IF YOU GO
• Who: Nevada Barr, author of Anna Pigeon mysteries
• What: Moccasin Bend Lecture Series
• When: 7 p.m. Monday
• Where: Tennessee Aquarium auditorium, 1 Broad St., Chattanooga
• Cost: Free
A mystery writer who kills to get support for national parks is the next speaker for the final talk of this year's Moccasin Bend Lecture Series.
Nevada Barr, the award-winning writer of 17 Anna Pigeon mysteries, said she began her professional life knowing she would merge two thing she most loves: being outdoors in national parks and writing.
The author, actress and former National Park Service ranger has done just that, and Monday she will talk about her career and how she uses her books to bring attention to parks.
"My goal is to have people go to the parks with me and fall in love with them," Barr said last week. "We protect what we love. And we give money to what we love."
Although she has, in fiction, "killed more people in natural parks than have been killed in parks altogether by all causes," Park Service officials and workers have been very supportive, she said.
Shelley Andrews, executive director of the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park, calls the Anna Pigeon mysteries "great reads." The Friends group sponsors the lecture series with financial backing from Chattanooga businessman Greg Vital.
"It's kind of funny to hear Park Service employees talk about her. I think they sometimes feel like she gives away the 'secrets' of the agency," Andrews said.
Barr, a New York Times best-selling author, learned to love the outdoors as a child living on an airstrip in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, where her parents were pilots and airplane mechanics.
"When I was growing up, your parents didn't tell you to go play, they told you to go out and play," she said.
She went to college to study art and architecture, "but then I found out you could get a degree in acting," she said.
For 18 years she worked on stage, in commercials and industrial training films. As she became interested in the environmental movement, she began working in the national parks during the summers, often as a storyteller.
That's where the Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist and crime solver, was born.
Barr's first novel, "Bittersweet," was published in 1983. She left the Park Service to write full-time in 1996. Now 16 Anna Pigeon national park mysteries have been published and the next, "The Rope," is to be released in January.
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.