Betty Webb

Betty Webb

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
February 9, 2009

Q.    Who is Betty Webb?

A.   Before beginning to write mysteries full time, Betty worked as a journalist, and interviewed everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize winners, the homeless, the dying, and polygamy runaways. She is also known for her prize-winning Lena Jones novels (Desert Cut, Desert Wives, Desert Run, etc.). Besides her writing activities, she also volunteers at the Phoenix Zoo. Check out the Lena Jones series at

Q.    Will you give the readers a brief synopsis of “THE ANTEATER OF DEATH”?

A.   When a dead man is found inside the Giant Anteater exhibit at the Gunn Zoo, zookeeper Teddy Benson must find out the real killer before her furry friend is shipped away in disgrace. Then another human bites the dust, the monkeys riot, and the wolves go nuts. Things get worse when the snoot folks at Gunn Landing Harbor attempt to evict Teddy from the Merilee, her beloved houseboat. That's just the beginning. Her father, on the lam from the Feds for embezzling millions, gets targeted by a local gangster; and Carol, Teddy's socialite mother, a former beauty queen who loathes Teddy's dangerous job, starts introducing her to eligible bachelors. But Teddy has already given her heat to Sheriff Joe Rejas, a migrant worker's son. Caro is NOT pleased. Zoo life, animal lore, and the leaky ups and downs of Central Coast California houseboat living create a thrilling backdrop for murder. Learn more about the Anteater at

Q.    Were there any real life events that inspired you to write this novel?

A.    My volunteer work at the Phoenix Zoo introduced me to the animals named in the book --especially Lucy, that wonderful anteater!

Q.    How did you come about Teddy’s character?

A.   When I was a kid, I wanted to be a zookeeper, so Teddy is my way of making that dream come true. Unlike my other series character, Lena Jones, I gave Teddy many aspects of my own personality.

Q.    Why did you choose to have Teddy live on a houseboat?

A.   I spent two summers living on a houseboat, and some of my experiences on that boat -- which shall be nameless! -- were almost too odd to believe. Ever wake up having a pelican staring you full in the face, from less than three feet away? And how about trying to sleep when there's a major storm rocking your boat -- and you have sea sickness?

Q.    Why did you chose the anteater to be the symbol of murder in this novel rather than one of the other animals at the zoo?

A.   Soon after starting work at the Phoenix Zoo, I fell in love with the Giant Anteater, a beautiful animal. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of how fascinating Giant Anteaters really are. Did you know they have two-foot-long blue tongues? And are the only animal in Central America that can take down a jaguar? But so many zoo animals deserve to have their own story told. For instance, next up will be "The Koala of Death."

Q.    How did you come about the idea to have the monkeys attack Barry?

A.   When I first started volunteering at the Phoenix Zoo, I was stationed in Monkey Village -- the basis for the book's "Monkey Mania." Watching the monkeys & humans misbehave gave me LOTS of ideas! Why pick on Barry? Because he deserved it.

Q.    How did you come about the idea surrounding Teddy’s father with his being on the run?

A.   Truth is stranger than fiction, and I took the prototype of Teddy's father from a member of my own family. A charming man we all love, but boy, what a crook!

Q.    How did you come about Jeanette’s character?

A.   I once knew a woman just like Jeanette -- borderline agoraphobic, highly dependent, and unable to move forward in life. Yet she had this amazing ability to stay focused on the things that really mattered to her; in Jeanette's case, it was the Gunn Landing Zoo.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from reading “THE ANTEATER OF DEATH”?

A.   That Giant Anteaters are really, really cool animals. And -- SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ZOO. With increasing animal extinction rates due to loss of habitat, zoos have become the new Noah's Ark. Pretty soon zoos will be the only places in the world where wonderful animals such as pandas, cheetahs, tigers, elephants, gorillas -- and yes -- Giant Anteaters -- among others, will exist. Once we lose our zoos (and in these tough economic times, they're threatened now, too), we lose them all. As horrible as Barry (the zoo director in the book) is, he's right about one thing: animals eat a lot, and if we don't support our zoos...