Elizabeth George kicks off from Langley

Elizabeth George is always happy to be home in Langley

Whidbey Islanders are used to stars.

Both the profusion of brilliant stars in the sky and in their dazzling community of artists.

They may not be aware, however, that one such luminary light is choosing the tiny, Village by the Sea to kick off a major event in the literary arts world.

Elizabeth George, has chosen Langley as the starting place for a 20-city tour that will take her throughout the country through June.

George will speak about her new book, “Careless in Red,” published by Harper Collins. She will read selected passages from the crime novel at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at a free event at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.

Following her talk, she will sign copies of her new book which will be available for sale as will copies of her backlist titles.

May 6 happens to be the official release date for the publication. That makes a copy of the “Careless in Red” signed on that date even more coveted.

But that’s typical for Whidbey as it seems this island’s charms always lead to its charmed life.

Little rural Whidbey may be an odd choice to kick off the 16th novel of a New York Times bestselling author whose many crime novels featuring the well-loved Inspector Thomas Lynley have been filmed for television by the BBC and have been rewarded with an international fan base and countless awards.

But, George said after having finally stumbled upon the “beautiful place in which to live for the rest of her life,” she wanted to do something for the community that welcomed her and her husband so graciously 18 months ago to the island.

“There are not many book signings here,” George said. “It’s a kind of thank you to the community for the warm way in which we’ve been greeted here.”

Some critics have noted that what makes George’s Inspector Lynley series shine is the fact that she is able to incorporate the fluid and full quality that the great British mysteries of the “Golden Age” had without overdoing it; without falling into that sometimes florid style.

George said that she is not so much a mystery writer but a writer of large novels in which a crime occurs.

“The investigation is pursued, with a number of subplots that are going on, which are sometimes related to the crime, while some are not.”

George said her work was recently compared to Charles Dickens in that style of the big, social commentary. But unlike Dickens, in her novels, the investigator of the crime has as much importance as the other characters.

“I think my books can appeal to those who like mysteries, puzzles and whodunits, while also appealing to those who like a good novel,” she said.

“Careless in Red” is a greatly anticipated follow-up to George’s last hit novel of 2006, “What Came Before He Shot Her.”

Without giving too much of it away, George said with “What Came Before He Shot Her” it was her challenge to make the character of the murderer so compelling that the reader would care as much about him as they did about the victim.

The victim happened to be the wife of Thomas Lynley himself and apparently, some readers were fairly upset by her death.

But the critics loved it.

“George’s appetite for unerring detail, complex plotting, and probing attention to issues of class, race, character and disenfranchisement has always made her an original,” one reviewer wrote for Entertainment Weekly.

Other reviews were similarly adoring and much of the feedback from her fans over the years focuses on the astonishment that George is not British but American, so detailed is her depiction of places in England.

“I never write about a place I haven’t been to. I make sure if there is any description in my novels, I have actually been there and walked in that place,” George said.

But although many readers could not guess George is American after reading one of her crime novels, she said her American sensibility is probably most apparent in the irreverent nature of the character of Lynley’s deputy associate at Scotland Yard, Barbara Havers.

Havers is the working-class counterpart to Lynley’s upper-class gentleman.

“She can mouth off about some of the ‘la de dah’ culture of British society. She is aware of the vast difference between herself and Lynley and tells him,” George said.

So, too, does George’s own life inform her characters, but not completely.

George said even if a character is based on someone she knows or has met it always remains fiction because she, as the writer, must know the “whys” of that personality; why that person might have certain foibles or habits.

George, a highly organized and diligently routine writer, said that it is exciting for her to have characters reappear in a book after they’ve been gone for some time.

In the book she is currently writing, which takes place in London and in New Forest, England, George said “everybody” comes back — meaning almost all the characters from all the other books make an appearance — and for her, it’s nice.

“It’s like saying, ‘Here they are,’ just like seeing old friends. It’s special.”

In “Careless in Red,” readers have not seen Thomas Lynley since his wife’s death.

The novel opens with Lynley deep in the midst of grief as he walks along the coast of Cornwall, England. The opening line compels the reader to go on:

He found the body on the forty-third day of his walk.

You’ll have to pick up a copy to read the next 623 pages.

George said it will be a good time for everybody to pick up some books.

She calls it “guerilla shopping” — that is: Buying presents when you see them.

At the event, there will be plenty of gifts for the readers on your list to get started on the Lynley series.

“I’m a big guerilla shopper,” she said. “I have all my Christmas shopping done by October.”

She may be a guerilla shopper, but it is certain that George is a bit of a guerilla writer as well.

She is well ahead of her deadline for her next book and has a new anthology she is editing which includes a short story of her own with the intriguing title of “Lusting After Jenny, Inverted,” which has the endearing distinction of being the first story she’s ever written that is set in the Northwest.

A previous anthology of short stories she edited is entitled “A Moment on the Edge: 100 Years of Crime Stories by Women,” and “I, Richard,” is a short story collection of her own, which she said she thoroughly enjoyed creating.

George is also the author of “Write Away,” a book on the craft of writing.

Having started her career as a high school English teacher and then as a writing teacher at the college level, George said she wrote the book for people who love to write and want to write but may not have the tools for the craft.

“The book is a compilation of all the courses that I’ve taught,” said George.

“It gives the writer a fall-back position for when a story goes wrong and they don’t know why.”

George continues to teach at conferences and workshops around the country, but has a lot less time for that. Book tours keep her busy and she said they are not much of a picnic, considering she has to leave the island for them.

“I absolutely love it here. I don’t like leaving,” she said.

There is no cost to attend the event at WICA. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served with a maximum capacity of 270 seats.

Call the WICA box office at 221-8268 or go to www.WICAonline.com for info.