“Some men are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
When Shakespeare wrote that line, he failed to mention women as well as those who pursue greatness with a single-minded purpose. But we must forgive him, for not even The Bard could have seen Janet Evanovich coming. A native New Jerseyan whose early life seemed plebeian, Evanovich transformed herself into a prolific author of best selling novels as well as a company unto herself.
Born in South River in 1943 to a machinist father and a mother who was a homemaker, Janet progressed from high school to Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she studied art for four years. Nevertheless, Janet was no artist; instead, she turned her hand to writing. In 1964, she married Pete Evanovich, who became a Doctor of Philosophy specializing in the field of Mathematics. Staying home to raise their children, Alexandra and Pete Jr., Janet focused on her writing. After three books and a ten-year search for a publisher, she could not land a contract. When someone suggested she try penning romance novels, she produced two, with no better luck. Needing to contribute to the family’s coffers, Mrs. E. joined a temporary employment agency, working as a car salesperson, an insurance adjuster, a waitress, and a secretary.
After several months as a Jill of All Trades, Janet received an offer to publish one of her novels for the sum of $2,000. With this windfall, she quit the business arena to pursue writing on a full time basis, generating twelve romance novels, including some under the pseudonym Steffie Hall, now being reprinted under Evanovich’s real name. Having churned out a dozen romances, the author grew bored with the genre and ventured into the realm of mystery. She stepped wisely, cultivating relationships with seasoned law enforcement professionals who armed her with information concerning the business of crime fighting. Thus was born Janet’s most popular character, Stephanie Plum, who has razed her way through fourteen hilarious novels.
Hailing from a semi-normal middle class family in “The Burg” (the Chambersburg section of Trenton, New Jersey), Evanovich’s protagonist is the quintessential anti-heroine. Divested of her two-timing husband and downsized from her job as a lingerie buyer, our gal is skating on thin ice as the first novel, One for the Money, opens. She and her pet hamster will be out on the street if she doesn’t land a job soon. Desperate, Steph turns to her cousin Vinnie, who owns a bail bonds office in Trenton. When Vinnie refuses to hire his inexperienced relative as an agent, she does what every good Jersey girl would do: she blackmails him to secure the job. Pretty, tough, and more lucky than competent, Stephanie always manages to catch her man. She catches them like flies: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Joe Morelli, her smoldering hot, all-suffering boyfriend is a former bad boy turned good cop. Once burned, Steph is in no hurry to remarry. This is good news for Ranger, her drop dead gorgeous, self-appointed savior and would-be lover. In addition to serving as a bails bonds agent, the mysterious Ranger owns a state-of-the-art security firm, replete with a loyal team of muscle men. Ranger and Joe both come in handy, as the hapless Stephanie can’t stop landing in hot water in pursuit of Vinnie’s fugitives and the more hardened criminals whose misdeeds intertwine. These span the gamut of the taxidermist who hides incendiary devices in his craft and blows them up to get Steph off his back, to the sadistic boxer, to the steroid-popping bad guy upon whom our bounty hunter turns an industrial stapler … in a most indelicate spot.
Alternately helping and hindering her as she blows up cars, gets kidnapped regularly, and sets funeral homes afire is a cast of characters. The stars in this cast are the blustering and well-meaning Lola, a plus size former prostitute whose life Steph saved from the boxer, Connie, a smart pistol packer who runs Vinnie’s office as well as Vinnie, Sally Sweet, a transvestite rock star wanna-be who drives a school bus during the day, and of course, Grandma Mazur. Always up for an adventure, Grandma wears day-glow Spandex, packs a Glock, and uses local funeral homes as pick up joints.
Along with these folks, the Plum tales are peppered with South Jersey scenery: Trenton, not the shore … although there was that episode where Grandma was hijacked in an Atlantic City casino. Greasy spoons and donut shops, strip malls and mega-malls, adult “toy stores”, and the ever-clogged, ever-smogged Route 1 populate Mrs. E’s novels, as do bawdy innuendoes and enough laughs to split your sides. If you call The Garden State “home”, you can relate. If not, and you like fast-paced mysteries that will have you wiping your eyes with laughter, check out one or all of the Plum novels.
Fleshing out the tales featuring Joe Morelli and Ranger, Janet has created a sub-series of thrillers, such as Plum Spooky, which are set during specific holidays. In these, an odd, hunky, and endearing hero Diesel further complicates Stephanie’s considerably less than sane life.
In addition to the Stephanie Plum series, Janet Evanovich has written many other books, including Metro Girl and Motor Mouth, which reflect her fondness for NASCAR and life around the racetracks. For aspiring authors, she has also penned, “How To Write.” Helping to manage her extensive career are her husband and her children as well as her son-in-law, P.J. Heller. Perhaps as a result of covering so much of New Jersey, Mrs. E. now lives with Pete Sr. in New Hampshire and Florida. Her hobbies include reading comic books and watching happy movies. And, like Stephanie Plum, she loves Cheez Doodles®.
For a complete listing of Janet’s works, please visit http://www.evanovich.com. It’s worth the visit as her novels are just plum good!