November 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Writing - Cameroon: Evil: Waterbury Republican American: Cameroon RPCV Mary-Ann Tirone Smith writes books about evil. About evil people. Horrific events. About people who do the unspeakable and then have the temerity to speak about it.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cameroon: Peace Corps Cameroon: The Peace Corps in Cameroon: November 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Writing - Cameroon: Evil: Waterbury Republican American: Cameroon RPCV Mary-Ann Tirone Smith writes books about evil. About evil people. Horrific events. About people who do the unspeakable and then have the temerity to speak about it.

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 11:37 am: Edit Post

Cameroon RPCV Mary-Ann Tirone Smith writes books about evil. About evil people. Horrific events. About people who do the unspeakable and then have the temerity to speak about it.

Cameroon RPCV Mary-Ann Tirone Smith writes books about evil. About evil people. Horrific events. About people who do the unspeakable and then have the temerity to speak about it.

Cameroon RPCV Mary-Ann Tirone Smith writes books about evil. About evil people. Horrific events. About people who do the unspeakable and then have the temerity to speak about it.

The great mystery

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Written by Tracey O'Shaughnessy

Copyright © 2004 Republican-American

3 images total

The face appeared unbidden. It was just as it had been before the indignities. The brown eyes. The Loretta Young cheeks. The fleshy, trusting mouth. Like all apparitions, this one was as revelatory as it was shattering.

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith hadn't thought about her 11-year-old classmate, Irene Fiederowicz, a timid, tall girl found strangled to death in Smith's Charter Oak neighborhood in 1953, in decades. But, suddenly, as the East Haven author was working on a coming-of-age essay, her playmate's face flashed before her.

"I'm in the fifth grade when, in this idyllic little neighborhood, my classmate was snatched off the street, raped and strangled to death and they found her three yards from my house," she says. "I'd never resolved that here's this incredible crime that turned my life inside out and turned my neighborhood inside out. When you're 9 and realize that not only are you not safe, but someone could come and do something horrible to you, your life has changed."

Smith, a writer of mysteries and crime fiction who will speak at the Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury tomorrow night from 7 to 9 p.m., strokes her strong jaw. She looks out her abundant windows to the craggy, placid East Haven beach, as a fine mist settles over the seaweed-blackened rocks. Short and slender, with creamy brown eyes and a short, saffron page-boy haircut, she bears a striking resemblance to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She shakes her head. Irene Fiederowicz may not be the definitive answer to why she writes what she does, or the way she does. But it is, as her heroine, FBI Agent Poppy Rice would say, a clue. And a good one.

"Irene went missing," Smith recalls. "Her body was found the next day. People (at school) are saying something happened. Something is amiss. You can tell something is amiss because the teacher is out of position. Everything is totally somber. And she says, 'We will not speak of Irene.'" Smith pronounces each word slowly and emphatically. We. Will. Not. Speak. Of. Irene. "Then she got the janitor and we took Irene's desk out of the room and did not speak."

"So I rushed home. My mother worked -- I was the first latchkey kid in the country -- and I knew (the story) would be in the Hartford Times. And I read this big headline "Hartford Girl Strangled." I could hear my father's car flying into the driveway. He comes running into the house and I look at him and I say, 'What's rape?'

"My father ripped the newspaper from my hands and told me to go to my room."

And that, as they say, was the end of Irene.

But not of Mary-Ann Tirone Smith's curiosity.

Tirone Smith writes books about evil. About evil people. Horrific events. About people who do the unspeakable and then have the temerity to speak about it. Under duress, of course. Her last three novels have been mysteries featuring an intrepid, irreverent FBI Agent named Poppy Rice. Rice is everything Smith isn't: tall, lean, sharp-tongued, mildly Machiavellian. But Rice and Smith share an interest in the macabre, in the crazed, in understanding the irrational that masks itself benignly as normal.

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith grew up in what she herself would admit were ostensibly idyllic environs. Everything she needed -- the church, the school, the branch library, the 5 & 10, the drugstore, the little grocery store and the tavern -- was in one cozy, compact square mile. It should have been idyllic. It wasn't. Smith's brother was autistic, an idiot savant who was erroneously diagnosed as mentally retarded. Rainman, Smith says. He was Rainman. Obsessed with World War II ships and aircraft. Left a library of 2,000 books on the subject when he finally died in 1999 at 61. "I was truly raised in a looney bin and my salvation was the branch library," Smith says.

