As a writer of cozy mysteries set in a small-town setting, I wrote my latest novel, Big Book Betrayal, for several reasons. For one, I like mystery novels to be about something more than the puzzle of who killed whom and how. Each of the earlier books in my Scrappy Librarian series have dealt with social issues of importance. Addiction is a pervasive societal problem that I thought worth highlighting in a story.
Also, in each book I write, I like continuing characters to reveal something about themselves or their lives that the reader hadn’t known before. In the Scrappy Librarian Mysteries, I try to have much of the action either take place in, or revolve around, the library. So in Big Book Betrayal, I decided that protagonist Juanita Wills would learn that a good friend, someone she likes, respects, and feels grateful to – in fact, the president of the Friends of the Library – is an alcoholic. Juanita, of course, tries to help the friend find sobriety and, in so doing, endures the frustrations and the highs and lows inherent in such an effort.
The subject of addiction is personal for me, since several people I’m close to have fought that battle. I know first-hand how great an impact addiction can have on the people who care about addicts, and I wanted to portray that through nosy but good-hearted Juanita’s involvement.
And, although I’m convinced that the Alcoholics Anonymous program – with its emphasis on self-discovery through the Twelve Steps – has saved many lives, I see that the intimate sharing that takes place in such groups is open to abuse by someone so inclined. Unfortunately, with any beneficial program or project, someone will find a way to use it to take advantage of others.
I thought that potential was worth exploring, since one thing mystery novels do is point out how evil can invade even parts of our lives where it isn’t expected. When a supposedly safe environment like that in a self-help group turns out to be not so safe, it’s truly frightening. But I hope in portraying the AA and Al-Anon meetings Juanita attends in Betrayal, I’ve made clear that such misuse of the groups is the rare exception.
Finally, I wanted Juanita to learn something new about herself, and in Betrayal she has to ask whether her own relationship with food borders on the addictive. I love it when my characters surprise me this way, and Juanita is one who can do that book after book. I never tire of writing about her.
For those who might wonder about the title of the book, “The Big Book” is the common name for the Alcoholics Anonymous “bible.” Written by one of the founders of the AA organization, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism is a hefty 1939 book describing how to recover from alcoholism, primarily using the “twelve-step method,” now used to treat many other addictions, from drug addiction to overeating, sex addiction, and gambling addiction, using a strong spiritual and social emphasis. Having sold 30 million copies, “The Big Book” is one of the best-selling books of all time. In 2012, the Library of Congress designated it as one of 88 “Books that Shaped America.”
Author Marion Moore Hill has been a reporter, copywriter, legal secretary, and college teacher and has tutored adult-literacy students for more than 20 years in Durant, Oklahoma.