Santa Barbara is setting for Santa Ynez author’s new novel
Retired U.N. Ambassador Dominic Rosetti (Dom) lives at Villa Sunset, a posh retirement community in sunny Santa Barbara. His leisure-packed days are filled with croquet, tennis and lavish buffets.
Life is sweet … until he disappears. Dom was last seen four days ago near Butterfly Beach, engaged in a heated argument on the phone. Police aren’t interested in the missing senior. After all, people come and go from the Villa all the time. Days pass, and rumors circulate. Where’s Dom?
Rookie lawyer, Corrie Locke, is about to find out. She’s the heroine in “Gambling with Murder” (Level Best Books, $16.95) by Lida Sideris of Santa Ynez. It’s the fifth in her Southern California Mystery Series, which include “Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters,” “Murder Gone Missing,” “Murder Double or Nothing” and “Slightly Murderous Intent.”
“Corrie is a 26-year-old entertainment attorney whose day job at a film studio takes a backseat to investigating homicides and missing persons. She is loosely based on my former life working as a lawyer in a movie studio, except without the homicides,” said Ms. Sideris, who is now executive director of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association.
“My books are light reading centered around action-packed mysteries. When I visit the places Corrie goes to, nothing happens. When she arrives, everything happens,” said Ms. Sideris, explaining the inspiration behind her latest release.
“Over the past few years, I’ve spent a good amount of time with seniors —- my in-laws, my parents, my friends. I discovered that although they appear a bit frail or slower to act, when given the opportunity, they rise to the occasion and then some.
“They are on the lookout for ways to have fun. Many seniors in retirement communities are content in engaging in the usual pleasures of gardening or Bingo, but the thrill-seeking seniors at the fictional Villa Sunset in Santa Barbara are out to experience the time of their lives.”
Although the setting takes place almost entirely in Santa Barbara, that wasn’t her plan when she began writing the book.
“Then I went to the Biltmore Hotel and afterward began to fantasize about buying it, envisioning it as a high-end retirement community with references to Coast Village Road and Butterfly Beach,” said Ms. Sideris, an avid fan of the late Montecito author Sue Grafton’s series featuring private investigator Kinsey Milhone in the fictional city of Santa Teresa. “I loved trying to figure out if the mall she was writing about was Paseo Nuevo or La Cumbre Plaza.”
A graduate of University High School in Los Angeles, Ms. Sideris earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at UCLA and her law degree at the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
“My goal was to work in the entertainment industry, even though I had been warned there was no work in the movie studios. But I didn’t want to be a trial attorney. Fortunately, while I was in law school, I met Carol Akiyama, who was senior vice president at the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers. I ended up working for Lorimar Television on the MGM Studio lot,” she told the News-Press.
After five years, she did free-lance work for 15 years until moving to Santa Ynez Valley with her husband, Ken Sideris, and two sons, Jordan and Shane. The family includes “rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens.”
Ms. Sideris said her writing career began unexpectedly “while I was working for the Bar Association. I submitted two chapters of historical fiction to the San Francisco Writers Conference and won a scholarship in 2012. I was very surprised. This gave me the confidence to try something more.”
In 2014, she won another scholarship from the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America for her first book, “Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters.” She was also a Killer Nashville, Silver Falchion Award finalist.
“I have been a mystery fan ever since I discovered the Nancy Drew books as a child. I loved what she represented — an independent woman who could do anything,” said Ms. Sideris, who writes on weekends, before and after work and during her lunch hour.
“Writing is a great escape for me and a lot of fun. I hope my readers have just as much fun.”
FYI All of the books by Lida Sideris are available at Chaucer’s Books, 3321 State St. in Loreto Plaza and Tecolote Bookshop, 1470 East Valley Road in Montecito. For more information, visit www.lidasideris.com.