What happens when you combine a degree in psychology, a career as a professor of social work and a lifetime love of mystery stories that feature tough female protagonists? In the case of West Palm Beach writer Miriam Auerbach, you get an award-winning series of satirical mystery novels starring a Boca Babe turned Biker Babe named Harriet Horowitz.
Auerbach (pen name for Miriam Potocky) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the United States when she was seven. She grew up in Colorado and relocated to Boca Raton 20 years ago to take a position on the faculty of Florida International University in Miami where she still works as a professor of social work. Though she was always an avid mystery reader, she never considered writing until she had an unexpected encounter with Dirty Harry.
“One day, I was feeling depressed,” Auerbach recalls. “I took to bed with a box of chocolates and turned on the TV. A Dirty Harry marathon was playing, and I decided to watch. While I never really got the character, I began to see him as the strong, silent archetype of the male hero, and I thought that what the world needed was a female Dirty Harry.” In 2006, Auerbach’s debut novel, Dirty Harriet, hit bookstores, introducing readers to Harriet Horowitz, a character Auerbach describes as “a man in a woman’s body.” The story centers around Harriet’s investigation into the death of a migrant worker whose body was found in a tomato field. The plot also gave Auerbach a vehicle to explore the issues of human trafficking and migrant rights. Even though the novel was written as a mystery, it won the Best First Series Romance award from RT Book Reviews.
Dirty Harriet was followed in 2007 by a sequel, Dirty Harriet Rides Again, which finds Harriet serving as “Best Human” at the wedding of two same-sex friends. When three clergymen become murder victims, Harriet goes on a search for the killer. The third book in the series, Dead in Boca, has Harriet investigating the death of a wealthy developer bulldozed at his construction site. In the latest installment in the Dirty Harriet’s saga, Boca Undercover, Harriet goes undercover to find out who is murdering patients at a posh rehab center. Auerbach got the idea for the story when she was doing consultant work in a residential substance abuse facility. “The facility wasn’t anything like the one in the book,” she admits, but the story allowed her to address the issue of addiction.
Auerbach describes her Dirty Harriet series as satirical mysteries which she hopes will make the reader laugh but will serve a serious purpose as well. “My books give an over-the-top look at life in Boca that can easily translate to other wealthy areas in Florida,” she says. “But they also address some serious social issues and look at how they play out in affluent communities where there’s a dark side to the bright, beautiful façade. I like to take topical issues and extrapolate them to their extremes. This often leads me to outlandish places.”
The fifth Dirty Harriet book, tentatively titled Boca Blast-Off, is in its plotting stage. The story will involve the death of a rocket scientist and the building of a private rocket port in the Everglades. Auerbach hopes readers will come away from her books feeling that “the world isn’t perfect, but there’s a little bit each of us can do to make it a more fair and just place.”
For more information, visit the author’s website at www.miriamauerbach.com.