Murder mystery plays on the dark side of small-town life, By Birgit Bogler VERNON “Seven Murders in Sussex” is the debut mystery novel by local author Richard Smiraldi. The book takes cues from the real-life crimes of the area and is set in a fictional version of Sussex Borough, where the main character, Reilly Swanson, a retired Playboy Bunny, runs a bed and breakfast called the Black Hawk Inn. She’s desperate to save Sussex from its troubles and places her hopes in an old bunny friend turned Hollywood superstar. Although Smiraldi, who lives in Vernon, said he likes to write for both sexes, “I understand women past their prime.” That comes in part, he said, from having worked as a food server at the Playboy Club when he was a teenager, as well as falling in with patrons of the arts. “Brooke Astor once gave me a ride home from church,” he said. The author wants his heroines to have grit, Smiraldi said. These women provide a commentary of sorts on the decline of small towns in America. And real life and current affairs find their way into the book, however anachronistically. Smiraldi is equally comfortable describing the 1980s Manhattan arts scene, where he met Madonna, and in the heart of rural Sussex Borough. He purposefully left out cell phones and parents from the novel, which is peppered with rich details inspired by real people and places. Smiraldi studied English literature at King’s College; his favorite writers include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. He’s an active member of the Warwick Valley Writers Group. The book took him one year to write, six months to edit and two days to self publish. Smiraldi, who works as a graphic designer, is currently writing his second mystery novel. He said this book will be the first in a trilogy, which will ultimately take the reader on a bear hunt, to the Seine in Paris and into Manhattan’s high society before returning to rural Sussex County. He hopes, also, to create scripts from the books for a play or film.
Buy the book “Seven Murders in Sussex” is available at Sparta Books, 41 Theatre Center, Sparta, 973-729-6200; through Amazon.com and as an e-book from BarnesandNoble.com.