Murder, mayhem, opinions, and food.

Not necessarily in that order


August 22-25, 2019, Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference. Join this amazing craft conference that covers the writing life from outline to publishing. And now, Book Passage is offering MWA NorCal members a $75 discount on registration. This year's program and sign-up informaton is HERE for the 2019 conference. Call Kathryn at 415.927.0960 x239 in order to obtain your discount.

Noir at the Bar during Litquake: Litquake is a 501(c)3 nonprofit registered in the state of California that was created to spark critical conversations, and inspire writers and readers to celebrate the written word with diverse literary programming,  ​interactive workshops, and a ten-day festival held in San Francisco every fall. MWA is a proud sponsor of Litquake. This year's Litquake is celebrating its 20th Anniversary hosting a ton of events, running from October 10-19, 2019. MWA will be participating in what is known as Lit Crawl, where local mystery authors will be on stage reading selections from their work, traditional to gritty. Noir at the Bar will be held this year on October 19 from 6:30-7:30 pm. I'm participating this year. Go me! See you there!

October 19-26, 2019 Mystery Week

In addition to Noir at the Bar, across the chapter area, there will be a week of panels, readings, and more. Check out your local library for more information:


August 2019

My very talented sister, Valerie Mighetto, has just finished the cover to my new Jane Austen-based novel, Resolution, is a modern retelling of Persuasion, As soon as I wrangle it into publishable form, I'll give a holler.

May 2019

I have finished writing two books this year:

I have written a second Jane Austen pastiche that is all wrapped up and ready to amuse. I've handed over the book to my sister to whip up a cover, and then we are ready to roll. This book is titled, Resolution and is a modern retelling of Persuasion, the most melancholy and pensive of all Jane Austen's novels. I hope I do it some justice.

The second book I have begun shopping around is a first-person historical novel of Pauline Pffeifer, Ernest Heminway's second wife. This is told as if she's being interviewed (think Interview with a Vampire). I love this book, and I am valiantly try to find a home for it. It's titled: For Thee.

I've also started to participate again in authorly-type stuff. I've signed up to be the Treasurer of the Norcal Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. It's a wonderful group of people, and I'm happy to be back in the "fold." So much of my spare time in the last few years was spent with my mother, making sure her needs were met. Now that she's passed, I can once again dive into the writing world with a vengence. In addition to trying to sell my "Pauline" book, I've started what everyone tells me is a YA thriller. Okay. Whatevs, as they say. But I'm have a good time with it, and that's half the battle.


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!.



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.


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

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

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


Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery Writers of America

Sisters in Crime Northern California Chapter

Independent American Booksellers Association