NC Literary Hall of Fame



The Death of a Hell-Razor: The Ninth Penny Weaver Mystery by Judy Hogan

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
$15.00, paperback / $2.99, e-book
ISBN: 978-1721177059
November, 2018
Fiction: Mystery
Available from

In The Death of a Hell-Razor, Penny is teaching remedial English under a new and more enlightened administration at St. Francis College. The new president set up a summer boot camp in English and Math for students not ready for college, encouraging them to work as interns and assistants with various maintenance staff at the college. The Drama teacher is putting on Fences by August Wilson, which is a morale boost for both serious students and those trying to slide by.

The reforms are helping many, but some students are still selling and taking drugs, failing their classes, and engaging in sexual abuse. Penny has several students making Ds after having failed Reading and Pre-Composition several times already.

When one of them is killed, suspicion falls on a thirty-year-old ex-con, who had served many prison terms, but he is working hard to do well at the college, and Penny believes he is sincere and would never have killed another student. Even Penny’s friends, Sammie and Derek, believe Mitchell is guilty, although there is no evidence. It rests on Penny and Mitchell’s few supporters to find the real killer.

Judy Hogan is a post-menopausal zest woman who has lived eight decades. Though aging, she tries to keep up with her writing, publishing, teaching, and farming. Fortunately, she has lots of helpers these days. She still makes fig and pear preserves, sometimes Muscatine grape jelly, spaghetti sauce, minestrone, lots of lemon balm and peppermint tea. She loves her white rock hens, who are fed organically and some folks think they give the best eggs in Chatham County. She understands that, because of climate change and difficult political events in her state and at the national level, that life will become more and more difficult for all of us, but she still hopes to live to a hundred and do some good along the way. A major life experience for her was teaching Reading and Pre-Composition at a historically black college in Raleigh, 2004-7. She worried over the young people admitted to college who could barely read and write, and wanted to write a second novel about them, with a different and more enlightened administration. This is her vision of what a truly helpful historically black college would be like. May it help change things for the better.

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