RARA-AVIS: Anne Wingate

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 04 Sep 2002

Anne Wingate spent a number of years as a police officer in Plano, Texas, before retiring (I believe to Utah, though I'm not absolutely sure of this; she is a member of the LDS Church, though) and taking up mystery writing. Apparently mentored by Elizabeth Linnington, she followed Ms. Linnington's pattern of developing three separate series of cop novels, all set in Texas, under three different names.

Under her own name she writes about Mark Shigata, a Nisei FBI agent turned small-town police chief. Those of you who cut your crime-reading teeth on the Hardy Boys might find the name of the town for which Shigata is the top cop particularly resonant. It's called Bayport.

As Martha Webb, she's written one stand-alone, entitled, I think, DARLING COREY'S DEAD, about a single-mother policewoman in Northeast Texas working a case with a US Postal Inspector, and a two-book series, consisting of EVEN COP'S DAUGHTERS and WHITE MALE RUNNING, about the head narc of a small Texas town, and his ace undercover agent, a former biker turned cop (whom all the bikers think is STILL a biker).

Under her most-used pen name, Lee Martin, she writes about Detective Deb Ralston of Ft. Worth PD's Major Crimes Squad. A mother and grandmother rasing a large group of adopted kids with her husband, Deb, during the course of the series, converts to the Mormon faith and becomes pregnant for the first time in her life, just as she's raised most of her adopted brood to adulthood. I suspect that Deb Ralston is as close as Ms. Wingate comes to a fictional self-portrait.

For all that she apparently regards Ms. Linnington as a guide, Ms. Wingate more than betters her in the matter of getting the police procedure right, which is, after all, what the police procedural is all about. I generally find her books enjoyable, if sometimes hastily written (in one book, her protagonist gets into a furious shootout early in the novel, then later, at the climax, finds herself in another tense gun battle during which she remarks that it's the first time she's ever fired a shot in the line of duty, completely forgetting the early occassion only a hundred pages earlier).

Ms. Wingate has also written a how-to book for Writers Digest entitled CRIME SCENES - A WRITER'S GUIDE TO FORENSIC INVESTIGATION. During her own career, Ms. Wingate was a fingerprint expert, so this is a subject about which she's particularly well-qualified to write a how-to book.

Given the discussion on "men-writing women" and
"women-writing-men" that's developed today, it's interesting that two of Ms. Wingate's series characters, Police Chief Shigata and the team of narcs she created in her "Martha Webb" persona, are men. It occurs to me that the "cross-sex" phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the procedural. I may have more to say about that later, if the discussion on
"cross-gender" mystery writing continues.


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