Frances McNamara

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. My father was an FBI agent and later the Police Commissioner of the city of Boston. Whether it was the influence of a professional detective in the family or near sightedness, I started reading mysteries with Nancy Drew stories and soon moved on to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a major in English, then studied for a masters in library science at Simmons College part time while working at the Wellesley College Library. In order to keep busy, I also signed up for a masters in English degree at Simmons and studied Chinese language at Wellesley, and Middlebury.

I worked with computers in libraries moving on to a position at the Massachusetts State Library and at a NELINET, a job which took me to libraries all over New England to help start them up on automated systems. A move to OCLC in Columbus Ohio for another library automation job led to a collaboration with some amateur actors who produced a number of mystery night to help raise money for local libraries. I wrote the plots and peripheral materials for stories ranging from a contemporary reunion, a golf course mystery and a couple set in 1930’s England.

Another job move took me to Chicago where the job at the University of Chicago Library led to creation of Emily Cabot, as a graduate student from Wellesley College who comes to the university the first year that it opens. Between the flavor of 1890’s in the architecture on campus, and the access to historical research materials at the library, it was a great opportunity to translate the feel of the city to stories about Chicago at the turn of the century. Allium Press of Chicago published Death at the Fair, a story featuring Ida B. Wells and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In Death at Hull House Emily becomes a resident at the famous settlement house on the West side of Chicago the winter after the Columbian Exposition when a smallpox epidemic ravaged the immigrant communities. In Death at Pullman the famous company town south of the city suffers a strike that spreads to the rest of the city and the country. In each story fictional characters mix with some real people from the time, demonstrating the rich history and culture of the thriving young American metropolis that Chicago was. Death at Chinatown allowed me to use some of my Chinese language and culture studies. In Death at the Paris Exposition Emily gets to visit Paris with her family thanks to the patronage of Bertha Palmer. I’d like to continue to follow the stories and Emily and her family into the new century. I’m thinking of covering literary Chicago, the film industry in Chicago, WWI, the flu epidemic, prohibition and the Depression. It would be nice for the series to end with the Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago in 1934. Death at the Selig Studios set in 1909 takes place in a silent film studio in northwest Chicago.

When not writing, I found a love a sailing on the Charles River, and later learned to race small sailboats in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve sailed a Comet and owned and raced a Rhodes 19 sailboat on Lake Michigan. Having moved back to Boston, I’m back to sailing at Courageous Sailing in Charlestown.

While living right in the heart of the city of Boston, I’m also a part time resident of Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. I’ve been working on the first story of a new series that will feature a retired Boston Policewoman. The short story “Wicked Writers” in the Malice Domestic Murder Most Conventional  introduces Lucy O’Donnell, reluctantly retired police captain. A novel based on the new character is in progress. I'm also doing research for another historical series that would begin in 1919 in Boston.

Recent Appearances

Date Venue Address
June 13, 2019
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Making a Mystery event at Assembly Square Pop Up Space 431 Artisan Way
Somerville, MA 02145
In this fun, fast-paced improv game, mystery authors, Elisabeth Elo, Frances McNamara, Dale Phillips, and Clea Simon will brainstorm on their feet to create a brand new mystery, using suggestions from the audience.
June 8, 2019
11:00am - 5:00pm
Allium Press booth Printers Row LitFest Printers Row
Saturday and Sunday June 8-9 at the Allium Press booth in the Chicago Printers Row LitFest
May 4, 2019
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Malice Domestic "Murder in the Performing Arts"
Murder in the Performing Arts panel will be moderated by James Lincoln Warren, fellow authors will be Marni Graff, J. R. Ripley, Gabriel Valjan. Death at the Selig Studios is about early silent films studios in Chicago in 1909
May 3, 2019
10:00am - 12:00pm
Malice Domestic 2019 Malice Go Round Bethesda North Marriott Hotel
Bethesda, MD
Malice Go Round is a way to speed date authors at the conference. I'll be there with information on the Emily Cabot Mysteries and Death at the Selig Studios in particular. Hope to see you.
April 5, 2019
12:00pm - 3:00pm
Muse and the Marketplace
Come say hello at MWA table at Muse and the Marketplace
June 21, 2018
6:00pm - 8:00pm
New England Mobile Book Fair 241 Needham St.
Newton Upper Falls
Launch Celebration! Frances McNamara in conversation w fellow mystery author Leslie Wheeler
June 9, 2018
10:00am - 6:00pm
Printers Row Lit Fest Printers Row
Chicago, IL
Saturday and Sunday June 9-10 I'll be at the booth for Allium Press of Chicago at Windy City Historians tent with my new book DEATH AT SELIG STUDIOS. Come visit with us!
June 8, 2018
6:00pm - 8:00pm
57th Street Books 1301 E 57th St
Chicago, IL 60637
Frances McNamara and fellow mystery author Victoria Thompson in conversation Launch Celebration for DEATH AT SELIG STUDIOS and MURDER IN UNION SQUARE Join us for talk and celebration Hosted by Allium Press of Chicago
June 7, 2018
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore 7419 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60130
Frances McNamara and fellow mystery author Victoria Thompson in conversation Launch Celebration for DEATH AT SELIG STUDIOS and MURDER IN UNION SQUARE Join us for talk and celebration Hosted by Allium Press of Chicago and Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore
April 29, 2018
9:00am - 10:00am
Malice Domestic 30 "Historical Mysteries: Back in the USA" Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center
Bethesda, MD
Sunday 9 AM “Historical Mysteries: Back in the USA” Jeffrey Marks – Moderator L.A. Chandler, C.M. Gleason, Alyssa Maxwell, Frances McNamara, Ann Parker. I’ll also be hosting a table at the Saturday banquet. Looking forward to seeing you!
April 18, 2018
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Atria Bay Spring Village RI 147 Bay Village Ave
Barrington, RI
“Stealing from the Dead: Ideas and How We Get Them” Panel with Steve Liskow and Sharon Healy-Yang, and Frances McNamara. Sisters in Crime New England Speakers Bureau event