Former WCCS student now novelist

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

Murder. Humor. Suspense. Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

All can be found in Claire Hamner Matturro’s new novel, “Wildcat Wine.”

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Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, “Wildcat Wine” is Matturro’s second novel. Her first award winning novel, “Skinny-Dipping,” introduces the character of Lilly Belle Rose Cleary, a “gutsy and nutty heroine” who is a trial attorney in Florida and a Georgia native.

“Wildcat Wine” is the second installment of Lilly’s chaotic adventures in law. This time Lilly is overseeing a case involving a pet psychic and an alien-abductee. Along with this case, Lilly is dealing with a string of seemingly unrelated murders and the return of her childhood sweetheart who shows up with a truckload of Florida-grown wine, a dead body and a bag full of cash.

The New York Times Book Review hailed “Wildcat Wine” as a “smart legal thriller.”

“It’s a legal but comedic thriller,” Matturro said. “It’s satire, but not quite.”

Matturro has always had a passion for the written word. Born in Tuscaloosa, Matturro enrolled in her first creative writing class at Wallace Community College.

Matturro is an Alabama girl through and through. She resided in Montgomery, but every summer and during the holiday season, Matturro would stay in Dallas County with her grandparents, the late Dioh and Ada Johnson. She lived with her grandparents after she graduated from high school when she enrolled in the creative writing class.

A former reporter for The Selma Times-Journal, Matturro still has family throughout Dallas County.

Matturro said she didn’t grow up in Selma in the traditional sense, but considers the Queen City home. Selma is a part of her, she said. She now resides in Georgia with her husband Bill.

Matturro graduated with honors from the University of Alabama College of Law and was the first woman partner at the prestigious Sarasota, Fla. law firm of Dickinson and Gibbons. After a decade of practicing law, she taught writing at Florida State University’s College of Law. Matturro now writes full time.

Matturro said Lilly’s character is a mixture of people she knew while she practiced law over the years. Although the character seems to correlate with Matturro’s life experiences, Lilly is not based on her.

“She’s a composite,” she said. “All of the trial attorneys I knew in practice were detail oriented people and I exaggerated those traits. She’s not any one person.”

Matturro will travel to Montgomery on Dec. 10 to sign autographs of her debut novel at Capitol Books and News. She said she plans to come to Selma on April 6 for an appearance at Selma-Dallas County Public Library.

Matturro said her success would not be possible if it weren’t for her family.

Her brother, retired Selma homicide unit police officer W.D. “Bill” Hamner, has been Matturro’s “fan, supporter, and forensic expert.”

“He makes sure I have all of the guns and weapons right,” Matturro said.

Matturro also praises her father for copy editing, her mother for dialogue and her cousins for being her publicists and cheerleaders.

“I could not have done any of this without my family,” she said. “I think of it as a family cottage industry and they’ve all helped me so much.”