Introducing to my own little corner of deviantART: The Calico McNeil girl detective stories!
These tales are set during the late 1960's in Philadelphia and particularly focus on the years 1968 and 1969 from that tumultuous decade in American history. I chose this era due to my knowledge of it and because doing so afforded the opportunity to utilize certain storylines and elements unique to that period of time. As I'm aware there may be readers not hailing from the United States, I try to keep references and colloquialisms considered purely American to a minimum. Some of my main characters are international, such as the British and Australian exchange students, a teacher from Ireland, and Calico's classmate from South Vietnam. If it appears I have a soft spot for these countries, as well as the city of Philadelphia, then you are correct.
That said, here is a small synopsis of just a few of those you'll meet:
Jennifer Alison McNeil: Nicknamed Calico, she's your typical American 1960's teenager. Although taller than the average 16-year old high school girl, this added height allows her to excel in athletics. Due to the youngster's love of cats, an aunt bestowed the nickname of Calico and just about everyone (except her parents!) calls Jennifer by that endearing moniker. She comes from a family that has its roots in upper echelon Philadelphia Main Line society and attends the all-girl Bishop Kellenberg Catholic High School, more popularly known as BKCHS, where most of the other students are also from similar privileged backgrounds. However, there is nothing snobbish or conceited about Jennifer; she's a down-to-earth young woman who also suffers the same trials and tribulations inherent with being a teenager that everyone else her age does. You know the drill: Getting good grades in school, boyfriend problems, peer pressure, not being understood by her parents, etc. All in all, Calico McNeil is a delightful young woman and highly intuitive amateur detective as well.
Bridgett Hyde-White: An exchange student from England. As typically American as Calico is, Bridgett is just as typically British in her demeanor and curiosity. She is above average in height with an impish look on her face that makes a person seeing her suspect she has a bit of the devil in her. Her pageboy English hairstyle set off a wave of imitators throughout BKCHS, a fact she is justly proud of. Although Bridgett's IQ is so high it resides somewhere in the stratosphere, she likes nothing better then a good movie (think Sean Connery and James Bond here), a good book (she leans towards the classics, but is just as comfortable with a trashy Jacqueline Suzann novel as she is reading anything by Charles Dickens) and of course a good mystery. She will definitely participate in some real adventures due to her friendship with Calico McNeil, sometimes taking more of an active part then she would care to.
Evonne Lassiter: The "Land Down Under" look-alike of 1960's American TV show star Patty Duke…for those that still remember Miss Duke! Her idol is fellow Australian and 1960's tennis champion Evonne Goolagong, with the teenager insisting both of them having the same first name proved to be an act of divine providence. She is fun, witty and definitely an asset to the student exchange program. Evonne, like Bridgett, also displays an innate curiosity that gets her into the proverbial hot water at times forcing Calico McNeil to extract she and Bridgett out of whatever peril they have managed to get themselves into. This of course often leads to trouble for all three girls but after all: What are friends for?
Cody: Yes, just Cody. He has a first name, but no one that values his or her life calls him by it. He's the supervisor of Cody's Commandos, the maintenance staff at BKCHS. Jennifer and he are close friends, each of them having been deeply affected by the tragic death of Cody's daughter in 1967. He admits to being over-protective of Calico for that reason, but it also will prove to be a blessing the times she and her friends get themselves into a mess. Of course, messes will be happen frequently as you can imagine.
Joshua Mitchell: Calico's would-be boyfriend, at least until the next time he screws up. The dude does so on a regular basis like clockwork by the way. Romeo and Juliet were happy campers compared to Calico and Josh. If it's true that sparks fly upward, then cover your eyes when these two are together.
Bui Giang: Daughter of the South Vietnamese Consul-General in Philadelphia and also a student at BKCHS. Giang plays a role in Calico's detective cases as do some of her fellow classmates.
Sean and Michelle McNeil: Jennifer's mother and father. If there were parents that could be deemed as cool in the late 1960's, Sean and Michelle fit that coolness bill to perfection.
Elise and Timothy McNeil: Brother and sister of Calico. They would have been more appropriately named Heckle and Jekyll after the mischievous cartoon characters of the same name.
Uncle Declan Aloysius McNeil: Sean McNeil's brother and Calico's uncle, his fondness for imbibing alcoholic spirits on a regular basis is second only to his ability at telling tales taller than Mount Everest.
Fiona O'Hara: One of the many lay teachers at Bishop Kellenberg, which simply means she isn't a nun. The O'Hara name is fitting as she has a remarkable resemblance to other Irish lass, film star Maureen O'Hara. Fiona is loved by the students for her Gaelic wit (she hails from Dublin but has been teaching in Philadelphia for a couple of years), the ability to listen to their problems and to give constructive advice without being judgmental. Of course it also helps that she herself is only a few years removed from the students in age and that she went to Catholic school for many years in Ireland. Teaching is her first love, but she's engaged to be married soon to a nice fellow that has been dating her numerous years and Fiona is undecided whether to continue teaching after marriage. She is also not immune to being drawn into Calico McNeil's sleuthing career.
Sister Miriam Delores: Principal of Bishop Kellenberg, who has the personality of a U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor and the looks and bearing to match. She is a commanding presence in the school, although most of the students see only the side of her that strikes fear into their hearts when they have committed some type of infraction and end up sitting in the principal's office. The good Sister rarely allows the gentler angels of her nature to be shown. Despite a stern manner, she loves the students like members of her own family. She and her fellow nuns unwittingly get dragged into a few of the mysteries amateur detective Calico is involved in, usually much to their regret. Being a nun doesn't exclude you from being placed in danger, as Sister Miriam Delores can attest to firsthand thanks to Jennifer McNeil and her friends.
Detectives Philip Franken and Michael Daltrey: Members of the Philadelphia Police Department, their usual interaction with Calico McNeil normally takes place when she and her friends are in dire straits. Of course, that's quite often.
Bud Harrelson: Reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, Bud proves to be a valuable source of information for Calico when she hits a dead end during an investigation.
Janet Mulligan: Gym teacher who also coaches the BKCHS basketball team. She bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1940's comedic actress Jane Withers and can be just as funny as the real Miss Withers at times as well.
Gertie Goldsboro: Administrative assistant to Sister Miriam Delores, she has been at BKCHS almost as long as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia has been cracked. Just in case you didn't know it, that's a long, long time.
Rafer Matheson: One of Cody's Commandos, he is built like a brick wall and sometimes just as immovable as one. His faithfulness and good nature far outweigh his minor faults, so he's a very handy guy to have around in a pinch.
Willie Lyndhurst: Newest member of Cody's Commandos, the native New Yorker gives increased meaning to the definition of being guileless. He is a carbon copy of Rafer when it comes to exhibiting loyalty and an even disposition.
Those are just a few of the recurring characters you'll read about, and this primer will be updated as necessary in the future. You can probably also tell I will be injecting a bit of humor into Calico's adventures.
So relax and take a journey back to the 1960's with Calico McNeil and the rest of her gang!