published Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Mystery writer Nevada Barr says she'd like to place future novel in Chattanooga-area

Poll
Have you ever read one of Nevada Barr's novels?

Nevada Barr, author, actress and former National Park Service ranger, says she may someday write one of her Anna Pigeon mystery novels about Moccasin Bend or the Chickamauga Battlefield -- "if Jim lives long enough."

"Jim" is Jim Ogden, a locally well-known ranger and historian for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Barr, a best-selling mystery writer who "kills" characters to get support for national parks, wowed a full-house audience at a Moccasin Bend lecture Monday as she joked with her listeners that she had been taking bids on the possibility of fictionally "killing off" the park historian.

Bids were already up to $300, she said. Usually superintendents brought $500.

Barr, the award-winning writer of 17 Anna Pigeon mysteries, said she didn't begin her professional life knowing she would merge two things she most loves: being outdoors in national parks and writing.

But she has done just that, and Monday at the Tennessee Aquarium auditorium she talked about her careers and how they came together.

"I have had so much fun with this," she said.

Her 17th Anna Pigeon book is to be released in January.

In it, she said she explored the feeling of being trapped by placing Anna in a sandstone "jar" in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah.

In the book, a prequel to the Pigeon mystery series, Anna is 35.

"She's 37 in the first book," Barr said, referring to "Bittersweet," published in 1983. "I aged her along with me, but editors wanted to keep her young. They said can't you age Anna in reverse dog years?"

One questioner in the audience asked who Barr would want to see play the part of her often autobiographic character, Anna.

"You know they [movie casters] would have Pamela Anderson play her, and I'd have to kill her," she quipped to quick audience laughter.

Barr said she would prefer Dana Delany or Sandra Bullock, actresses who would be believable when they had to be assertive law enforcement officers demanding anything, even "put that raccoon down."

But Meryl Streep would be good, too, Barr said.

"She could do anything. She could even play the raccoon."

Barr left the Park Service to write full time in 1996. She is the 2011 recipient of the Robin W. Winks Award, given annually by the National Parks Conservation Association to people or organizations recognized for enhancing public understanding of the national parks.

She now lives in New Orleans, but she said she is looking to retire perhaps to Chattanooga.

"I love Chattanooga," she said.

Contact staff writer Pam Sohn at psohn@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6346.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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