Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Sharon Fiffer  

Pen Name: Sharon Sloan Fiffer

Genre: Mystery Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;


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Illinois Connection

Fiffer lives in the Chicago area. She grew up in Kankakee, Illinois and has taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Barat College and Northwestern University.

Biographical and Professional Information

Fiffer has taught in the Writing Programs/English Departments of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Barat College and Northwestern University.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Imagining America: Paul Thai's Journey from the Killing Fields of Cambodia to Freedom in the U.S.A.
ISBN: 1557783268

Paragon House. 1991

Follows the odyssey of Paul Thai and his family--Cambodian refugees who found a home in Dallas, Texas--and their efforts to become a part of their new country

50 Ways to Help Your Community: A Handbook for Change
ISBN: 038547234X

Main Street Books. 1994

If you’re concerned about the future of our children, the quality of our schools, the safety of our neighborhoods, the homeless or hungry, battered women, abused children, the elderly, or the environment, 50 Ways to Help Your Community provides powerful examples and easy-to-follow instructions so you can make a difference in your community.

The people in this book are ordinary men, women, and youngsters who have started programs that you can become a part of, replicate, or adapt to your own community. Among those you will meet are:

-Brian Harries, a teenager who fosters racial understanding by pairing pen pals of various ethnicities
-Lou Ann Frees, a grandmother who enlists senior citizens to teach and nurture latchkey kids after school
-Bottomless Closet, a group of professional women who provide suitable clothing to job-ready women
-Pepper Provenzano, a modern-day Johnny Appleseed who organizes tree plantings in urban areas

Award-winning authors, Steve and Sharon Sloan Fiffer, have collected 50 stories that show how individuals, families, parent-teacher groups, students, service organizations, congregations, and corporations can turn their raw inspiration into action that will change the world—one community at a time.

Killer Stuff (Jane Wheel Mysteries, No. 1)
ISBN: 0312983700

Minotaur Books. 2002

In this dynamite series debut, Sharon Fiffer has introduced an engaging and enterprising heroine in Jane Wheel. Recently laid off from her advertising job, separated from her husband Charley, and colliding head-on with a midlife crisis, Jane is trying to make ends meet as an antique "picker" foraging for killer stuff at suburban Chicago's estate sales and auctions, garage sales and flea markets.

Before long she's addicted to the hunt, spending her Friday nights with the classified ads and a street map, outlining her weekend plan of attack. Jane knows that finding the real treasures is all about being in the right place at the right time.

But just as she's settling in to her new routine, Jane finds herself in just the wrong place and at quite the wrong time: stumbling over her neighbor Sandy's dead body. Soon she's the prime suspect. After all, everyone on the block seems to have seen her kissing Sandy's husband at a recent dinner party. Leaning on her best friend Tim, a flower shop owner and fellow junk hound, as well as Evanston police detective Bruce Oh, Jane has no choice but to hunt for the truth. Hopefully her knack for uncovering valuables in the least likely of places will extend to discovering clues as well. Like the vintage postcards, Bakelite buttons, and Fulper lamps that she dreams of finding, to Jane the truth just might be priceless.

Sharon Fiffer's mystery debut is a fabulously entertaining read and an intriguing puzzle featuring a heroine that's a dynamic mix of Miss Marple, Kinsey Millhone, and Leigh and Leslie Keno.

Dead Guy's Stuff: A Jane Wheel Mystery
ISBN: 0312986807

Minotaur Books. 2003

From Bakelite jewelry to jadeite dishes, antiques "picker" Jane Wheel has a knack for hunting down vintage collectibles. And when a Chicago estate sale yields a room full of dusty tavern memorabilia, she hits pay dirt once again. Most of this "dead guy's stuff" is just perfect for decorating her parents' newly renovated bar & grill in Kankakee, Illinois. Most of this stuff...except for the finger pickled in a jar of formaldehyde.

Uncertain what to do about the mysterious "body part," Jane asks former homicide detective Bruce Oh to see if the detached digit is connected to a crime. Meanwhile she is carting her tavern treasures down to Kankakee unaware that her hometown's darkest secrets are buried in her boxes...or that her talent for finding things will lead to a corpse, a kidnapping, and a chilling threat to those she loves most....

The Wrong Stuff: A Jane Wheel Mystery
ISBN: 0312989504

Minotaur Books. 2004

Jane Wheel is an antiques picker, cruising garage sales looking for items she can turn around and sell to dealers for a tidy profit. She also has a knack for finding clues and solving crimes...
But her vast collection of junk has landed her in an emotional quagmire. When a school permission slip gets lost among the towering boxes in Jane's kitchen, causing her son Nick to miss a field trip, Jane vows to get rid of it all, organizing her house and, she hopes, her life. A call from detective Bruce Oh asking for help on a homicide promises a new career direction. Jane can hardly wait to investigate, until she learns the identity of the accused: it's antiques dealer Claire Oh, wife of her new partner. And the trail leads right back into the heart of her passion for other people's stuff...and into a deadly joining of old passions, new secrets, and imminent danger.

