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HART, CAROLYN GIMPEL (1936- )

Mystery writer and educator Carolyn Gimpel Hart was born in Oklahoma City on August 25, 1936. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism in 1958. Hart has parlayed her childhood love of Nancy Drew mysteries into an award-winning career writing murder mysteries. She began, however, by writing young-adult fiction. Her first title, The Secret of the Cellars, was published in 1964. Afterward, she turned to adult mysteries and in 1987 began her popular Death on Demand series, featuring mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her private-eye husband, Max. Set in a locale much resembling Hilton Head, South Carolina, the novels in this series have garnered every major mystery fiction award: the Agatha, the Anthony, and the McAvity. Hart was the first writer so honored. Her other series, slightly less frothy, features sleuth Henrie O. Collins, a retired newspaperwoman turned amateur detective, in the vein of Agatha Christie's venerable Miss Marple. Collins has lived out Hart's early dream to be a foreign correspondent and, according to Hart, is "taller, thinner, smarter, and braver" than she. When asked why none of her mysteries were set in the state where she has lived almost all her life, she replied that Oklahoma has never seemed mysterious to her. However, her 2003 novel Letter from Home was set in her native state.

Hart erved on the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism faculty from 1982 through 1985. She co-founded and was president of Sisters in Crime, a mystery writers/readers organization, founded to promote women writers. In 1993 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame and in 2004 received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. At the end of the twentieth century she resided in Oklahoma City.

SEE ALSO: TONY HILLERMAN, LITERATURE AND WRITERS, JAMES THOMPSON.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Carolyn Hart," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Patricia Yarbrough

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