November 23, 2017
Arts & Entertainment
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  • Cathy Bay, also known by the pen name Columbkill Noonan, recently attended a book launch party at One World Cafe in Baltimore.
    Cathy Bay, also known by the pen name Columbkill Noonan, recently attended a book launch party at One World Cafe in Baltimore.
  • “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is the name of Cathy Bay’s first book, written under the pen name Columbkil Noonan and published by Crooked Cat.
    “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is the name of Cathy Bay’s first book, written under the pen name Columbkil Noonan and published by Crooked Cat.

Local Resident Publishes Humorous Mystery Set During The Victorian Era

Leslie Dolsak
Leslie Dolsak's picture
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August 22, 2017

What happens when a child who loves the encyclopedia grows up and becomes a fish genetics expert? Naturally, you’d get a local author penning a series rich with wit, mythology and mystery. Cathy Bay lives in Anne Arundel County but lectures at Towson University as a member of the anatomy and physiology department. “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is the name of her first book, written under the pen name Columbkil Noonan and published by Crooked Cat.

Bay has always devoured novels, especially series like “Lord of the Rings” and “Nancy Drew,” and works by Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. She decided there would be nothing better than to write her own series, set in the Victorian era with a young, quirky British main character named Barnabas, a detective who idolizes Sherlock Holmes but is never quite as smart or clever. Barnabas has low self-confidence, virtually no personal life, an unstable financial situation and high anxiety levels. Matters only get worse for the detective when a case draws him into the Egyptian afterlife.

Thankfully, Barnabas has a sidekick, Wilfred, who balances him in times of self-doubt and acts as the backboard for the detective’s naivety. Here’s one example that shows their banter: "I think it's time we talked about the elephant in the room," said Wilfred. "Oh, good God, man!" said Barnabas, looking around nervously. "Is there one of those here now too?"

Bay describes her love for the protagonist. “I wanted it to be entertaining and uplifting, but there is also the message that Barnabas is not the best at what he does, but he tries. You can be a little bit of a mess and you can still be a hero,” explained Bay.

The daughter of a Baltimore dentist, Bay was always being enthralled by one of her father’s patients, a nun named Sister Columbkill. That’s how she came up with her pen name, Columbkill Noonan, with the latter being a family name.

“I wanted a separation between the ‘me’ who teaches anatomy and physiology,” said Bay. “It felt freeing to be someone different. It allowed me to get into my imagination.”

The book took a year to write and a few months to edit. While she has written short stories and anthologies for different online magazines, this is her first major undertaking, and she noted that it is far from her last.

Bay is fast on her way to the next book about Barnabas’ adventures around the world. She hopes to release it next spring with an eye on casting Ricky Gervais as detective Barnabas, if a film version of the series materializes.

Upcoming events include a booking signing August 24 from 11:00am-2:00pm at Talbots in Bel Air and a talk about the “Path to Publishing,” on September 28 from 1:00pm-2:00pm at Towson University’s Cook Library.


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