Born and bred in North Carolina where the piedmont meets the sandhills, I grew up on a modest two-mule tobacco farm that has been in the family for over a hundred years. Tobacco is no longer grown on the farm, but the memories linger — the singing, the laughter, the gossip that went on at the bench as those rank green leaves came from the field, the bliss of an icy cold drink bottle pressed to a hot sweaty face, getting up at dawn to help “take out” a barn, the sweet smell of soft golden leaves as they’re being readied for auction. Working in tobacco is one of those life experiences I’m glad to have had. I’m even gladder that it’s something I’ll never have to do again.

After high school came two years of college before a summer job at the Pentagon led to marriage, a tour of duty in Italy while my husband was in the Navy, then several years in his native Brooklyn. I had always loved writing and for the first few years, wrote nothing but short stories and very bad poetry. (The legendary Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s Press once said of the silly verses I write to celebrate various friends “It's doggerel, Margaret. But inspired doggerel.” I was immensely flattered.)

Eventually, I backed into writing novels about NYPD Lt. Sigrid Harald, mysteries set against the New York City art world. Living there let me see how the city is a collection of villages, each with its own vitality and distinct ambiance, vibrant and ever-changing. But once I had settled back into North Carolina, love of my native state and a desire to write out of current experiences led to the creation of District Court Judge Deborah Knott, the opinionated daughter of a crusty old ex-bootlegger and youngest sibling of eleven older brothers. (I was one of only three, so no, I’m not writing about my own family.)

We’ve been back on a corner of the family land for many years now. My city-born husband discovered he prefers goldfinches, rabbits, and the occasional quiet deer to yellow cabs, concrete, and a city that never sleeps. A son, a daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters are icing on our cake.

Why mysteries? Quite honestly, when I first chose this genre, it was because I thought I had nothing to say and the classic mystery novel had a form that would let me write without any burden of trying to be profound. All I had to do was entertain. But once I began writing about North Carolina, I realized that there was nothing I couldn’t say in this most flexible form.



  • North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (2016)
  • Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel of 2015, Malice Domestic 2016 (Long Upon the Land)
  • Ellery Queen 2015 Reader's Award (We on the Train!)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Bouchercon 2015
  • AudioFile Earphones Award, February/March 2015
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Malice Domestic Convention  2014
  • The R. Hunt Parker Award for Significant Contributions to the Literature of North Carolina. 2013
  • Grand Master Award, Mystery Writers of America - 2013
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of North Carolina at Greensboro - 2010
  • North Carolina Award for Literature - 2008
  • Magnolia Award (Southeast Chapter, MWA) - 2008
  • Order of the Long Leaf Pine - 2006
  • Honoree, North Carolina Writers Conference - 2006
  • President, Mystery Writers of America (Chair of 60th Anniversary Celebration) - 2005-2006
  • Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Last Lessons of Summer - 2004
  • Guest of Honor, Malice Domestic XIII - 2001
  • Judge, 32nd Annual National Hollering Contest - 2000
  • National Board Member of MWA - 1989-90; 1997-2000
  • Awards Chair, Mystery Writers of America - 1998
  • Edgar, Agatha, Anthony & Macavity Awards (Bootlegger's Daughter) - 1993
  • President, Sisters in Crime - 1989-1990


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