Amy Bishop, who is accused of killing three colleagues at the University of Alabama and who penned novels in her spare time, is related to famed novelist John Irving.
“It’s official,’’ said Tate, who declined to respond to any further questions about the author’s closeness with the family. “Judith is his cousin.”
Acquaintances of Bishop,a Harvard-trained neurobiologist said she was a regular member of the Hamilton Writer's Group in the late 1990s when she lived in Ipswich and saw writing as her ticket out of academia.
She penned three novels for the group -- a suspense thriller about an IRA operative, a tale about a virus that made all women barren that ended mankind, and one called "Martians in Belfast,'' which recounts the life of a girl growing up during the Troubles of Ireland.
Bishop, book club acquaintances said, would frequently cite her Harvard degree and family ties to Irving to boost her credential as a serious writer.
Irving, who lives in Vermont, is a popular and acclaimed author whose novels include “Cider House Rules,’’ “Last Night in a Twisted River,” and "The World According to Garp."
Dinsmoor described Bishop, who often hosted the writer's group in her Ipswich home, as a "gritty" author who was heavy on details.
"She really had a knack for writing character, dread, and suspense,” said Dinsmoor, who said Bishop had a literary agent back then.
But another member of the book club said he was not impressed with Bishop and her interactions with the group. He described Bishop as a smart woman who felt entitled to praise.
"She had this sense that having been a professor and gotten her PhD from Harvard made her a little above other people,'' said the book club creator, who did not want to be named because of his close ties to the family. "And yet at the same time she used to park far way far from where we would meet because she didn’t want anyone to see her beat-up Chrysler.''
Dinsmoor said that Bishop could be blunt and abrasive to people, and was often prone to blurting whatever was on her mind.
"She lacked tact when we were criticizing our work,'' he said. "She would say things like, 'This doesn't work' or 'Get rid of that character' -- things like that. We were usually more polite."
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