In the mystery community, Janet Rudolph is virtually everywhere. A tireless proselytizer and devotee of mystery fiction, she’s the editor of Mystery Reader’s Journal as well as the executrix of the annual Macavity Awards. She runs a weekly—yes, I said weekly—book club and is, in short, one of the finest ambassadors mystery fiction has to offer. I thought it was past time to ask her a few questions.
Q: Can you talk about how you started your book club? What makes it unique?
A: I think our book group is unique because we are the longest running weekly mystery group in the U.S. We’ve been meeting for 35+ years, September-June, every Tuesday night. I began “the group” by teaching mystery fiction at UC Extension in the mid-70s as a way of supplementing my meager grad school income (non-existent income, actually). I first started by teaching Women in Science Fiction, but quickly turned to something much closer to my heart—The Female Sleuth. Our original class wanted more, as did I, and I expanded the offerings to a class on Agatha Christie, Women Mystery Writers, Religious Mystery Fiction, Art Mysteries and more. I also expanded locations to UC Santa Cruz, St. Mary’s College, the Graduate Theological Union, SF State and some other institutions and organizations. We always met weekly, so when I decided to have a more informal setting—my home—it seemed only natural to continue to meet weekly. Back then we read and discussed two books a week. Now we only read one. Still that’s a lot of reading. I’m thematic in my thinking, so the first 20+ years I ran 10 weekly sessions on themes, mostly, such as New York Mysteries, medical mysteries, food mysteries (a favorite), religious mysteries, etc. Over the years we’ve had people drop out and people join, people die and people move, but we still have many in the group who have been in it for over 25 years.