Avon Calling

After two weeks of being off and running, I’m back home. This weekly blog is a window on my world, and that world has now shrunk considerably. Fortunately for me and for my blog readers, I’ve still got mail.

This week I received two notes of interest, one was from a relatively new reader who, after listening to her first J.A. Jance novel, was surprised to discover that J. A. Jance is a she as opposed to a he. The other was from someone who used the word “Avon” in her email address. When I wrote back to her I learned, unsurprisingly, that she has spent twenty years as an Avon Lady. She’s probably not the only one in my database, but she’s the only one I know about for sure. There are probably a few Mary Kay ladies lurking there as well, hopefully ones still driving around in their pink Cadillacs. In fact, just last week I saw a woman tooling down the road in a pink Escalade. She may not be a J.A Jance fan, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that she sells Mary Kay! I’m not going to touch on Tupper Ware.

So today I’m going to focus on the Avon Lady story and save the other one for another time.

In the early eighties when I was a beginning writer, I lived with my sister in Bay Vista, a mixed-use condo building in downtown Seattle. The residential tower goes from the sixth floor up. Floors five down contain office space.

At the time I had sold two manuscripts to Avon Books. The first, Until Proven Guilty had yet to be published, and I was working on number two. In preparation for the likelihood that one day I’d be hitting the road to promote my books, I joined a local Toastmasters Club to hone my public speaking skills. The group I joined met in an office building across the street from Bay Vista.

Our condo was on Floor Seven. The recreation floor with its running track, pickle ball court, and swimming pool was on Floor Six. At some point in 1983 or 1984, a television production crew showed up in Seattle to film an episode of the then very popular series, Murder She Wrote, and they ended up using the recreation floor at Bay Vista as a stand-in for a Seattle area hotel.

Once I stopped working in the life insurance field, I traded in my dress-for-success costume in favor of more casual attire, my favorite outfit being jeans, a pair of tennies, and the bright green Nike soccer shirt I splurged on at Costco when my first paycheck arrived from Avon—the signing payment for Until Proven Guilty. That shirt must have cost all of fourteen bucks at the time, but I loved it and wore it until it was completely threadbare. Now that I think about it, that may have been the shirt I wore in the author photo in the back of first edition copies of UPG. I doubt there are too many copies of those still extant, but I digress.

Late one morning, dressed in my signature writing costume, I left our condo and boarded the elevator on the seventh floor to go to my weekly lunchtime Toastmasters meeting. The elevator descended one floor before stopping on six. When the doors opened, several members of the TV crew stepped on board, pushing me to the back of the elevator.

In the silence that followed as the elevator continued downward, I decided to speak up. “You know,” I said aloud, “there’s a real mystery writer living in this building, that’s me” They all gave me dubious looks as though maybe I’d just emerged from a looney bin.

I’m six-one. At last, a little gray-haired lady who barely came up to my elbow, looked up at me and said with a distinct NYC accent, “Oh? So who’s your publisha?”

“Avon,” I answered.

Her snooty reply? “I didn’t know they did books!”

Almost forty years later, I’m still laughing about that, and I hope you are, too.

35 thoughts on “Avon Calling

    • I remember when Avon books published those exciting bodice ripping Stories. Seems like they were stagecoaches being held up in pirate ships and lots of other romantic adventures. I don’t remember Beaumont being one of them.

    • Avon Books started publishing “pocket books” during World War II so soldiers could carry books in the pockets of their uniforms.

  1. I love your books and I love your blogs. You can make any topic interesting and often very funny.
    My first introduction to JA Jance was at a book club meeting. One of the ladies read an excerpt on one a your Joanna Brady books. Funny Funny Funny. It was about Tupperware. Everyone identified. Which book was that in?

  2. Thanks for starting my day with a big laugh! Jo

  3. Leave it to JA Jance to come up with yet another marvelous story twist! ? “The Avon years” basked in many popular & unique scents of perfumes & soaps! It would have been a great gimmick to have offered a “page scent” directed at book readers! As there’s nothing like the smell & feel of a new (JA Jance) book in your hands!

  4. During the mid 90’s, I drove for IDC out of Tacoma. I made several trips east out of the Avon manufacturing facility in LA basin. Loading very Late in the evening [as the product would melt in unrefrigerated Dry boxes] and head toward Scotsdale, Tuson, Pheonix, 10 stops in all. under cover of darkness delivering off the back of 50 foot trailer to groups of AVON ladies {managers } In Truck stops and abandoned gas stations.. Middle of the night till about 10 am in Flagstaf. Groups of 10 or so at each stop on tight schedual, all dressed in MARY Kay Like attire. Last night I read ‘Random Acts’ on My deseased wifes Kindle Fire which with Tacoma’s Wheelock Library Help was reserected so I could read It. in less tyime than It took Johana to get from Bisbee to Hosp in Pheonix for her mothers passing. Thought U would enjoy the above story. We are all touched in different ways. Chuck In Tacoma.

    Wife at the time was Mary Kay and had several reps under her.

