Murder, mayhem, opinions, and food.

Not necessarily in that order


I did my first podcast with Julie Cooper and Wendy Kendall, the two women who host the Kendall and Cooper Talk Mysteries podcast. If you want to hear me talk about writing, mysteries, and the state of publishing as I see it today, please check it out! I'm on YouTube!.


Debris & Detritus is here! This was a stretch for me, not beig a short-story writer. I've never written for an anthology, another first. It was fun to try something new, and there are lots of other lovely writers to enjoy, so please check it out. With nothing else to go on, writers from various genres created deities that might or might not actually be Greek, might or might not be of any particular gender, might or might not be of this Earth—but they always wreak havoc in ways that range from darkly horrific to brightly comedic.


"This box set was very interesting. It took the two Greek Gods and recreated in many forms. I throughly enjoyed all the syories. Most of the authors were new to me, and I would now be interested in getting some their other works. To be able to create these mini world's and pull me into them, and each one being so different from the others, just let me say it was a fun trip. Five stars for 14 of the 15 stories."

"For the most part, these unique and interesting paranormal stories were entertaining and inspired me to do a better job thinking creatively outside the box. Some had a lot of humor, always an entertaining element. A couple were too dark for my comfort, but were worthy of inclusion in such an unusual collection."


Pen and Prejuduce is not a classic mystery, it's a pastiche of the brilliant Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice, but instead of our saucy heroine and arrogant suitor waging a verbal war in the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the nineteeth century, this novel transplants them to the present day and has them verbally sparring at various mystery conferences on the circuit. It is available as both an e-book and a trade paperback.


Pen and Prejudice* is marvelous, and it’s a shame the author had to self-publish it. Publishers should have been fighting over it: it is the gold standard for contemporary Austenesque fiction—and a delightful novel, even without the Austen hook.

It sets the familiar tale in the subculture of mystery-novel writers and publishers. I adored the view into this world as the heroine, Lizzie Mansfield, goes to book conventions, participates in a writers group, competes for writing awards, and struggles to compose her second novel. As the previously published author of two mysteries, Claire M. Johnson knows this world, and she portrays it believably. Almost all of the original characters appear in one form or another, their personalities intact; the changes in their relationships and circumstances are amply justified by the requirements of the plot. For instance, because Lizzie is a divorced mother of two in her forties, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet hardly need to be her parents; instead they have taken on the pseudo-parental role of her publishers. Darcy—here called William Pemberley, whyever not?—is the proprietor of another, and superior, publishing house, a role that gives him more power in her life than Lizzie would like.

The first-person voice of the protagonist-narrator and the voices of the other characters are vivid and natural. I loved the e-mail exchanges, and the blogs in which the main characters can hint at their motivations or accidentally reveal them. I adored the humor—especially Mac the stuffed dog, both his ridiculousness and the kindness with which his function is understood


Roux Morgue is the second in the Mary Ryan, Pastry Chef, series. Trying to put the events of the last few months behind her, she's landed a teaching job at her old alma mater. But she’s barely in the door when she realizes that the teaching staff are at loggerheads with each other. Adding to her dismay, ex-lover and Homicide Detective O’Connor has enrolled as a student, claiming to be on disability from the San Francisco Police Department.


"Food Channel addicts will enjoy the inside details on cooling school politics, while fans of quirky mysteries will like the outrageous adult behavior on display." --Library Journal

"...highly amusing action in Johnson's superior second cosy to feature funky pastry chef Mary Ryan... This enjoyable romp should gain Johnson new fans." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Sexual tension, cooking tips, and a neatly package mystery. All in all, a tasty tale." --Kirkus Reviews


Beat Until Stiff debuts the protagonist Mary Ryan, a pastry chef at American Fare, San Francisco's hottest restaurant. At work very early one morning, she steps on a laundry bag stuffed with the dead body of one of her employees. The investigation soon exposes all the dirty secrets that the food business would like to keep secret: the philandering chefs, the silly whims of the dining public, the hiring of illegal aliens, and the subsistence-living pay scale. Events begin to spiral that, in time, take out the restaurant’s celebrity chef and force Mary to use her unique skills to uncover a poisonous scheme.


"Mary Ryan, feisty pastry chef at American Fare, a trendy San Francisco restaurant, finds murder on the menu in Johnson's delicious debut, which mixes an unglamorized, behind-the-scenes view of the upscale restaurant trade with a plot replete with well-timed shocks... The restaurant business--its food, financing and philosophy--is here in all its complexity for discriminating mystery palates." --Publishers Weekly

"Claire M. Johnson's Beat Until Stiff deserves enthusiastic mention as a very special title which offers an unusually frank view of the cooking and restaurant scene in San Francisco. Herself a professional and experience pastry chef, Claire Johnson presents the reader with a lively style that mixes autobiography with culinary and social insights. Highly recommended!" --Midwest Book Review

"Willy-nilly, Johnson takes you there in a fast and furious place, often reminiscent of the theatrical ditto, complete with Hamelts and Greek choruses and magicians who don't get it right. not only is this a treat, I read it through twice to make sure it was as good as I thought." --The Courier-Gazette



Claire M. Johnson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in history. Upon applying to graduate school for a PhD in history, she received a letter congratulating her upon being accepted, and, by the way, academic positions were thin on the ground, as in none. Switching gears, she indulged in a lifelong passion for making and eating desserts. After completing the professional chef program at San Francisco's California Culinary Academy in 1983, she worked as a pastry chef for eight years during the height of the food revolution. The passion and frenzied pace characterizing the food scene in the 1980s are well documented in Ms. Johnson's first novel, Beat Until Stiff, for which she won the 1999 Domestic Writers Grant. This book was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel and was a Booksense pick. The second novel in this series, Roux Morgue, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.


Debris and Detritus (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Pen and Prejudice (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Roux Morgue (available in hard cover, trade paperback, and ebook formats)

Beat Until Stiff (available in trade paperback and ebook formats)

Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery Writers of America

Sisters in Crime Northern California Chapter

Independent American Booksellers Association