Buried Stuff: A Jane Wheel Mystery
ISBN: 0312989512

St. Martin's Paperbacks. 2005

Antiques picker Jane Wheel is going home, back to Kankakee, Illinois. In this little town that time forgot, a farmer friend of Jane's parents has dug up some mysterious old bones and relics. Jane just has to take a look, and she's bringing her husband and son along. The whole family plans to camp out in a cornfield and have a rip-roaring good time. And the added bonus? Kankakee is about to host the biggest town garage sale, ever. Every block will be filled with the great stuff that is one man's junk, but another man's treasure--McCoy, Bakelite, vintage clothes, Depression glass, Griswold frying pans. What could possibly go wrong? A murder on the old man's farm, just for starters...and development plans for Kankakee that spell trouble. That's Trouble, with a capital T.

Hollywood Stuff (Jane Wheel Mysteries, No. 5)
ISBN: 031234306X

Minotaur Books. 2006

She was a monastic person, one who would be happy to live as a recluse, a hermit . . . if only the other caves would hold occasional yard sales. Ay, there was the rub. Jane had to put up with all those other people because people begat stuff, and stuff, for Jane, was what brought people palatably to life. It made others interesting, warm, human. It was what people kept and what they discarded that guided Jane through the confusion of human emotions. But how could Jane go along on her anonymously merry way, scouting junk in alleys and yards, on rummage sale tables, and auction house floors, if she was involved in some ego-wrenching nonsense in, for the love of Pete, Hollywood?

Soon after a TV magazine profiles antique collector Jane Wheel for her role as an amateur sleuth, her story catches the eye of Wren Bixby, owner of Bix Pix Flix in Los Angeles. Bixby wants the rights to Jane’s story for her offbeat independent film company and eventually persuades Jane to leave behind her newfound hometown celebrity in Kankakee, Illinois, and head west for Hollywood.
But Jane’s time in Tinseltown is interrupted when she discovers that someone has targeted Bix and her partners, and Jane resumes her role as detective, determined to stop a killer.
In Hollywood Stuff, Sharon Fiffer captures the light and dark sides of Hollywood as Jane discovers that in the buying and selling of Hollywood memories and memorabilia, it’s a murderous marketplace where the price can kill.

Scary Stuff (Jane Wheel Mysteries)
ISBN: 0312387784

Minotaur Books. 2009

Antique picker Jane Wheel has always loved old stuff, from vintage salt and pepper shakers to other families’ old photos and orphaned Bakelite buttons, and she can’t really explain why. But she makes a living out of it, searching high and low at estate sales and antique shops and reselling her finds to other collectors. At least, it’s half a living---she makes the other half as an associate to a private detective, because she’s just as talented at digging up secrets as antiques.

While visiting her brother for the first time in years, Jane’s fascinated by a story of mistaken identity: On three occasions, someone has accused him of swindling them on eBay, only to realize he’s not the right guy. Even though he doesn’t see the point, she wants to look into it. Then back at home one of her parents’ friends is attacked, leading Jane to vow to get to the bottom of things.

Out of nowhere, Jane suddenly has two cases, both edging a little too close to her loved ones for comfort, because one thing’s for sure---whenever family gets wrapped up in your personal business, it’s bound to be some scary stuff.

Backstage Stuff (Jane Wheel Mysteries)
ISBN: 0312609795

Minotaur Books. 2011

With a divorce looming, antiques picker and P.I. Jane Wheel has been spinning her wheels, unsure what to do with herself. She could use a good shove in the right direction, and while she may know this, she isn’t about to admit it. Luckily, her best friend, Tim Lowry, has her interests at heart, and he has the perfect answer.

Not only does he have a mansion he needs help prepping for an estate sale, but he has unearthed an old play, a murder mystery, that he’s dying to put on. The play would be just the thing to get Jane back on track—that is, if it weren’t cursed. Thankfully, Tim isn’t buying into any curse and pushes forward in spite of the ominous notes that keep showing up in the actors’ scripts warning against a performance. It’s only when the show’s carpenter dies in a suspicious accident that Jane is convinced someone definitely doesn’t want the show to go on and might be willing to kill to stop it.

Lively and intriguing as ever, Sharon Fiffer’s Backstage Stuff is as much fun for the puzzling mystery as it is for sneak peek at all of the surprises that Jane has collected backstage for the big show.

Lucky Stuff (Jane Wheel Mysteries)
ISBN: 0312643039

Minotaur Books. 2012

Officially divorced, antiques picker and private investigator Jane Wheel finally faces the reality that she needs to sell her house, which means clearing out her extensive―and beloved―antique collection. While it's a daunting task, the preemptive move proves worthwhile when her house sells in one day. Finding herself suddenly homeless, Jane heads to her hometown, Kankakee, Illinois, to find that it, too, has been turned upside down.

Lucky Miller, a little-known comedian, is staging what he calls a comeback. It's all part of his plan to break into showbiz by making it seem like he's always been a big name. Suspicious of what Lucky's trying to prove and why he's chosen to prove it in Kankakee, Jane's mother, Nellie, hires Jane to investigate. But why does Nellie care? Lucky would sure like to know, so he, too, calls on Jane to find out. Still, Nellie may be the least of his problems when a driver on his crew turns up dead hours after claiming that Lucky tried to kill him.

With the charming and dogged Jane Wheel at the center of another clever puzzle, Lucky Stuff is an outstanding addition to Sharon Fiffer's popular series.


IAC Literacy Award for a short story that was published in Ascent Magazine in 1986. Fellowship in fiction from the Illinois Arts Council.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

If you would like Sharon to read, sign, speak at your library, bookstore or event, contact Sarah Melnyk at Minotaur Books