is as loved and real as the author herself.

Smart dialog and sexual banter fill much of Evanovich’s writing, including this snippet from Hard Eight:

“He [Ranger] stopped in front of my parents’ house, and we both looked to the door. My mother and my grandmother were standing there, watching us.
“I’m not sure I feel comfortable about the way your grandma looks at me,” Ranger said.
[Stephanie] “She wants to see you naked.”
“I wish you hadn’t told me that, babe.”
“Everyone I know wants to see you naked.”
“And you?”
“Never crossed my mind.” I held my breath when I said it, and I hoped God wouldn’t strike me down dead for lying.”

Entertaining?  You bet. In a televised interview, Janet Evanovich said she thinks of herself first as an entertainer and added delights in providing devoted readers vicarious thrills. I imagine she means both in bed and in hot pursuit of a criminal on the lam.

If there’s a secret sauce in writing mystery, then Janet Evanovich has discovered it, bottled it, and dips from it whenever she sits down at a keyboard.  And that is often.

She even has an app.  Yes, there’s an app for All Things Evanovich.

And there needs to be to keep up with Evanovich’s 68 books. They include a dozen romance novels, the genre in which Evanovich started and never truly abandoned, nine co-authored novels, and five series, including 27 in the Stephanie Plum series. Even if you haven’t read a Plum novel, you have likely seen the covers and the clever titles, beginning with One for the Money then Two for the Dough and on to the most recent Turbo Twenty-Three.

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Along the way, Evanovich penned a book on writing, How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, and a graphic novel — which Evanovich advises is great fun but hard to translate to “bottom line” results.  Take heed, that’s advice from a woman who has combined an in-born sense of business with a knack for writing.  Her husband, son, and daughter, and, I suspect,  many minions behind the scene make the Evanovich enterprise hum.

Across Evanovich’s website are games, puzzles, contests, pet pictures, numerous places to sign up for her newsletter or get a sticker with her signature to place inside your copy of one of her novels — please send a self addressed stamped envelope. And, of course, you’ll find buttons that link you to a shopping cart.

So, with all she has accomplished, what does Evanovich, regret? At the writers conference I attended, she said she misses the time spent talking to fans at book signings in bookstores across the country. Today, the mere rumor of an appearance can shut down a Walmart for hours.  I think I can imagine that, if I close my eyes real tight, I think I can.

Things she promises: Stephanie will always be young and beautiful, Rex will always be by her side, and Ranger, well… I’m waiting for Sixty-Six and Sex to decide.

Read more about Stephanie Plum and, oh yeah, Janet Evanovich at evanovich.com

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