Opening A Mystery

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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

2021 Edgar Award Nominees

The 2021 Edgar Awards nominees were announced yesterday by the Mystery Writers of America. The Edgar Awards take their name from Edgar Allan Poe, considered to be one of the inventers of the detective genre. The winners will be presented in New York City later this year.

The nominees come from usually around 2000 submissions from publishers and writers, representing the best in mystery fiction in novels, young people books, short stories, and television.

This year the Grand Masters are Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris.

You can find the link to the nominees here.

Josephine Bell

Calling Josephine Bell a writer from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction does her a disservice. Although her books were first published in 1936, she continued to write until 1983. She wrote over 40 mystery novels, as well as radio plays, short stories and magazine articles. (Go here for a list of her books.)

Life

Josephine was born Doris Bell Collier on December 8, 1897, in Manchester, England. She was a doctor and married Dr. Norman Dyar Ball in 1923. They had a son and three daughters. They practiced medicine in Greenwich and in London until Dr. Ball was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1935.

From 1954 to 1962, she was a member of the management committee at the St. Luke’s Hospital. Continue reading

What Is A Cozy Mystery?

Cozy Mystery Cover

Black Magic Kitten cover

Mystery fiction is a genre, or category, of fiction that usually involves a murder or crime. Within the category of mysteries are a number of evolving and developing genres bridging true crime, fiction, supernatural, paranormal and others. One of the fun things for a writer is to discover new ways to expand the envelop of a genre, although this may not be so comfortable to the reader.

One of the most popular genres in mystery fiction is what are known as cozy mysteries, or cozies. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite genres.

Continue reading

Dashiell Hammett

The Golden Age of Mystery refers to the period between World War I and World War II. In America, writers created the hard-boiled detective. They portrayed the detective, a male, usually as a loner, facing the violence and nihilism of the post-WWI world. Often cynical, tough, hard-boiled, they lived with an internal code of right and wrong. Unlike the English detective, the American private eye is from the common people. They don’t use their great minds to solve puzzles. Instead, they use hard work and a willingness to get dirty to catch their criminal, or not.

This hard-boiled detective fiction is also called noir. Because of the time period, I always think of the films as being in black-and-white.

Although Dashiell Hammett only wrote five novels, he is known as one of the pioneers of detective fiction. He brought us Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and the Continental Op. Many of the best-selling mystery writers, including Raymond Chandler, say that they were influenced by his style and stories. Continue reading

What’s Your Genre?

Shelf of mysteries

So many books to get to.

Every year, over 650 million books in print are sold. So, how can you find a book similar to the one you just enjoyed? If you have ever tried to find a book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you know what an impossible task it seems as you glaze at the rows and rows of bookshelves. Most of them spine out, which is a pet peeve of mine. Even after you learn where the mystery/suspense section is, you are still looking at a large section of the store. And that isn’t even talking about shopping on Amazon, where you can’t even see how the books grouped together.

Say, I like the The Cat Who books, but I’ve read them all and I want someone a little different. What should I do? Continue reading

Critical Review of The Last Mile

The Last Mile by David BAldacci

The Last Mile by David Baldacci

The Last Mile is the second entry in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series.

Amos Decker is a former NFL football player who, just as his pro career started, received a traumatic brain injury. The injury not only knocked him out of football but, also, left him with a disorder in which he remembers everything, including the painful events he would rather forget like the murders of his wife and daughter.

The Last Mile begins with Decker headed from Burlington, Ohio to Quantico, VA to take a position with a newly-formed team at the FBI. The team combines combining FBI agents with civilians who have their own special gifts. Continue reading

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I hope you continue finding stories that will keep you on the edge of your seats.

Keep those pages turning.

Tim Suddeth