A tale of mystery

The write stuff: Au­thor E. Lewis Brown talks about his book Di­anna Doll out of his home of­fice in May­fair. The book is about a murder game he de­vised dec­ades ago to raise money for De­borah Heart and Lung Cen­ter.

Who killed Di­anna Doll?

That’s the ques­tion read­ers will pon­der as they get clue after clue in May­fair au­thor E. Lewis Brown’s new book.

Di­anna Doll is part murder mys­tery and part fantasy with a little soap op­era thrown in. 

Di­anna is an act­ress whose odd start in life doesn’t keep her from ca­reer suc­cesses and ro­mance after ro­mance, ac­cord­ing to Brown. While she’s ac­cu­mu­lated fans and lov­ers, she’s also racked up en­emies. One of those turned out to be a deadly foe. 

Di­anna’s tu­mul­tu­ous life comes to an end dur­ing a din­ner in her hon­or. While walk­ing across a room and with no one near her, Di­anna grabs her throat and cries out, “O, my God, you killed me,” be­fore fall­ing to the floor dead.

Di­anna dy­ing is how the story be­gins, Brown said, and the clues to her mur­der­er’s iden­tity can be found as the fant­ast­ic story of her life un­folds.

How Brown cre­ated Di­anna is a story in it­self. Dur­ing a June 11 phone in­ter­view, the Revere Street res­id­ent said the book began as a game that he cre­ated years ago to raise funds for the De­borah Heart and Lung Cen­ter in Browns Mills, N.J.

Years ago, in fact so long ago, Brown can’t pin­point the date, he said he wrote the script of a murder mys­tery game that was sold as a fun­draiser at a De­borah con­ven­tion. His in­terest in De­borah, he said, was based on his moth­er’s many years of vo­lun­teer­ing for the cen­ter. He banged out the game script in about 15 minutes, he said. 

A year later, he de­cided to turn the game in­to a mys­tery nov­el. That was no quarter-hour lark.

“I was very ser­i­ous at first,” he stated. However, he put the work down for sev­er­al years, a time com­plic­ated by sur­gery, he said.

Even­tu­ally, he got ser­i­ous again.

“I must have gone through eight or nine re­vi­sions and re­writes be­fore I was sat­is­fied. He had what he thought was a fi­nal ver­sion un­til a friend read it and made a few sug­ges­tions. Those ideas promp­ted him to tight­en the storyline be­fore he had a fi­nal draft.

The book was put out by Tate Pub­lish­ing this year and is avail­able on Amazon. Brown said he will donate a por­tion of the book’s sales to De­borah.

There is a sec­ond­ary mys­tery run­ning through the book that cinema fans will en­joy. The au­thor had in­ser­ted lines from some very pop­u­lar movies throughout Di­anna Doll, and read­ers should have a good time spot­ting them and match­ing films to the quotes.

My Best Friend’s Wed­ding, Jerry McGuire and, of course, Gone with the Wind are among the movies quoted by Di­anna’s char­ac­ters.

Al­though Di­anna’s life is full of love af­fairs, Brown said there is no overt sex in the book. “I did that to ex­pand the read­er­ship of the book,” he said. 

Brown is a loc­al guy who star­ted liv­ing in May­fair when he turned 14. He went to Cent­ral High and Temple Uni­versity. He’s 74 and works most of the year for the Phil­adelphia County Board of As­sist­ance. 

Di­anna’s story is Brown’s first com­pleted and pub­lished book, he said, but he’s already work­ing on a new volume.

No fic­tion or fantasy will be in­volved in this tale of ci­vil­ian vo­lun­teers who patrolled the Delaware River wa­ter­front dur­ing World War II. Brown’s fath­er was one such vo­lun­teer, and he kept a di­ary of his activ­it­ies, the writer said.

“He put [the di­ary] in a din­ing room china closet where it sat un­opened for 65 years un­til my cous­in took it out, read it and asked me if I had ever done so,” Brown stated. “‘Why?’ I asked, then I read it. The book was born.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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