The pink stripes in Esri Allbritten’s hair are the first hint that she’s a bit of a character. “I did it for a Halloween costume in 2009 and decided to keep it.” Allbritten also wears a custom ring that’s engraved with the words, Pull my finger. The inscription inside the ring reads Pfft. “If I can make people laugh, I’m happy.” This might explain the title of her first mystery novel, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, which will come out in hardcover from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books on July 5.
While some authors find their vocation early and hunker down to make a career for themselves, many follow a dilettante’s path, going from job to job until they realize they want to write. “I’ve had my own skin-care and waxing business, and have probably seen more women’s privates than Hugh Hefner,” Allbritten says. “I’ve worked at the National Potato Promotion Board, an oil refinery in Commerce City, and a fiberoptic start-up that was raided by U.S. Marshals. I’ve been knocked out by a handball while cleaning a health club, and I honed my capering skills in the turkey mascot suit of the American Homebrewers Association. It was hot inside that suit, and smelled of beer.” This recitation skips what Allbritten calls “the boring parts.” Fresh out of college, she made her living as an advertising copywriter for radio and TV, and was later the associate editor of Zymurgy, a magazine for homebrewers. She also edited several beer-themed books.
What is it she loves about writing? “I think it’s the terrible pay and lack of control,” Allbritten jokes. “No, really it’s the chance to live vicariously through my characters. There isn’t time during one life to be all the things I want to be, but there might be time to research and write about them. Of course, sometimes it’s easier to slap on a long blond wig.” That’s a reference to her folk-singing alter ego, Jenny Blossom, who can be seen on YouTube, warbling tongue-in-cheek songs designed to promote Allbritten’s work.
Chihuahua of the Baskervilles follows the staff of a travel magazine that covers paranormal destinations, but a la Scooby Doo, there’s always a crime instead of a supernatural scoop. “I used to read Tarot cards and wear a robe under the full moon,” Allbritten says, “but that was a lifetime ago.”