Bad Manners

After trying her hand at various jobs including telemarketer for a funeral home, Jacqueline Vick combined satirical humor and the quirks of her ginger mutt to create the Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mysteries. She is also the author of the Harlow Brother mysteries, as well as some standalone novels. She currently resides in Southern California with her husband. Join her Mystery Buffs Newsletter to keep up on the latest news, or check her out on Instagram.


Thank you, Jackie Houchin, for allowing me to take your spot this week on Writers in Residence and all of the WinRs for having me on your blog. I’m here to give a brief etiquette lesson.

In my Harlow Brothers mystery series, manners rule. Usually. Edward Harlow secretly writes the Aunt Civility etiquette books, and as her official representative and public face, he has to be up on proper behavior. His younger brother, Nicholas, who is also his secretary…not so much.

My description of good manners agrees with Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart on pornography: “I know it when I see it.” If you get more specific, you’ll find not everyone agrees on what constitutes proper etiquette.

  • In Brazil, eating with your hands is bad manners. Even a sandwich.
  • If your business meeting is in Germany, you should allow the eldest person to enter the room first.
  • In Japan or India, avoid using the word “no”.
  • In Australia, punctuality is important.

Still not clear? Here are a few examples of proper – and improper – behavior.

In the following example, Cary Grant shows good self control when he remembers, after pulling a fist, that a man should not punch a lady.

Never try to talk with your mouth full. (Even when you are facing a killer who looks like Boris Karloff.)

Arsenic and Old Lace

Under no circumstances is is okay to play with your food.

Public Enemy

Now that we’re clear on the rules, is it ever okay to break them?

In Deadly Decorum, the third Harlow Brothers mystery, Edward is the celebrity guest at a weekend charity fundraiser. When a board member is killed, he comes perilously close to losing everything, including his manners, when a killer decides he doesn’t want the Harlow Brothers investigating the crime and threatens everything dear to him.

Deadly Decorum comes out on May 19, 2021.

21 thoughts on “Bad Manners”

  1. Jackie,
    Very refreshing take on manners. My, how they have changed since movies had Grant and Cagney hitting or violently threatening women. Nowadays it only happens in real life. When I worked for a London newspaper my first newsroom job was to handle the Agony Column letters, a we called the Ann Landers-style piece. The columnist was an American, Cullen Moore, whom I regularly told off – i was 18 – for not responding properly or more sympathetically to some of her correspondents.
    Thanks – never too late to give readers a few pointers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember good manners. I was taught them growing up. But these days, they don’t seem to exist any more. Thanks for the reminder! Fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t that the truth? I think that’s what inspired me to come up with Edward Harlow. He’s a rough diamond, but he tries.

      Like

  3. The Harlow brothers are absolutely fabulous guys. I enjoy their banter as well as the mysteries that engulf them on each outing. Looking forward to your latest excursion, Jackie. As for manners, I try… sometimes. But thanks for the refresher course.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Welcome back, Jackie. We missed your perspective and your sense of humor. As your piece illustrates, manners (and its exterior cousin, etiquette) have degraded over the decades, both in their absence and their misuse to humiliate or embarrass the uninitiated. Most manners and etiquette stem from common sense and the Golden Rule, a rare combination today. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I think Cary Grant once said something about wishing he was as classy as “Cary Grant.” Unfortunately, if people don’t have good manners, no one taught or insisted they have. Sigh.
    Love the Harlow Brothers, will preorder immediately!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Madeline. Cary Grant was classy, wasn’t he? Debonair. That’s something you don’t see a lot of these days. But, maybe it’s out there, but it’s simply not in the spotlight.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Manners are a funny thing. Take table manners, for instance. When immigrating to the US many moons ago, I noticed that people tended to hold their fork in one hand and kept the other in their lap while eating. When growing up, I was brainwashed with, “Keep your fork in the left, your knife in the right at all times, and never, ever have a hand stray under the table.” With that in mind and as a joke, I asked someone what people were doing with the hand under the table. The person took me seriously and replied that good manners dictated to hold one’s napkin in the lap with the free hand.
    There is a reason for everything!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Welcome back, Jackie! I have missed your sense of humor. How do Brazilians eat their sandwiches? I’m afraid I still eat my American-sized huge sandwiches with a knife and fork: my vanity stops me risking having sandwich all over my face! Except for dainty tea-time finger sandwiches which can be eaten…. with your fingers! I was brought up with a very strict sense of British manners – although I do love the relaxed California style now. My family think I’ve become a savage!
    And I’m looking forward to your next Harlow brothers adventures. Thanks for a fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My former sister-in-law, French, was horrified when my family picked up their hamburgers. She thought they should use a knife and fork. I’ve missed you too! A savage. Hmm. You’re an awfully polite savage. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. In a little book about Queen Elizabeth that I read recently, she said you NEVER eat a banana with your hands – monkeys do that! The she told how you use a knife and fork to first make two long cuts on the inside curve of the banana, take out the long strip, then cut the revealed banana crosswise into bite sized pieces which you fork out and eat. It was so silly, I remembered it.
    Of course I remember your Harlow Brothers books. Such a funny premise about a MAN writing the manners books. HA! Thanks for the post. I’ll pre-order…. (or order it, if I forget today) the new one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post, Jackie! Loved the photos, so funny. Humor is truly your forte. I really enjoyed “Civility Rules.” Your books usually contain several laugh-out-loud moments, many of which involve hilarious etiquette breaches. And as the Millennials say, “Me and my friends love your books.”

    Liked by 1 person

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