Opening A Mystery

Better Lock the Door

Does True Crime Fit In Mystery/Detective Fiction?

By Tim Suddeth

Police car at road block

Police car

True crime is a genre of literature that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to belong in a blog about mystery and detective fiction. But its influence on the other fiction genres and its relationship can’t be ignored.

Mankind has always liked telling the gruesome and lurid details of crime. I can picture Og, sitting by the campfire telling his clan the story about a murder, he thinks it was possibly committed by a banshee, that he had heard from his father or uncles. A true crime story contains just the right mixture of information that we might need for protection, yet it appeals to our baser natures.

True crime includes nonfiction literature, film, and podcasts in which the author examines an actual crime and details the activities of real people. It can be a case that is still in the papers, or a cold case that seems to have been forgotten. Often, the story follows the case from the discovery through the investigation and the legal proceedings.

The most important characteristic is that it is true; it actually happened in the way it is depicted, in the people involved, dates, victims, and villains. There may be some dialogue added and some speculations that are admitted, but it is based on unbiased fact. But finding facts without bias is hard to do if not impossible.

Most true crime stories involve murder, even though it makes up less that 20% of all crimes. The idea of actually murdering someone is so hard to believe that we want to get an idea of what drove the person to kill. What were they thinking? And were there signs that we should be aware of? Continue reading

2021 Edgar Award Winners

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

2021 Edgar Award winner for Best Novel

On April 29th, the Mystery Writers of America celebrated its 75th year and awarded the 2021 Edgar Awards. These awards highlight the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theatre.

If you are looking for a good book to read or to study as a writer, these are good options.

You can find a link to the winners here.

You can find a link to all of this year’s nominees here.

Slightly Murderous Intent on Killer Nashville

Slightly Murderous Intent by Lida Sideris

I enjoy both learning from the classic authors as well as finding new writers who are able to ever push the envelopes of the mystery genre. Last week , I was honored to have Killer Nashville publish my review of Slightly Murderous Intent by Lida Sideris. Slightly Murderous Intent is book four of the Southern California Mystery series.

Corrie Locke is a young attorney for a film studio. When her friends becomes targets of a hitman, she is determined to see he doesn’t succeed.

Sideris paints a beautiful picture of southern California, where she resides. Her first stint out of law school was to work as an entertainment lawyer for a film studio like her heroine.

If you like a strong and snarky female detective, this is a great series for you. You can read my full review here.

 

Evan Hunter Was Ed McBain

How do you replace such a prolific author as Erle Stanley Gardner? That was the question Pocket Books had to answer when the author of 80 Perry Mason novels had to slow down because of age. They needed an author who could give them the same type of output.

So, they turned to Evan Hunter, who signed a multi-book deal that turned into the 87th Precinct series under his pseudonym, Ed McBain. The 87th Precinct became one of the longest running crime series ever published, running from 1956 to 2005, and featuring over fifty novels.

Early Life

 

Salvatore Albert Lombino was born on October 15, 1926, in New York City. His family moved around while he was growing up. He spent part of his youth in East Harlem and then the Bronx. His family included several artists, so he took art classes as a child and planned to become an artist. He enlisted into the U. S. Navy, where he served aboard a destroyer in the Pacific. Part of his down time was spent drawing portraits of “everyone aboard the ship and all the smokestacks, torpedo tubes and depth charge racks. When there was nothing left to draw, I borrowed a typewriter . . .and wrote several stories and found I liked it.” Continue reading

Police Procedurals

“Just the facts, Ma’am.” Joe Friday delivered this line in his flat, robotic tone every week on the TV series, Dragnet. Dragnet aired two different times, once from 1951-1959 and then in 1967-1970. Detective Joe Friday of the Los Angeles Police Department was played by Jack Webb, who was also the producer.

Dragnet, and the similar show Adam-12,  are great examples of one of the more popular genres in mystery,  the police procedural. These books and shows centered on the work of the police, usually focusing on one individual but highlighting more their time on the job and working with others in the department than on the person’s personal life. It is the life and environment of a police officer that the reader is interested in, rather than an individual. Although how much this is carried out varied with the series.

Although cop shows have been common on TV, even today, I want to focus on the novels and their authors. Continue reading

Interviews With J A Jance and Ruth Rendell

Every writer has their own process. I love hearing how our favorite writers got started and how they developed their processes.

Recently, I found two interviews by two legendary writers that I wish to share with you. The first is with J. A. Jance, a New York Times best-selling author of not one, but three series of novels centering on retired Seattle Police Department Detective J. P. Beaumont, Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady, and former LA news anchor turned mystery solver Ali Reynolds.

She spends part of her year in Seattle and part in Arizona.

The other writer is British author Ruth Rendell (1930-2015), the Baroness Rendell of Babergh. The author of over 60 novels, she is best known for creating the police procedural series about Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. Her awards include the Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers Association and three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America.

Ms Rendell also wrote under her pseudonym Barbara Vine.

You can find Ms Jance’s interview here.

You can find Ms Rendell’s interview here.

I hope that these interviews encourage you to find your own way in your writing journey.

RIP Margaret Maron

 

On February 23, 2021, we lost one of the legends of crime fiction with the passing of Margaret Maron. Born in Greensboro, NC, in 1938,  she grew up on her mother’s family farm in Johnston County. She shared that farm life with us in the twenty books in her Judge Deborah Knott series.

Ms Maron had been in hospice care and died of stroke-related illness.

Her first book, One Coffee With, was published in 1982. Continue reading

V. I. Warshawski

In the 1980s, most, if not all, of the private eyes in fiction were men, loners mostly. With their macho brands of honor. Then, in 1982, Sara Paretsky introduced private investigator Victoria Iphigenia (V. I.) Warshawski in Indemnity Only to break the mold. Here was a protagonist  who was smart, confident, and strong with a touch, okay a heap, of snark. Much like Paretsky and her friends.

V.I. (also known as Vic) lived and worked in her hometown of Chicago. Her father was a Polish-American cop and her mother a Jewish opera singer who fled from Italy under Mussolini during World War II. While in high school, her mother passed away. Ten years later, her father died. After a rebellious time, when her mother died, Vic went to the University of Chicago on a basketball scholarship, then earned a law degree before working as a public defender. From there, she became a private detective specializing in white-collar crime. Continue reading

The Hardboiled Mystery

Hard Boiled Detectives The classical mystery story came to its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. World War I had just ended, and the world was coming through the 1918 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population.

In England, the classic mystery had already been established by Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories showed the reader a very upper society, very proper, with tea being served often. The detective often had a tie to police, but were intellectually superior. They were often given a reluctant acceptance by the local law enforcement officer. Sometimes, the police would call them in because they couldn’t solve the case, but more often the detective burst onto the scene, showing up the helpless officer.

But in America, we saw the emergence of a different type of detective in the hardboiled detective mysteries. In another kind of society, Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler introduced us to the private eye. Often a lone wolf, who tried to dispense his own style of justice in a world with few rules.

[bctt tweet=”The hardboiled American detective was much more cynical than his English counterpart. It wasn’t a game or puzzle to him, but a more personal battle against evil, even of life or death. ” username=”httpstwittercomTimSuddeth”] Continue reading

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