CREVE COEUR • Judy Moresi needed to hide a body in a wall. But she wasn’t sure how.
Enter some feedback from a writing colleague – how about a chase wall? That’s a wall built to conceal ductwork, piping and, potentially, a body.
It would work, Moresi thought.
As for the smell? “She’s in a plastic bag,” Moresi deadpans.
Such is a typical meeting of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the Sisters in Crime, a group of “sisters” — and a few men, the “misters” — who read mysteries and write them as well.
Sisters in Crime is an international group, with nearly 50 chapters and 3,600 members. It was founded in 1986 to help women reach equal status in the mystery writing industry. The St. Louis chapter has been active for about 15 years. It has about two dozen members, who meet monthly at the Creve Coeur Community Center.
They talk about all things criminal, mysterious and literary and welcome various guests — a self-defense expert, a gun enthusiast, and, during their most recent meeting, a ghost hunter.
Jennifer Hasheider, 39, of St. Peters, is a member of the group and also goes on ghost hunts for a hobby. She showed off several pieces of equipment she uses on hunts – special meters, a thermometer, and a set of metal divining rods. “They’re banned from most ghost hunts,” she explained. “These are the Red Ryder BB guns of ghost hunting. You’re gonna poke your eyes out.”
As she spoke, you could almost see the gears turning in the members’ heads: why not include a ghost hunt in the next mystery?
Everyone in the group has a different background, and because they share their experiences they learn from one another. “They’re intelligent, and they’re fun, and they’re creative, and we all get along real well,” said Moresi. “We have a good time. It’s also a working meeting.”
It’s those different backgrounds that also creep their way into their writing. Moresi, 69, of St. Charles County, sang as a backup singer for country music bands years ago. She also was a runway model and was in Dallas and waved to President John Kennedy just moments before he has shot. She’s working on a novel based in the world of Branson’s country music, and she published one based on a visit years ago to the Missouri History Museum, where she learned about a stolen coat. “Everything I think is interesting makes it way into my stories,” she said.
Claire Applewhite, 57, of Town and Country, has written novels that feature car bombings in 1980s St. Louis, love among wealthy St. Louisans and a patient’s diary found during renovations at City Hospital. For Christmas, her children got her a subscription to the Evening Whirl, a local newspaper that specializes in the gritty. Her children joke it’s probably the only subscription mailed to tonier Town and Country, but Applewhite is a devoted reader.
She finds comfort in talking about her work with other women, such as hashing out marketing struggles. “I don’t want to be a whiner — that’s how I feel. I don’t want to come across as weak,” she said. “With other women, that’s not an issue.”
Writing, says Applewhite, is only half her job – marketing is the other half. That is another thing the writers tackle during their meetings, and they bounce around ideas and tips for book signings, writing proposals, website materials and speeches.
Kelly Cochran, 53, of south St. Louis County, has ventured into the world of e-books to get her name out there and gave away more than 27,000 copies of her first novel, partly as a way to get people interested in buying her second. She’s thrilled that people all over the world have downloaded it.
“I’m happy, but I’m not rich,” she said.
And that’s OK, members say.
By nature, like many women, they’re multitaskers: juggling careers, children and a love of mysteries, explains group president Pam DeVoe, 66, of Town and Country. “I think fitting in writing means you have a passion for writing,” she said.