If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Murder Manhattan Style, new review

Warren Bull’s Murder Manhattan Style

Warren Bull’s Murder Manhattan Style

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve always written about novels before now.

But when I read Warren Bull’s short story collection, MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE, not long ago, I saw the chance to study how a writer develops his fiction skills over time without my having to read a bunch of books. Besides that, the fifteen stories present a tasty sampling of mystery genres.

The collection starts with “Beecher’s Bibles,” “Kansas Justice,” and “Butterfly Milkweed.” All three unfold in first person point of view, but from the perspective of a different member of the same family, the Millers, who lived near Manhattan, Kansas, not long before the Civil War. The first generates considerable suspense when two thugs capture Joshua, the narrator, only twelve, and his stepsister Amy and lie in wait for Joshua’s father. The kids trick the thugs and all ends well. The second is narrated by Amy. These two stories are straight-forward narratives, plot-oriented, and rest firmly on facts as we expect from historical mysteries.

But the third made me sit up and pay attention from the start with the narrator, Mr. Miller, caught in a deadly trap. It hooked me so well that I happily followed the narrator back in time in a well-executed flashback to discover how he hoodwinked the bank robbers who tried to kill him. At the end, the narrator returns us to the present scene and thus completes the frame in this skillfully structured story.

The next three stories, all set in Manhattan, New York, in 1938, are written in the spirit of Damon Runyon. “One Sweet Scam,” “Java Judy,” and “A Detective’s Romance” are very short and very tight. You can see Warren having fun practicing the set-up and pay-off in just a few words. But he’s also playing with voice and getting better at characterizing through it. Here’s a quick quotation from near the start of “Java Judy.” “A doll walks in who looks familiar. I puzzle my noodle until the penny drops.” Isn’t that fun? Plus, the voice clearly evokes the time, place, and Damon Runyon.

The next story, “A Detective’s Romance,” is the only one of the entire collection presented in third person, well chosen because this point of view gives the reader distance from the protagonist and gets the reader involved in figuring the mystery out.

Next we come to “The Wrong Man,” the first in a series of noir detective stories, set in 1947/48. Here Warren shows many of the skills he’s gained. This story has a frame around the main story in the past. It’s short. It’s tight. It’s got a surprise ending, neatly presented.

And the narrative voice rings true. Just look at the first sentence of the story. “The bulls shoved me through the precinct doors and double-timed me down the hall into the interrogation room.” “Bulls” is the right word for cops at this time. The verbs “shoved” and “double-timed” move us right into the story and down that hall so fast we can practically feel it. Also the dialogue in some of the early stories seems stiff, but here it’s snappy. For instance, one of the bulls calls the narrator a runt and another observes that if the narrator “sang,” that is, confessed, he’d sound “like one of the Andrews sisters.”

The next story, “Funeral Games,” another example of noir, is among other things a meditation on war and mortality. The narrator, the title, and the story itself all contribute to the theme of honoring those who’ve served their country.

I’ll leave the rest of the stories for you to discover on your own, except for the last one, “A Lady of Quality,” winner of the Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Authors Guild. Quite rightly, too, as this is a beautifully written story. Like most of the stories in MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE, it’s written in first person and the narrator reaches out and grabs us with her first words: “Listen here.” She commands our attention from the start and holds it in this compelling, yet subtle story of suspense.

As defined by Carolyn Wheat in HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION, suspense revolves around a crime that unfolds before our eyes instead of a crime already committed at the start, like more traditional detective fiction. Will the narrator Lizzie, a young black woman in the 1960’s, escape from the velvet-gloved hand of steel of Mrs. Edwards, the white gentlewoman, who’s very aware of her position in the society of a southern town? Will Lizzie even see the trap in time?

Read “A Lady of Quality” and find out. I will tell you, in closing, that this last story shows a clear shift from plot-driven fiction in the earlier stories to character-driven fiction and Warren wrote it with an impeccable grasp of history, great sensitivity to the diction of the narrator, and powerful insight into, as William Faulkner said in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, “the human heart in conflict with itself.”

NEXT TIME, on May 26: Louise Penny’s BURY YOUR DEAD

Meanwhile, happy reading & writing, Juliet


Thanks to Juliet for the great review. Her approach is unlike any other review of my work and it gives me as the author something to think about in my future writing. One thoughtful review can make a difference, especially since reviews by credible sources are painfully difficult to come by.

You can order Murder Manhattan Style at http://www.ninthmonthpublishing.com/books.html

Please support the small publisher who helped make this book possible.

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