Confronting privilege, Christmas collides with mystery

Who’s your favorite Texas mystery sleuth and/or author? Write Judy at, and she’ll see what she can dig up on that sleuth or author.


Dallas resident Vicki Batman, who describes herself as a sassy writer of funny fiction, has a new holiday title: Sommerville holidays too: Three delightful, cute-meet holiday tales.


Romance triumphs in the three novellas: The Great Fruitcake Bake-off teams five-time baking-champion Samantha Greene with new neighbor, Dixon Roberts, for the bake-off, but baking a prize-winning entry proves complicated, bad guys plot to take the crown, and first prize isn't just about a ribbon. Christmas Romeo brings two feuding co-workers together on a Christmas river cruise where they each discover the other isn’t so bad after all. And in Twinkle Lights, a do-gooder and a reformed high school delinquent-turned-lawyer unite to staff a Christmas tree stand after the owner suffers a heart attack. There’s mystery when money goes missing and romance when the two begin to fall for each other.


This collection follows Sommerville days: three cute-meet, romantic comedy tales. Vicki, known for her humorous magazine articles and essays, is also the author of two entries in the Hattie Cooks Mysteries: Temporarily Employed and Temporarily Insane. Her most current creative fiction piece, “Geography Lessons,” is in the winter 2021 issue of the quarterly Catamaran Literary Reader.


She describes herself as an avid Jazzerciser, handbag lover, Mahjong player, yoga practitioner, movie fan, book devourer, cat fancier, Best Mom ever who adores Handsome Hubby.


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Glen Rose resident Sandra Reed draws on her Mississippi background in her debut novel, The Price of Privilege. These powerful lines from the book illustrate:


“It wasn’t the trucks themselves that did it. The parade of them, in tandem. The gears crunching and groaning. One after another, rolling in jerks and stalls. Chassis straining against the weight of homegrown boys and men—hunched in olive and camouflage, armed and outfitted. It was the feeling they evoked in me.


Three boys missing in Philadelphia, Mississippi, twenty-five miles down the road where the trucks were headed. Would today be the day they found them?


Cheerleader practice could not hold my full attention. Was anybody else asking the same questions I was:  could it have happened here, in Plattstown? No. Not in this town. Only over there. I wanted all my girlfriends to agree that nobody we knew could possibly have attacked those boys. We were better.”  


Reed has said that growing up in the Jim Crow South, in a place much like her fictional Plattstown, she asked the questions protagonist Malee asks in the novel. Like Malee, she tried to ignore the controversies of the day and live as a “normal” teenager. Malee has an early lesson with privilege when her friendship with the Black housekeeper’s daughter is curtailed due to the demands of segregation.


The novel takes Malee from the awakening provoked by the murder of the three boys to a lifelong journey leading to the realization that privilege, be it White or male, exacts a price from both Blacks and Whites and from men as well as women. As an editor in a New York publishing house, Malee encounters Yankee-style racial prejudice that ironically collides with the sexual bias she faces in the male-dominated world of publishing. Malee’s experience, Reed points out, echoes the privilege and prejudice she met in the eighties as a female lawyer.


Born in Louisville, Mississippi, Reed has an undergraduate degree in drama and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. Her husband, Bob Reed, is the author of The Red Winged-Blackbird, a novel about the Ludlow Massacre and the Colorado Coalfield War. It is the first volume in a projected trilogy.


Judy Alter, former director of TCU Press, is the prolific author of books, both historical and mysterious, mostly about Texas women. Her most recent book, Saving Irene, was published in September. Follow Judy at