Reading Life Editor

N.C. author pens a hit with her debut novel

February 2, 2013 

  • ‘Three Graves Full’ reading Jamie Mason will read and sign copies of her new novel, “Three Graves Full,” 2 p.m. March 16 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

For Asheville’s Jamie Mason, literary inspiration came from a newspaper headline: “Landscapers find skull in mulch bed.” She never even read the story. The headline was enough.

Its six words helped Mason hatch a first chapter with a boffo opening sentence: “There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.” From there, with lots more work, she produced a novel.

“Three Graves Full” (Gallery Books; $24.99), to be published Feb. 12, is the story of Jason Getty, a usually mild-mannered guy who killed a man, then planted him in the backyard. Jason is learning to live with this gruesome new reality when police uncover two bodies on his property. Neither is the fellow he buried.

Publishers Weekly and Booklist have awarded Mason’s literary suspense novel starred reviews. Reviewers are favorably comparing her dark humor with that of the Coen brothers, the filmmakers who gave us “Blood Simple,” “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski.” A number of reviewers have mentioned her first line. They love it.

You probably haven’t heard of Mason, since this is her debut novel. In fact, excluding a couple of online essays and a blog she writes about books and authors ( jamiemason.wordpress.com), it’s her first published work, “pretty much as debut as debut can get,” she says.

Mason, 42, has lived in Asheville for about nine years, since she and her family moved there from Richmond.

She’s self-taught. She didn’t even go to college. She grew up poor, she told me, and “I didn’t think I could go.”

But something within her longed to write. For years, she worked in personal banking, as a teller, customer service manager, credit union branch manager. Back then, she wrote mostly memos. “People said, ‘Jamie, I love your memos. You write the best memos.’ ”

Mason began writing fiction when she quit her job to care for her first child.

Now, glowing early reviews suggest she has a hit. Mystery Guild Book Club Editor Christine Zika has praised “Three Graves Full” as “filled with biting wit and great prose style.”

The novel, Zika writes, “may be the debut of the year.”

Kelley: 704-358-5271; pkelley@charlotteobserver.com

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