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WORDS AND IMAGES : Author Sets Mystery in Medieval France

June 03, 1993|FRANCES HALPERN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In her new, medieval mystery, "Death Comes as Epiphany," local author Sharan Newman writes about 12th-Century France and Catherine LeVendeur, a scholar-turned-detective who is sent by the church to track down evil priests, stolen jewels and a heretical manuscript. She finally solves the mystery of the ill-fated lovers Abelard and Heloise.

Fascinated by the Middle Ages since she was a child, Newman, now a Ph.D. candidate at UC Santa Barbara, has a sign on her door that reads: "These are the Dark Ages." In her view, we share similarities with medieval Europe.

"Socrates, Peter Abelard and the late Robert Mapplethorpe were all condemned with the same rhetoric," Newman says. "However, I am not a political writer. My goal is to tell an entertaining story, set in an exotic yet familiar age."

And the critics agree, referring to the novel as "breathtakingly exciting and full of mystery and adventure."

Newman's trilogy--"Guinevere," "The Chessboard Queen" and "Guinevere Evermore," published by St. Martin's Press between 1981 and 1985--is a fresh interpretation of the Authurian legends.

Newman's 20th-Century life in Newbury Park includes yearly visits to Europe, international cooking, and "hiking, if there's a restaurant or ruined abbey at the end of the trail." She will be at Waldenbooks in The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, and at the Earthling Bookshop, 1137 State St. in Santa Barbara, at 7 p.m. Monday.

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Nancy Baker Jacobs, author of "The Silver Scalpel," will sign copies of her book at Mysteries to Die For from 5 to 7 p.m. today. On Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m., Linda Barnes will read from her new novel, "Snapshot." The bookstore is at 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks. Call 374-0084 for details.

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Ventura poet Jackson Wheeler and Santa Paulan Charles Slaughter will kick off the Santa Paula Theater Center's "Sunday Evening in the Pub" at 7 p.m. Sunday in the new Backstage Theater. Brian Wilson, producer of the monthly poetry and music evening, encourages poets and musicians to showcase their work, either as featured performers or during the open mike hour when anyone can share a poem or song. Refreshments will be served and a $3 fee will be requested at the door. The center is at 125 S. 7th St. Call 525-4625.

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The Conejo Valley Genealogical Society will feature a beginners' class on military records at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. At 7:30 p.m., Ralph Bledsoe will explain how to use the Reagan Library. Guests are welcome to attend the meeting, which will include book browsing and refreshments in the Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. Janss Road. Call 497-8293 for details.

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Dutton Publishing coughed up a $787,000 advance for Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's first novel, "Mitigating Circumstances," which also has been optioned for $125,000 by Tri Star Productions. Rosenberg, a former Ventura County deputy probation officer, will address the Ventura County Writers Club at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Pleasant Valley Church, 1101 Ponderosa Drive, Camarillo. For more information, call 495-873.

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