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For those who have never heard of these books I bet the title of this diary really got your attention. Sharyn McCrumb is best known for two different mystery series one her Elizabeth MacPherson mysteries and the other her lyrical Appalachian mysteries. My favorites are her two Jay Omega mysteries Bimbo’s of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool. The books are so much fun and if, like myself, you are a science fiction/fantasy fan and have been to any science fiction conventions you will love these books.

Bimbos started as a joke when Sharyn decided to enter a short story contest being judged by a fellow professor. He told her the title was too funny to be wasted on a practical joke.  She decided to write the book when she got the idea of an engineering professor writing a serious science fiction book that was snapped up by a second rate publisher who changed the name and put the ubiquitous bikini barbarian babe on the cover. A couple years later she was invited to be a guest of a small convention because their one and only writer guest would need to have a break. The author sat in on the panel, loved the two chapters that Sharyn read, and the rest is history.

I almost feel like I should start this like a 10 step “confession” meeting. Hi my name is Michele and I have been a science fiction/fantasy fan since I discovered it at the age on eight. I have gone to, worked on, and even run my own science fiction convention. The only thing is I have no intention of recovering from my science fiction/fantasy addiction.

Professor Jay Omega gets invited to a small science fiction convention when the people running it realize that their one writer guest will need a break. One of the main games among those of us who have worked conventions is who the book’s Appin Dungannon is based on. Protest as she will I know it is based on Harlan Ellison. Dungannon is one of those rude and nasty people who love to insult their audiences and make things as difficult as they can for the poor people who are crazy enough to run a convention. Okay so maybe it is William Shatner. Not surprisingly Dungannon gets himself killed.

The book has everything that people who are into science fiction conventions will recognize. You have obsessive fans who know every bit of trivia about their chosen book/show etc. You have the plain women who are drawn to science fiction because they will be judged for their science fiction knowledge not what they look like. You have the fanzines and the people who spend long hours working on and writing them.  This book is the manual that has been passed around since it was published to people who run or guest at conventions.

This book is just about as much fun as you can get reading a mystery. Even if you are not a fan of the science fiction/fantasy genre I recommend this book. It is absolutely one of my favorite books.
 

Zombies of the Gene Pool brings back the wonderful Jay Omega and his partner, recovering science fiction fan, Marion Farley. This time they are asked by fellow professor Erik Giles to accompany him down to Tennessee where he lived as a young man in the 1950s with several other science fiction writers. The book goes back to the early days of science fiction and is more serious in tone than the last book. It still does manage to find a satiric edge in the writing.

A dam and a lake had covered the old farm where the men used to live. The lake had been drained to repair the dam and the remaining men decide that they will reunite and dig up a time capsule they had buried with stories they had written before leaving the farm for good.

The lives of the people, as had the lives of real writers from that era, had taken many different paths. Erik Giles had become a sedate professor of English. George Woodard never grew up and teaches math to teenagers while still producing a fanzine in his basement. Brendan Surn had become a well-known writer whose mind is now wandering. Dale Dugger, who owned the farm, drank himself to death.  Jim Conyers married his childhood sweetheart and became a respected lawyer. Pat Malone became one of the most hated men in fandom with the publication of a nasty book tearing into friends and foes alike in the field. He was reported to have died in the late 50s. Peter Deddinger became a well-known writer. Angela Arbroath retired from fandom. Curtis Phillips went insane and his demons eventually killed him. Ruben Mistral became a famous and very rich movie mogul.

As the old men and women return to Tennessee to dig up the capsule Malone appears to come back from the dead in order to bedevil them. The survivors had hoped an auction of the stories would help pay for their retirement years and Malone could ruin all that with his nasty mouth. When he dies for good Jay and Marion help the police try and find the murderer.

The book has a nostalgic sweetness about it that I really liked. Having read many of the greats in the field and having met many of them it really resonated with me. Again even if you aren't a fan of science fiction/fantasy this is still a very good mystery. Sharyn McCrumb has a way with characters that makes them very real and you end up caring about them.

I love Sharyn McCrumb as a writer. These particular two books have been favorites of mine for years and are destined to be read and reread many more times. They are quite simply two of my favorite books of all time.

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 05:02 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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