South Seattle Author Pens “Dark and Compelling” Mystery Novel

South Seattle Author Pens “Dark and Compelling” Mystery Novel

By Amber Campbell

Othello neighbor Martha Crites is the newly published author of a mystery novel, Grave Disturbance, that Adam Woog of the Seattle Times called “a dark and compelling story.”

The book — her first — came out last December and is set mainly in the Cascade foothills. Protagonist Grace Vaccaro is a mental-health evaluator (like the author) caught up in “bad business” after a filmmaker, working on a documentary about native land rights, is murdered.

“Not surprisingly,” adds Woog, “one of the book’s strongest elements is its protagonist’s skill as a mental-health professional in teasing clues out of other people’s heads.”

Martha promises that book two will have South Seattle scenes.

“I like to write what I see around me,” she says.

Martha has also volunteered with the Rainier Valley Historical Society to interview longtime residents and participated in the One Night Count of people who live with out shelter.

“My work goes further afield too,” she says. “I volunteer in the bookstore at St James Cathedral. Also, my husband Jim and I have volunteered four times as hospitaleros on the Camino de Santiago. We take two-week stints running hostels and caring for pilgrims from all over the world. I just finished a three-year term on the Board of Directors of American Pilgrims on the Camino, an educational nonprofit that supports the pilgrimage.”

What motivates her to do this work?

“When people stretch themselves to do things they aren’t sure they can do, amazing things happen,” she says.

This month, Martha was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people.

marthacoverName:
Martha Crites

Age:
60

Neighborhood:
Othello Street between Rainier and Seward Park Ave

How long in South Seattle?
My husband and I bought our house in 1989. After a rough period of crime in South Seattle, we moved out to Duvall for a couple years in the late 90s, then came back to our little house on Othello in 2000.

Where from originally?
Ohio

Day job:
Mental Health Specialist at one of Harborview’s inpatient psychiatry units.

What do you like most about your day job?
Most definitely the patients and seeing them make steps from illness to health.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I am very excited to be a newly published author. My mystery novel, Grave Disturbance came out last December. Adam Woog of the Seattle Times wrote: Seattleite Martha Crites’ debut, “Grave Disturbance”(Rat City, 230 pp., $14.99 paperback original), is a dark and compelling story set mainly in the Cascade foothills. Grace Vaccaro is a mental-health evaluator (as is the author) caught up in bad business after a filmmaker, working on a documentary about native land rights, is murdered. Not surprisingly, one of the book’s strongest elements is its protagonist’s skill as a mental-health professional in teasing clues out of other people’s heads.

What are you passionate about?
Books! I’m thrilled to see Third Place Books and Bookworm Exchange in the neighborhood. My husband and I host a Little Free Library in front of our house, but I warn you: If you think having a free library will help move books out of your house, well the opposite is true. Even more come in.

What are your hobbies?
Walking, but it is more that a hobby. It has been transformative. My husband, Jim Limardi, and I walked the Camino de Santiago, the 500 mile medieval pilgrimage in northern Spain and return year after year. We are a familiar sight on training walks in the neighborhood. You will often see us with our yellow lab, Mariluz quite a few miles from our house–we walked.

Tell us about your family:
I live with my husband, Jim and our lab Mariluz who was voted the most “ADD Dog” in her Columbia City training class. Our adult son, Eli Limardi, just moved to a really cool condo in Burien. I must say, if you are feeling out priced in Seattle, check out Burien with its thriving new business district. It is so walkable.

What’s your most favorite thing about South Seattle?
I like proximity to the lake and all the cool people who live here.

What’s your least favorite thing about South Seattle?
The city’s slowness to support those in need. For instance many new housing solutions for the homeless are temporary. People need secure housing–no matter what mental, physical or addiction problems they have.

Where is your favorite place to go in South Seattle?
Rainier Health and Fitness with their welcoming staff and multi-cultural clientele. I just need to go there a little more often!

If you could live anywhere besides South Seattle, where would it be?
I’d rather travel elsewhere and come back home here–but maybe in my next life I could have a big lake view?

If there was one thing you could change about South Seattle, what would it be?
I would like to slow the change. Seeing new businesses come to the area is wonderful. Seeing older houses with space and trees torn down for newer, larger houses makes me fear for the diversity that makes this a special place.

Who inspires you?
Everyone really. We all have a story.

What was the last thing you read?
I’ve just returned from Centrum Writers Workshop in Port Townsend, so I read about 20 short stories last week, both student and published. My greatest dream is to write a beautifully-worded mystery that enlightens the reader about social issues and is so compelling that the pages turn themselves. My book received several compliments recently, saying that my writing informs (about mental illness, homelessness, Native American displacement), but is neither preachy nor teachy.

Tell us something about you that not many people know:
My first job was as a carhop and I had to wear white go-go boots. I didn’t last long.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
That first cup of coffee each morning when the day is full of possibility.

What is your greatest fear?
Do you like me?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I tend to isolate myself from others when I’m tense or working hard on a project.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lack of compassion.

What is your greatest regret?
No regrets, but I do wish I had stuck with studying languages when I was younger. I picked it up again later, but there’s nothing like learning language with a young brain!

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I am so lucky to have met my husband, Jim. He reads more books in a week than I do in a month, plays the guitar, makes ceramics. And makes me laugh.

What is your current state of mind?
Thoughtful–these questions go deep.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Growing up. I had a very rough time in my twenties and feel so fortunate to have arrived at a point in life that is so rich and full.

What is your most treasured possession?
In the past, I would have said family heirlooms, but I’m less interested in possessions these days. Is it this new decade of life I just entered?

What do you most value in your friends?
Encouragement!

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Dorothy and her friends in the Wizard of Oz: “If I only had a brain, if I had a heart, if I only had the nerve…”

Who are your heroes in real life?
People who encourage others to stretch and grow in whatever way: friends, parents, teachers, coworkers, even strangers with a kind word at the right moment (see encouragement above).

What is it that you most dislike?
When I wake up in the middle of the night with a busy brain and can’t go back to sleep.

What else should we know about you? You know more than most people now.
I am a fairly private person–why I write fiction.

Is there a South Seattle neighbor you’d like to know more about? Nominate them for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people. Send your suggestions to gosouthseattle@gmail.com. Photo/Martha Crites with her dog Mariluz.

 

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