Judge-turned mystery writer Debra Goldstein’s debut novel, Maze in Blue

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

Debra-Goldstein

Darlene Negrotto, author Debra Goldstein, Cheryl Williams and publisher Joyce Norman. Photo courtesy of Ruwena Healy.

Debra Goldstein has always invested in the community, serving the public as a judge and volunteering with various organizations, so it’s no surprise that her debut novel, Maze in Blue, is intrinsically tied to people in Birmingham as well. For ten years leading up to its publication, her friends read, praised and critiqued the mystery novel set at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. Most of her writing came while staying at the beach condo her friend Judy Todd lent her.

“I’m having so much fun with the book, and doing some good with it,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein, who has lived in Birmingham since 1978 and in Caldwell Crossings since 2004, has donated book profits for tornado relief efforts and to Breast Cancer Research Foundation during select dates.

September sales from her book will benefit YWCA’s domestic violence programs in conjunction with the women’s service club Zonta. A portion of the proceeds of all copies of Maze in Blue sold from September 18 to October 2 from Little Professor Book Center or from Amazon (book or Kindle version) will be donated to the YWCA.

Maze in Blue debuted with a soft opening in May at Temple Emanu-El’s Oy Vey Cafe, where Goldstein is actively involved. Soon afterward, Goldstein had her first book signing at Little Professor and since then has talked to book clubs around Birmingham.

The book met its sales goal for the year after two months. Goldstein’s daughter, Jennifer, thought it was fun to read on the Metro on her commute in Washington, DC, and Emmy Rickets at Little Professor said she read it on the treadmill.

Uniquely set on a college campus, details of Goldstein’s characters’ lives allow anyone to reminisce about their college years. She incorporated elements of her own stories from college—her dorm, her sorority and a few pranks she pulled. “None of the murders are true though,” she said.

Goldstein has always been a writer, writing children’s theatre as a child, working as an editorial assistant in New York City after college and writing legal articles. She has also been an avid reader of mysteries, what she says was a break from the seriousness of her day job, and writing her own mystery novel was a dream.
That dream became a reality thanks to the encouragement of friends. “If you are going to do it, do it,” a friend told her.

In 2000, Goldstein went to Todd’s beach condo for a long weekend and came home with 85 written pages.

“About five of those ended up in the book,” she said, but it was a start.
By 2001 the book was ready to show to her friends, who critiqued it. “Critiquing me is the best thing they could have done,” she said.

In 2008, author and friend Teresa Thorne, who wrote Noah’s Wife, invited her to the Alabama Writers’ Conference in Auburn, which inspired her to continue writing. Then, through a meeting at the Women’s Network, Joyce Norman of Chalet Publishers got a copy of Goldstein’s manuscript and offered her a contract for two books.

Now that the book is becoming well established in Birmingham, Goldstein is spreading the word to University of Michigan connections, where many people will no doubt identify with campus traditions like the Mud Bowl and the layout of buildings.

She’s planning for her next novel to be a murder mystery set at the Biltmore/Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. “I’m sure one will end up in law school if the series takes off,” she said.

Maze in Blue is currently available locally at Barnes and Noble, Jim Reed Bookstore, The Alabama BookSmith, Little Professor Book Center and The Book Seller at St. Vincent’s as well as online on Amazon. For more information on Goldstein’s work, visit debrahgoldstein.com.

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