Gordon Mathieson wants young adults to enjoy a good read this summer, while at the same time learning a bit of the Mandarin Chinese language and some Cape Cod history.
Mr. Mathieson, a resident of Falmouth, recently released “Popponesset Beach,” the fourth in his Becky Bing mystery series.
Becky Bing, an adopted Chinese American teenager who has a habit of stumbling across unsolved criminal activity, is described by Mr. Mathieson as being a “modern day Nancy Drew.” At the iconic beach on the south shore of Mashpee, the 18-year-old Becky encounters a murder mystery.
Throughout the 257-page book, Becky’s dialogue with her father is peppered with words and phrases spoken in Mandarin.
Following each Mandarin passage is a Pinyin translation of the words. Pinyin is the official phonetic system for transcribing Mandarin pronunciation of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet.
“One of my private goals in life is to get public schools to offer Mandarin Chinese in their curriculum. With the Becky Bing series, I’ve embedded little phrases in Chinese. Nobody has ever done this. It is getting kids exposed to Mandarin,” Mr. Mathieson said.
Mr. Mathieson, 69, first studied Mandarin when he was selected at a young age to attend Yale University by the United States Air Force. He then spent two years in Taiwan, where he made a lot of friends and became fully immersed in the culture.
“I really enjoyed that tour of duty,” he said, adding that he later embarked on tours to Vietnam and the Philippines while working for the National Security Agency.
Mr. Mathieson said that the Becky Bing series of mystery novels and its bilingual element has been well received by teachers, many of whom are placing the books on their students’ supplementary reading lists.
So what brought Becky Bing to Popponesset Beach?
Mr. Mathieson and his wife of 47 years, Ann, who he refers to as his “sweetheart from Yale,” moved to Falmouth full time 16 years ago, after vacationing here since 1975. Prior to moving to the Cape, Mr. Mathieson had worked as a technology professional, including 22 years, many as director of information technology, at Yale.
When they moved to the Cape full time, Mr. Mathieson initially owned and operated an IT business, but then decided that he wanted to do something else.
“Out of the blue Ann and I decided to create a trivia game about Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket,” he said.
That game, “The Cape Cod Challenge” was a success and, according to Mr. Mathieson, at one point was being sold in more than 100 stores.
He was then “bitten by the writing bug” and wrote, among others, the novel “Quissett” in 2001, and “The Greater Boston Challenge” trivia book in 2004.
During this time, Ann had, and continues to, work as a seasonal rental agent at Popponesset Real Estate.
“That’s how I became familiar with the golf course, the general store, the marketplace, and the Spit. They are all in the book, and the Spit is a very integral part of the story. I had a great time writing this book,” Mr. Mathieson said.