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O'Callaghan Puts New Character in 'Ashes'

June 22, 1997|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In mystery circles, Maxine O'Callaghan is best known for her Santa Ana-based female private eye, Delilah West. But there's a new character in the Mission Viejo author's life.

She's Anne Menlo, a Phoenix child psychologist who works as a police consultant on crimes involving children.

In "Only in the Ashes" (Jove Books; $5.99), Menlo is hired by the distraught mother of a 6-year-old girl who died in a house fire. It turns out that the woman's estranged husband had kidnapped their daughter, and she died while in his care. Menlo's task: to do a psychological autopsy on the girl to try to determine what happened to her before she died.

"Only in the Ashes" is O'Callaghan's second Anne Menlo book. The first, "Shadow of the Child," was published last year.

O'Callaghan says she was approached by the Berkley Publishing Group to write the paperback originals for its Jove Books imprint.

"The only thing they told me was they'd like it to be about a child psychologist," she says. "Everything else about the book was my invention."

Because author Jonathan Kellerman writes mysteries featuring a male child psychologist based in Los Angeles, O'Callaghan wanted a distinctly different venue for Anne Menlo. She chose Phoenix because her daughter lives there, and "it's kind of like my second home."

Although she believes having a child psychologist as a main character is a "natural" for a mystery series, O'Callaghan added another "viewpoint"--that of Menlo's live-in lover, who is a homicide detective with the Phoenix Police Department.

"To me, it gives it a little more logical reason for her to be working on murder cases," O'Callaghan says.

O'Callaghan, author of 12 novels over the past 17 years, has written five Delilah West mysteries since "Death Is Forever," in 1980. The sixth, "Down for the Count," will be published in hardback by St. Martin's Press in November.

O'Callaghan had hoped to alternate between the two mystery series, but because of contractual deadlines had to do two Anne Menlo books back-to-back.

Her next writing project will be another book featuring ex-cop Delilah West, whom O'Callaghan describes as savvy, independent, gutsy and resourceful.

It's much easier to write the Delilah West books, she says. "I'm familiar with the character, familiar with the surroundings." And, she adds with a laugh, "I've given up denying that Delilah and I have a lot in common."

O'Callaghan will sign "Only in the Ashes" at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mystery Ink in Upchurch-Brown Booksellers, 384 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.

Also this week:

* Taylor Smith, author of "The Best of Enemies," will speak and sign at 1 p.m. today at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232 Springdale St., Westminster.

* Tom Blake, author of "Middle Aged and Dating Again," will sign at 3 p.m. today at Barnes & Noble in Irvine Spectrum, 31 Fortune Drive.

* David Jacobs, a Temple University History professor and author of "Secret Life: Firsthand Accounts of UFO Abductions," will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., Costa Mesa. Admission: $10. (714) 520-4836.

* Donald Spoto, author of "Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman," Martin J. Smith, author of "Time Release," and Bettie B. Youngs, author of "Gifts of the Heart," will discuss their books at the Round Table West literary luncheon at noon Thursday at the Balboa Bay Club, 1221 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. Cost: $35. Reservations: (213) 256-7977.

* Mike Kilroy, author of "Orange County Scene: A Look at Orange County's Colorful Past," will sign at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Barnes & Noble in MainPlace/Santa Ana, 2800 N. Main St.

* Jaroldeen Edwards, author of "Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner--Personal Discoveries of a Mother of Twelve," will speak and sign at 3 p.m. Saturday at Crown Books, 32411 Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel.

* E.C. Ayres, author of "The Night of the Panther," will speak and sign at 3 p.m. Saturday, and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, author of "Bloody Shame," will speak and sign at 5 p.m. Saturday, at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232 Springdale St., Westminster. Garcia-Aguilera also will sign at 3 p.m. Saturday at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin Ave., Orange.

* Earlene Fowler, author of "Goose in the Pond," will sign at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mystery Ink in Upchurch-Brown Booksellers, 384 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.

Send information about book-related events at least 10 days before event to: Dennis McLellan, O.C. Books & Authors, Life & Style, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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