UP WITH GUNILLA CAULFIELD
author and her sleuth have Rockport Library in common
from an article by Rosemary Ford, Cape Ann Magazine
>Personal: Grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. Married to Tom Caulfield. Mother of three, grandmother
of four.>Hobbies: European-style
knitting, quilting. Caulfield had an antique shop and quilt business in Newburyport in the 1980s called The Tree of Life.
Her quilt group of 30 years gets together every Tuesday and is now working on a quilt based on Van Gogh’s painting “The
known fact: Caulfield practiced fencing in her youth. She studied with Bela rerrich, the Hungarian Olympic champion, but quit
when another fencer in her group was accidentally killed during a match.>Now reading: “The Star Thrower,” a collection of poems and essays by the late Loren Eiseley,
a naturalist and philosopher.
As the saying goes, there are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about killing people: psychopaths
and mystery writers. Luckily for Rockport, Gunilla Caulfield is one of the latter… Her protagonist is the aptly named
Caulfield found that
last name while looking through a book of Irish surnames. She liked the sound of the name – as well as its implications.
“She sticks with it,” said Caulfield,
who has lived in Rockport since the 1970s.
Quitnot is a librarian in Rockport, as was Caulfield before she retired to write full time. And Rockport Public Library
– one of Caulfield’s favorite places to work – figures heavily in the mystery.
“The people in this town are great – and they are
great library users,” Caulfield said. “The library is very much a meeting place.”
Caulfield and Quitnot have many things in common – living
on Cape Ann, working in a library and pursuing artistic hobbies. (Annie Quitnot is proficient in bookbinding, paper marbling
and paper making. Caulfield has enjoyed these pursuits but rarely has time for them now that she is writing.)
Still, she wouldn’t call the character an
For one thing, Quitnot
has no Swedish connections, while Caulfield grew up in Stockholm. For another, Quitnot is younger and unmarried.
However, Caulfield said they do possess some of
the same personality traits, including a love of finding the answer to any question.
“Annie has to solve every puzzle or question in front of her,”
Caulfield said. “So do I.”
the book, Quitnot is suspected of murdering her former lover. Though there is little evidence, most of the small town seems
convinced of her guilt. Quitnot uses her fact-finding skills as a reference librarian
and her circle of loyal friends to prove she is innocent and find the real killer. The trail of clues leads Quitnot on an
adventure through Cape Ann’s scenic vistas.
The idea for sharing her hometown with the world came from one of her favorite authors, Philip Craig, who penned
a mystery series set on Martha’s Vineyard, his home. Caulfield decided to follow
his example when she began “Murder on Bearskin Neck” three years ago.
As much as she likes a good mystery, Caulfield really wants to give the world
a sense of what life is like on Cape Ann, which the longtime resident sees as rapidly changing. With more and more commercial fishermen leaving the industry for pursuits that cater to tourists, Caulfield wants
to capture the region before it exists only in paintings and photographs.
“I wanted to include some of these days before they disappear before my eyes,” she said.
Caulfield uses her knowledge of Cape Ann culture
and customs to add color and interest to the locales in her books.
One setting taken from life is the Rockport Coffee Shop formerly named Oleana’s and still called
that by locals. She describes the colorful mix of locals who frequent the shop –
from fishermen to shopkeepers – to exchange gossip.
Caulfields mystery makes much reference to Cape Ann’s active arts community. She knows the art
world well, having owned a gallery of her own on Boston’s Newbury Street, called the Kanegis Gallery, with her late
first husband. For those who recognize the name, it’s her son, Mark Kanegis, who owns the Kanegis Gallery on Bearskin
Neck. Mark also shot the cover art for Caulfield’s mystery novel.
Caulfield recently published her second book, “The Bookseller and Other Stories.” Some
of these take place in Sweden and others in Boston’s Back Bay, her old stomping grounds.
“That was a memory lane thing for me, too,” she said.
Caulfield said telling stories comes naturally
– she’s been a storyteller since childhood. As a teen, she fell in love with the written word and would sometimes
cut class to read and reread Shakespeare.
Caulfield’s sleuth Quitnot also loves Shakespeare and is even more knowledgeable about the Bard, thanks to
the reference books Caulfield consulted to put words in Annie’s mouth.
Excerpts from “Murder on Bearskin Neck:”
“The coffee shop (which in the old days was named Oleana’s and is still referred
to as that by some of the old-timers) is the best place in town for news of the gossipy variety. It opens at six thirty in
the morning and seats fifteen customers – less when the stools at the counter get loose and are ‘temporarily’
removed, a time span that sometimes runs to months.” …”Running as quickly and quietly as she can, (Annie) makes her way through
the woods, toward Granite Street. It’s downhill all the way, and she nearly falls headlong several times. She jumps
across boulders and skids along on the soft pine needles. Acorns on the steep trail roll under her feet like well-oiled ball
bearings. The sun is just below the horizon now, and soon it will appear and cast its pink light over the coastline. Annie
hurries across the street and over towards The Avenues, where Clare lives. Clare rents a small cottage on the lower end of
Have Avenue. ‘The Avenues’ is a quiet section of Pigeon Cove, quiet streets with a mix of quaint, modest gingerbread
cottages and larger ostentatious homes of the seriously affluent, often flanked by great magnolias and impressive topiary.
On the seaside, The Avenues are bordered by the Atlantic Path, a walking trail along the rocky shoreline with a grand view
of Sandy Bay, downtown Rockport, and the open sea.”