"In my house you couldn't laugh," says Smith, whose cozy, immaculate condominium reaches out over the rocks on East Haven's Town Beach. As an autistic, her brother, Tyler, had an aversion to noise. "You had to flush the toilet only when my brother was sleeping. We had to run out of the house if we needed to sneeze." No one in the family could wear red, a color that would set Tyler off into twitching, shrieking pantomimes. "I once taunted my brother. I said, 'What happens if I wear this red sweater?' And he said, 'If I see that color, a cloud of pins with little hooks on the end comes into my face and I can't get them out.'"

As a retreat, Smith had the library and a bookstore called Witkowers. It was run by a guy named Izzy Epstein, an indulgent, avuncular sort who later hosted Smith's first book party. "Every Saturday my father used to drop me off there and he'd go outside and see his bookie or whatever, and I'd stay in there with Mr. Epstein. I got it into my head that I was going to write a book."

Tirone-Smith has now written eight books, all of them with a tinge of crime, embellished with social issues. She's been on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. People Magazine designated two of her books, "An American Killing" and "Love Her Madly,"page-turners of the week. If not for the flash of insight that brought her playmate's memory back, she might have assumed that her books all came out of her social-justice Catholicism, her Democratic activism, her old Peace-Corps belief that all any of us need is a hand up and a push forward.

Or it might have come from her obsession to explain the inexplicable.

"I don't believe in the evil seed," says Smith, sitting in a rocking chair in her nautical-inspired library. "I think we're born good and there isn't any question that people who are sadistic are so often brain-damaged because of the abuse they took as children. This happens over and over. This heinous behavior you see people do... Some people have been bat in the heads so much."

Smith has lived all of her life in Connecticut, outside of the two years she spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. There, she helped set up a library. When she returned to the U.S., she began working at the Stamford Library until she took a job as a kindergarten teacher in the Norwalk public schools for three years until her two children were born. As soon as her son was in nursery school, she began dropping him off at school and going to the library to write. She published her first book, "The Book of Phoebe," in 1985. Since then, she has released a slew of novels and essays, including her latest, "She Smiled Sweetly," the third in her Poppy Rice series. She's lived in East Haven for four years, after spending 30 in Ridgefield.

While she might be able to trace her own fascination with the pursuit of justice, she's less clear about the allure of the mystery and thriller genres.

"A lot of this replaces public hangings, which were highly attended," she says. "It probably is a fascination with death. I think people are fascinated with a murder. How could you not be fascinated?"

"If you understand something and are willing to face the truth, maybe there is something you can do. Maybe this can be fixed. A person who becomes evil can manipulate people into doing heinous things. I'm thinking of Columbine....Hate is satisfying to so many people. They seem to like being hateful and miserable."

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes
Take our new poll. NPCA members begin voting this week on bylaw changes to streamline NPCA's Board of Directors. NPCA Chair Ken Hill, the President's Forum and other RPCVs endorse the changes. Mail in your ballot or vote online (after Dec 1), then see on how RPCVs are voting.

November 27, 2004: This Week's Top Stories November 27, 2004: This Week's Top Stories
RPCV reaches out after Soccer attack 27 Nov
Tony Hall serves cold rice to embassy guests 27 Nov
Hope calms injured volunteer's family 26 Nov
Journalist Russell Carollo plans book on Peace Corps 25 Nov
Moyers says next 4 years will be golden age for reporters 24 Nov
RPCV is new president of the Hawaii bar association 23 Nov
Mark Gearan confirmed by Senate for CNS Board 23 Nov
Chris Shays fits in the other Republican Party 22 Nov
DC job a possibility for McPherson 22 Nov
Sentence reduced for man who raped PCV in Vanuatu 21 Nov
Frist criticizes provision in Omnibus Spending Bill 21 Nov
Peace Corps to be funded at $320 million 19 Nov
more top stories...

Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
Your vote makes a difference Your vote makes a difference
Make a difference on November 2 - Vote. Then take our RPCV exit poll. See how RPCV's are voting and take a look at the RPCV voter demographic. Finally leave a message on why you voted for John Kerry or for George Bush. Previous poll results here.
Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers
The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.
Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Waterbury Republican American

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cameroon; Writing - Cameroon; Evil



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.