The sexy side of the funeral business

Funeral services may be the family business, but last Friday night cousins Lisa Branch-Tucker, Lyn Johnson and Quincy Scott Jones showed that writing books could be the beginning of the next family venture. 

The three cousins all share a background of being from a family whose business is undertaking.  All three are also writers.


In an intimate setting at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Jones kicked off the “Life, Death and Cocktails” event by reading from two of his poetry collections, “The T-Bone Series” and “Dead Man’s Hat”.

The idea for the reading arose at an event that Jones and wife Nina Sharma hosted for the Nor’easter Exchange, a floating literary reading series that brings the finest writers of the multicultural tri-state area together to meet, read and collaborate. Because Sharma is affiliated with the bookstore, co-authors Branch-Tucker and Johnson thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce their two novels as well.

Dressed in all black, Branch-Tucker read excerpts from their first novel, “Lady Undertaker”. Lyn Johnson read from their second novel, Embalmers Blues, dressed in a blue scrub suit. 

The books depict the fictionalized lives of Leona, Syd and Kalen, three women who all work in the in the male dominated world of funeral service. The stories span 40 years, giving a keen insight into the day-to-day operations of a funeral home in fictitious Maxwell, GA. The goal of the books is to surprise readers.  The authors say they want to make people laugh, gasp “and say ‘no they didn’t do that!’”.

Branch Tucker and Johnson jokingly said they wrote the first book because they couldn’t shop as much when the recession hit. In reality, the idea for writing “Lady Undertaker” began as a joke when they were emailing back and forth.

Both authors always secretly wanted to write a book, but never disclosed that dream to one another prior to writing notes for “Lady Undertaker”. They are both funeral directors at a funeral home in West Philadelphia that has been in their family since 1927.

Because of the unique story line, Johnson describes the book as Sex in the City meets funeral services.” Like the popular show the novels’ characters are bold and passionate women who work, love and play hard.  They are women who can get the job done in a man’s world.  The authors would one day like to see their novels on the big screen.

While some events in the books are based on actual experiences, the authors said that the books are not so much biographical as true to the spirit of loyalty and love present in their family and friends.

“Embalmers Blues” is expected to be released this fall.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal