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Written by Jackie Craig   
Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00

The Lambs share a rich retirement life: John writes, Joyce gardens, and together they share a passion for teddy bears.

John LambBefore their retirement life of writing, quilting, gardening and teddy bears, an incident opened the door to a great romance and marriage between John and Joyce Lamb. “When Joyce came to work at the police department as a fingerprint expert and crime analyst,” recounts John, a retired Oceanside, Calif., homicide detective and hostage negotiator, “I was working homicide and was known for both being one of the coldest human beings on the planet and [for] my macabre sense of humor. However, Joyce saw through that facade.


Several years ago, John and Joyce Lamb made a road trip across America in search of the perfect place to spend their retirement years. They selected a small town near Harrisonburg, Va., and settled into a country home on 2.5 acres. They moved their four dogs (Teddy Bear and Kristen Noel are shown here), six cats and a multitude of bruins into their new home.“One day we bumped into each other at the copying machine,” he continues. “Joyce leaned close and quietly said, ‘You’ve managed to fool everyone into thinking you’re colder than an iceberg, but I know that you’re just a big teddy bear.’ I went weak in the knees. The very first present I got her was a Boyds bear, and later we began to go to teddy bear shows. The rest, as they say, is history.”


While John was selecting that Boyds bear, determining which would be the best bruin to give Joyce, he observed that all the bears in the display had different faces. For John, this was a revelation: Teddy bears are not all alike. He had a new awareness that bears can be very different from each other, and they were beginning to work their magic on him.

Teddy Bear Love

Now a writer, John is the creator of a clever series of teddy bear mystery stories, while Joyce is an accomplished quilter and an active gardener. Together, the Lambs are avid teddy bear collectors with a huge hug of mostly artist bears.


They currently have around 700 teds. Their taste in bears is similar, and they usually agree on adoptions. Based on numbers, their favorite artists are Penny French, Martha Burch, Barbara Burke, Pam Kisner, Diana Lee Palumbo, Dolores Austin and Serieta Harrell.


“The Ice King,” made by Martha Burch, was a Christmas present from John to Joyce.The Lambs have a great appreciation for the original mohair works of art created by teddy bear artists and often return from shows with several fine examples of state-of-the-art teddies. Among the bears in their collection are two remarkable bruins made by Martha Burch. “In August 2007, Joyce and I attended TBAI and saw ‘Autumn Wizard’ made by Martha. The bear had already been sold, but Martha agreed to make another one for Joyce,” John says.


“Our Autumn Wizard arrived via mail in September, and he was breathtaking,” he shares. “Then Joyce came up with an idea for ‘Ice King’ bear, which she envisioned as a one-of-a-kind for our collection. She brainstormed with Martha, helped select the fabrics and the end result was a masterpiece: the Ice King,” which was nominated for 2008 Golden Teddy and TOBY awards. “He was delivered just before Christmas and was one of my presents to Joyce.”

A New Career

The Mournful Teddy BearJohn’s passion for teddy bears eventually led his career in a different direction. When he retired from active duty in law enforcement, he considered his options. Teaching crime investigation was a strong possibility, but he wanted to write. Knowing his heart as she does, Joyce encouraged him. The old saying “write about what you know” certainly applied, and John employed what he knows best in his teddy bear mystery series.


The central characters of the series are Brad and Ashleigh Lyon, who are the alter egos of John and Joyce. In the first book, The Mournful Teddy Bear, readers learn that Brad is a detective, retired from San Francisco Police Department with a disability from being shot in the leg.


Ash collects teddy bears. (So much of Joyce’s personality is infused into Ashleigh that of some their friends, when phoning her, ask for Ashleigh when they wish to speak with Joyce.) Brad, a smart-mouthed guy who is hopelessly addicted to puns, finds his association with bears is softening his view of life and humanity. John admits he is Brad, except that he has never been shot. This book introduces the main characters of the series and the life they lead, as well as creates the background for the books that follow.


John’s books are fun to read, not only for teddy bear and mystery fans but for anyone who enjoys a good yarn. The fourth book, The Clockwork Teddy, was released this fall. The novel takes the Lyons, who are Virginia residents, back to their former home in San Francisco and introduces a new character to the series: their daughter, detective Heather Lyon.


The Crafty TeddyThe book’s cover has a bit of a darker look to it, but the humorous attitude remains. And although the story can be enjoyed without having read its three predecessors, it is far more satisfying if the previous books are read first and in order: The Mournful Teddy Bear, The False-Hearted Teddy and The Crafty Teddy. The Clockwork Teddy will be followed in 2009 by The Treacherous Teddy, John’s final book in the series.


Because of the popularity of his teddy bear series, John has a legion of teddy bear and mystery fans anticipating his next book. He refuses to fall into a formula for writing his books, so unless he has another original story to tell, there won’t be a sixth in this particular series (but this does not mean there won’t be more books authored by him).


With this fantastic series, John opens up the world of teddy bear artists and collectors—and entertains with an intriguing mystery. And although it’s a mystery as to what John’s writing future holds, teddy bear lovers and mystery fans are eagerly waiting to see what happens next.