Edgar Alan Poe Award Finalist Sally Wright has studied rare books, falconry, early explorers, painting restoration, WWII Tech-Teams, the Venona Code, and much more, to write her university-archivist-ex-WWII-Ranger books about Ben Reese, who’s based on a real person.
Breeding Ground, Wright’s most recent novel, is the first in her new Jo Grant mystery series, which has to do with the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky. Wright is now finishing the second Jo Grant novel.
Sally and her husband have two children, three young grandchildren, and a highly entertaining boxer dog, and live in the country in northwestern Ohio.
The Longer Version:
Sally Wright is the author of six Ben Reese mysteries: Publish And Perish, Pride And Predator, Pursuit And Persuasion (a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist in 2001), Out Of The Ruins, Watches Of The Night (published in June 2008) and Code Of Silence, a prequel to the series (published in December 2008). Breeding Ground is the first in her new Jo Grant horse country series.
Wright was born obsessed with books, and started pecking-out florid adventure stories with obvious endings by the time she turned seven. She wrote and performed music in high school and college, earned a degree in oral interpretation of literature at Northwestern University, and then completed graduate work at the University of Washington. She published many biographical articles, including pieces on Malcolm Muggeridge and Nikolai Tolstoy, Leo’s grandnephew, before she wrote her Ben Reese books.
Reviewers repeatedly compare Wright’s work to that of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh. Wright herself says that her literary influences range from all of those to Tolstoy and Jane Austen, from P.D. James to Dick Francis.
“And yet it’s C.S. Lewis who’s probably influenced me most, through the whole body of his work, as a thinker, a person, and a writer,” says Wright. “In his Chronicles of Narnia and his metaphysical novels, The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters, he uses popular fiction to talk about what T.S. Eliot called ‘the permanent things’— consideration of morality, of origin, and spiritual meaning. It was those books that started me thinking about writing mysteries to begin with.”
Many reviewers consider Ben Reese an unusually believable and intriguing character, and Wright says she works really hard to try to create fictional people like that. “I want to make real, compelling characters and let them get caught in complex tangles of good and evil that could actually happen in real life. I want to create settings too that readers can see and experience. Settings are very important to me. They’re almost like characters in the books.”
In order to attempt to do any of that, Wright does substantial research—traveling, interviewing, sometimes even trying to “live” the lives of her characters, which reviewers say give Wright’s books a strong sense of accuracy and authenticity. Wright says the research makes her own life more interesting too.
Sally Wright moved with her husband many years ago from Cape Cod to the country near Bowling Green, Ohio. Their daughter is professional singer and voice teacher, and their son works for an industrial manufacturing company. They have three toddler grandchildren. There won’t be any more horses, but they have a highly entertaining boxer dog, and too many gardens to take care of. (The number of strawberry plants indicates a serious obsession.) Sally loves to cook, and to swim in their farm pond, and hopes to get back to painting again, if she has time in addition to her writing. The older she gets the more she realizes how much she has to be grateful for.