I have been taking some classes in Irish literature recently and am discovering wonderful new writers. One of them is Claire Keegan, who is an award-winning international bestseller, also admired by Miss Demeanor Susan Breen. She writes short novels, and short stories, which I normally don’t read. The woman can write more in a sentence than most writers do in a book. And those sentences. She frequently wins “The I Wish I Wrote That Sentence Award” I reserve for sentences that take my breath away. “Three times a wave thumped the strand and broke before he spoke.” Pure poetry expressing the passage of time.

            Most recently I read, So Late in the Day, Sories of Women and Men, which contains three short stories written many would agree are about misogyny. Each was written at a different stage in the author’s career. One has a foreboding chilling ending that is reminiscent of crime fiction. Another is a tale of lost love. The middle story is the one that captured me because it is about a writer.

            SPOILER ALERT: I am going to disclose the plot and quote the last line, so if you think you’d like to read Claire Keegan yourself, have at it. I encourage you to do just that.

            Our hero is a thirty-nine-year-old female writer who has been given a two-week writing retreat in the old home of a deceased famous writer on an island in Western Ireland. It’s a glorious place to have to yourself to write but our hero can’t quite seem to settle down to it and all kinds of distractions prevent her from putting her seat in her writing chair, including the appearance of an older, angry resentful male. His presence annoys and eventually infuriates her, ending her superbly practiced procrastination, and inspires her to get to the writing. “As she put the kettle on to boil and reached for the cake at the back of the fridge, she stretched herself and knew she was preparing for his long and painful death.” Of course, A Long and Painful Death is the title of the story.

             That’s it. The secret, which was never much of a secret, is out, no matter how much writers deny it. Writers kill those who cross them. The secret, which was never much of a secret, is out, no matter how much writers deny it. Writers kill those who cross them. Members of my literature class who read the book and were not writers squealed with delight at the thought of a writer taking revenge with the pen as her weapon.

            I have denied doing this, although not vehemently when pressed. The lawyer in me always imagines having to defend a lawsuit when someone says, “That’s me you killed in your book.” But most writers are clever enough to blur details and create characters that are a combination of people.

            Still, if you’re a mystery writer, you probably do kill people. I know I have. Any other writer want to join me in this confession?

C. Michele Dorsey is the author of Oh Danny Girl and the Sabrina Salter series, including No Virgin Island, Permanent Sunset, Tropical Depression, and Salt Water Wounds. Her latest novel, Gone But Not Forgotten was published by Severn House 2023. Michele is a lawyer, mediator, former adjunct law professor and nurse, who didn’t know she could be a writer when she grew up. Now that she does, Michele writes constantly, whether on St John, outer Cape Cod, or anywhere within a mile of the ocean.  


  1. I try to be a crime writer without killing people… not generally successfully I might add. But I haven’t killed anybody I genuinely wanted to (in writing). For some reason, once I take someone I know and put them or parts of them into my story, I can’t kill them. I start looking into their heads and finding them relatable, even if they suck. Not sure what to do about that…

    I will totally check out your recommendation!

  2. I’ve read about murder-worthy people, but I’ve never wished anyone I actually knew dead. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that evil. Now in theory, would I have killed off Hitler in a book? Yeah.

  3. I have, though in the interest of not getting myself sued, I will not add details. Except that it seemed to me that this person was getting away with a lot of ugly behavior and that he was never going to get called to justice, (I’m starting to sound like Miss Marple.) I love Claire Keegan. Than you for writing about her.

  4. I loved this and now have more on my TBR list!
    I confess someone who wronged me got his comeuppance in one of my books, but mum’s the word…

  5. To be honest, I have no problem with that at all, although not in a real sense. However I might like to , in real life, I could never do it. But in fiction? Heck yeah. The unfortunate victim in my cozy is based on a compilation of several members of –to be honest–my adopted parent’s relatives. Really wretched people who had, shall we say, bloodline importance issues?
    Looking forward to Claire’s books–thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Despite writing murder mysteries, I try never to kill anyone in my books. I like to keep the body count as low as possible.
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. I’m fascinated by the different comments. Just goes to show not all writers think alike. And Keenan, I was happy to see your “nope.” Now Susan and I know where to turn if we get in trouble.

  8. Hi, Michelle,

    Fun to read this. My Creative Writing Class analyzed A Long and Painful Death in detail, had assignments in which we tried to match Claire Keegan’s concise, expressive paragraphs sentence for sentence, and ultimately used this story as a model for how to write a story that is inhabited by the spirit of another writer (in Keegan’s case, Chekhov). I placed my story in Wellfleet at a self-created writing retreat. Thanks for writing this! Sherry

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