  5. I just finished reading the latest J.P Beaumont book – They just keep getting better and better. I have to ask, have any of your books ever been considered for a movie or TV series? As I read them I can’t help of think of who would play the main characters!!

    • No movies on the horizon. At some point in the future, someone will do J.P. Beaumont, the musical, but my grandkids will be the ones signing off on that.

  6. I just love your Friday messages. I look forward to them as much as my Wordle for the day ?
    To be honest when you mentioned Avon I thought of the make up one. But I’ve been reading for so long I did recognize Avon Books.
    Always looking forward to your next book.

  7. A little known fact about THIS mystery writer… In tge summers if 1971 and 72, I sold for Fuller Brush on Queen Anne hill to make money to get to college! At each door, I introduced myself: “Hi! I’m Jan! I’m your Fuller Brush Girl, here today with a free gift and a smile!”

  8. Yes, I’m laughing! Great way to start a Friday. Unlike the lady from NYC, I did know that there are Avon-published books. I, too, look forward to the blogs, as well as the books, and currently I’m partway through Nothing to Lose. Of course it’s my favourite of the several partially-read books I have around the house, and I have to MAKE myself do some work before allowing myself to listen to some more NtL as a treat.

  9. A Green Valley bookseller introduced me to your novels a few weeks ago. Since then, I have read ten. You have a marvelous insight into everyday life.

    • For years people have told me that reading my books is like eating Fritos–you can’t read just one. So welcome aboard, but you’re in for a long haul.

  10. Avon Books was founded in 1941. Avon cosmetics was founded in 1886. The cosmetics company has longevity on its side.

    This story reminds me of the one you tell about the NYC editor you were chauffeuring to a Seattle event. The one who turned up her nose at paperbacks. I think the movie crew had the same snooty attitude and didn’t recognize the name for that reason. Avon publishes paperbacks.

    Snooty people are the main reason I wound up anywhere BUT New York City!

  11. Avon–had my morning laugh over that one. I have two copies of Until Proven Guilty–one with a red rose on the cover and one with a doll on the cover. The one with the doll has a black and white picture of you on the inside of the back cover and that could very well be that Costco shirt you are wearing in the picture.

    Rest up now that you are back home.

  12. Laughing along with everyone here! I don’t have 1 Avon book to my name, but am quite familiar with the book company, having read many. Didn’t buy Avon cosmetics either, but have tons of Tupperware. When your best friend sells the product, you become quite familiar with the inventory. 🙂 I’m looking forward to your Tupperware story.

  13. Wonderful story, pampered chef is mine, I’m a retired cop, but I enjoy cooking and I love gadgets. The first time my wife and I went to a pampered chef party I got many strange looks. Many of the ladies must have thought I was being drug along by my wife.

  14. Don’t you ever wonder if that little lady on the elevator ever learned that Avon was a book publisher, also? What a laugh!

  15. I’ve read every book you’ve ever written and patiently wait for the next one. I chuckle at your descriptions of learning to accommodate for being older…one does if one wants to keep up a good front for the crowd. At 95 there are a few adjustments. But I digress. Many years ago I introduced your books to a dear friend who fell in love with them…and then one day when we were talking about them, I mentioned “she” and he froze! “NO!”. Once he came to grips with that…he never looked back .

    • That one made me laugh. Tune in next week for additional information on the male reader topic.

  16. What a chuckle you gave me with the Avon story. And of course the fact that your name was assumed to be male. I’m sure back in the day many men (and women too) assumed your wonderful books could only have been written by a man. My husband and I have read every one of your books and always anxiously await the next one. We both just finished Nothing to Lose and of course loved it. Thank you for bringing so much enjoyment to our lives.

  17. Thanks for the chuckle in a glimpse down that long road you are traveling. Always appreciate your blog post.

  18. When someone mentioned comparing you to anxiously anticipating the daily WORDLE… right on! Your fans can’t get enough of you!
    Tell me, have you been able to correct the Alli release date that was set for 23 YEARS from now? How’s that going?

  19. I love reading your blog on Fridays. Also, I’m sorry I missed you in Sun City West. I had to get ready to fly back to the NW. The trees need trimming and grass mowing.
    When I started to read your books, back in the eighties, I would tell my wife, “I never read women’s books”. On the third book I left it backside up, and she saw your picture…She reminds me of that, every once in a while.

  20. i have all your books in hardback except minor in possession.do you know where i can purchase it. my sister also has most of your books in hardback and im working on a set for my grandaughter.love cathy

    • Minor in Possession was an original paperback, so there wasn’t a hardback edition.

  21. My best friend and I always made your appearances at 3rd Place Books and UW Books in Mill Creek. We came to the last time you were to appear in Mill Creek but it had been cancelled due to weather, I believe. Then COVID hit. I hope to see you again, but my Dearest Friend passed away and won’t be with me next time. It’s been a tough loss. We both love(d) your books and so enjoyed seeing you. I wish I had kept track of the titles I’ve read because I think I’ve missed a few Beaumonts (my favorite because I can visualize exactly where things are happening as a lifetime Seattleite.) My collection is quite a few but some have been loaned out and never made it back, I’m afraid. So glad to be able to be a part of your blog now.

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