As I write this, Season 14 of Dancing with the Stars has just wrapped up, and Donald Driver and his professional partner Peta Murgatroyd are the winners. The national fascination with DWTS, and my own enjoyment of the show, were instrumental in my coming up with the idea for my Ballroom Dancing mystery series, the second of which, DEAD MAN WALTZING, came out on 5 June (Obsidian). Who would have thought that a show based around a sport that only a small percentage of Americans participate in would become such a part of our popular culture? All the singing shows make some sense, since most of us sing (at least in the shower or when our favorite song comes on the radio), but few of us tango and samba. Where’s the point of connection for the millions in the viewing audience?
I think maybe it’s a twist on the Cinderella tale. We like tales of transformation, of people transcending their limitations to achieve, if not great things, then new things. We like to watch others challenge themselves, fail, then triumph. And, yes, it helps if the people we’re watching are blond and beautiful or wear Green Bay Packers uniforms for their “day” jobs. It comforts us to see that even “stars” blessed with beauty and athletic ability struggle with samba rolls, waltz turns, and lifts. We can put ourselves in their places, and imagine that after a few weeks with a professional partner we, too, would be twirling gracefully around the ballroom, rhinestoned gown sweeping around us. Like in the fairytale, DWTS contestants have fairy godmothers (wardrobe and make-up experts) who strip away their rags and dress them in ballgowns and upswept hair, no mice, rats, or pumpkins required.
In my Ballroom Dancing mysteries, Anastasia “Stacy” Graysin, appreciates the transformation and frankly enjoys it. A professional dance and studio owner, she likes the bling and the dresses and the make-up, the glamour of the ballroom world (so you can count on reading about all of that!). But, she’s also an athlete at heart, a competitor who wants to win, and she takes that same attitude into the murder investigations she gets mixed up with. In DEAD MAN WALTZING, an instructor at Stacy’s dance studio, Maurice, becomes the prime suspect in a murder and Stacy must dig into the pasts of prominent dancers to find the real murderer. She’s not about to let a killer dance away scot-free. Her determination serves her well both on and off the dance floor.
Since we’re chatting about ballroom dance TV shows, I’ll give you a hint that the third book in my series, THE HOMICIDE HUSTLE (which will be out next April), revolves around a show not too unlike DWTS called Ballroom with the B-Listers. Expect lots of laughs, a murder or two, and a competition hotter than any Stacy has been involved in before.
If you’re a DWTS fan, who would you like to see on the show next season? I’d love to see Michael Caine or Dick Van Dyke as the show’s token “geriatric” competitor. Leave a comment and be eligible to win a copy of DEAD MAN WALTZING!