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This Woman is Wanted for Murder & Mayhem in New Bedford


Jill Horton-Simms (standing, right) with artist/author Lori Bradley (seated, left) at the New Bedford Book Festival last March.

Let’s call it the spin-off effect. When one of us or a group or organization does a thing, something else gets triggered, awakens the imagination and another thing happens.

One of our proudest accomplishments this past year at Groundwork! was launching the New Bedford Book Festival – a two day, twice a year gathering of authors that throws a new spotlight on a segment of the arts that can easily get overlooked. The writer most often works in solitude – unless they are pub crawlers like Charles Bukowski – and they and their work can get left out of the broader cultural conversation. Exposing them to the daylight begins a new dialogue in our city and region.

Continuing the conversation year-round is now on the agenda. Not only have we organized other literary-themed events like poetry readings – and plan to do so again as well as launch a book club – but others are taking the initiative, too. Like New Bedford Local Cultural Council chairperson, Jill Horton-Simms.

Horton-Simms has put together a first-rate evening of “Murder & Mayhem” featuring three top-notch mystery writers that will take place this Thursday, Nov. 17 at the New Bedford Art Museum. Check out this line-up:

> Hallie Ephron is a New York Times bestselling suspense author, a book reviewer for the Boston Globe and journalist – among other accomplishments. She springs from a talented background: her parents were a screenwriting team who authored such classic films as “Carousel” and “Desk Set,” starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Her sister is the very much missed Nora Ephron, the legendary writer and screenwriter responsible for such works as “Heartburn,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “Silkwood” among many others. Hallie continues the family tradition of excellence with her latest book, “Night Night; Sleep Tight.”

> Peter Abrahams is the masterful author of thrillers such as “The Fan” and “Hard Rain” for adults and a series for younger readers known as the “Echo Falls Mysteries.” Stephen King has called him his favorite American suspense novelist. Abrahams lists his own influences as Ross MacDonald, Vladimir Nabokov and Graham Greene, which means I want to go out drinking with this dude after Thursday night’s presentation.

> Hank Phillippi Ryan is not only a very accomplished author, but an Emmy award-winner as an on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. Where the journalist has found the time to also become an Agatha award-winning writer is the real mystery! But she’s done just that over the course of writing nine books, including her latest, “Say No More.”

I’ve got lots more to say about the terrific Jill Horton-Simms, who has managed to put together one of the more impressive literary evenings I’ve seen here or anywhere. I call Jill the Peggy Guggenheim of New Bedford for her profound impact on the arts in our city – and also because of her wonderful sense of personal style.

Jill Horton-Simms is a busy woman. In addition to this Thursday’s “Murder & Mayhem at the Museum,” she is orchestrating the Cultural Council’s annual Deck the Windows holiday decorating initiative, overseeing its end-of-year grant reviewing process and continues her “Art in Words” program to benefit city youth with the New Bedford Public LIbrary.

Where she finds time for “Murder & Mayhem” is beyond me. But I’m glad she has brought some to our city and can confidently suggest that when it comes to out-of-the-box creative thinking in New Bedford, it’s very likely to have been Jill Horton-Simms with a designer pair of glasses in the museum whodunit.

“Murder & Mystery at the Museum” takes place Thursday, November 17 beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the New Bedford Art Museum, southeast corner of Pleasant and William Streets, New Bedford. The event is free but donations which will be put toward the coming Co-Creative Center are welcome and encouraged. The authors will have their books available for sale and signing during the evening as they discuss the techniques and quirks of crafting a crime novel.

Steven Froias