Frankie Bailey, M.A.’79, Ph.D.’86
By Carol Olechowski
Frankie Y. Bailey is a woman of mystery – and non-fiction, too.
Bailey, creator of the popular Lizzie Stuart mystery series (The Overmountain Press), grew up in Danville, Va., and studied psychology and English at Virginia Tech. When her adviser suggested she pursue advanced study in criminal justice, Bailey asked, “What is criminal justice?” The adviser explained, then added, “‘The place to go for criminal justice is SUNY Albany.’ It was the only place I applied.”
As is the case with her mystery novels, a few twists and turns lay ahead. Bailey applied late for admission, missing out on a fellowship. While waiting to enroll, “I worked in a department store, spent all my money on a two-week trip to Europe and joined the U.S. Army.” She began her studies while on leave.
Bailey admits to being “a little intimidated when I heard about the ‘2C’ rule – two C’s and you’re in trouble. But John Morgan, the assistant dean, greeted my parents and me, gave us a terrific tour and welcomed me to the school.”
At UAlbany, Bailey wondered how she would put her degree to good use. “Here, most Ph.D. students teach,” she says, noting that she was very shy as a child. By casting herself as “an actor on a stage, interacting with the audience,” she overcame her shyness and began to enjoy teaching.
Bailey later taught at Kentucky State University; she also served as acting assistant vice president for Academic Affairs for a year but didn’t care for administrative work. When David Duffee, then dean of UAlbany’s School of Criminal Justice, invited her to apply for a three-year visiting professorship, “I jumped at the chance to get back into research and teaching.” Now an associate professor of criminal justice, Bailey teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. “My broad area of research is crime and American culture, including mass media/popular culture, and crime history,” she notes.
Asked if Lizzie Stuart is based on her own life and experiences, Bailey emphatically shakes her head. Like her creator, Lizzie is a UAlbany graduate, but the fictional crime historian and her lover, former homicide detective Quinn, have taken on lives of their own. Raised by her grandparents in Kentucky, Lizzie spent the first four novels in the series seeking the truth about her mother but has yet to learn her father’s identity. The fifth, 40 Acres and a Soggy Grave, is set for publication in 2011. Bailey is also researching Albany history and architecture for a new mystery series set in New York’s capital “about 10 years in the future.”
Bailey and her good friend Alice Green, B.A.’62; M.A.’67, ’79; M.S.W.’73; Ph.D.’83, are currently conducting research for a book about blacks in Albany. Green, executive director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany, has collaborated with Bailey on several books, including Wicked Albany: Lawlessness and Liquor in the Prohibition Era (The History Press, 2009).