My contribution to Orange County Noir began with an email from some guy named Gary Phillips. He said that Barbara DeMarco Barrett had recommended me to write a short mystery set in Santa Ana. After some disappointments and hard lessons, Barbara and Gary’s gift was nothing short of angelic.
In his introduction, Gary wrote that the sunny land of beautiful people (aka Orange County) is a place where “nobody is who they seem to be.” Danielle Dawson, the heroine who popped into my head as soon as I emailed Gary back with a firm yes, fits the description perfectly. To the world she’s a blonde, beautiful, statuesque Newport girl. But really, she grew up in the barrio of Santa Ana with her Mexican side of the family. She doesn’t fit neatly into any category and in the tradition of all noir detectives, her outsider status gives her entree into the hearts and minds of those around her.
Here’s a quick excerpt. This won’t be the last you hear of Danielle.
Last night, 8:30 p.m.
In Santa Ana there are two types of neighborhoods: the historically significant neighborhoods with names like French Park and Floral Park, and the neighborhoods that are not. My grandma lives in one of those that aren’t.
I turn off North Bristol onto West 3rd and then make a right on Hesperian. Except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter at Nana’s house, the farthest I’d head up on Bristol was the northernmost tip of Nordstroms at South Coast Plaza. Now this is home. Again.