9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder
9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard
9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder
9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers
9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity
September Guest Bloggers
9/19 Judy Alter
WWK Weekend Bloggers
9/5 V. M. Burns
9/12 Jennifer J. Chow
9/26 Kait Carson
Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!
KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.
Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!
Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!
Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.
KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.
Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!
Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."
Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.
Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Detective Fiction by John Desjarlais
A helpful way to read detective fiction is to be aware of "the rules of the game," as mystery writers call it. The characteristics of detective fiction that began with Edgar Allan Poe developed into a fairly rigid "code" for other writers to follow, and there are several famous such ‘codes’ compiled by different writers and theorists over the decades. Father Knox’s Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction is one; 20 Rules by SS Van Dine is another; Dorothy Sayers and the Detection Club had another list. Here is a compilation:
1. In its basic structure, the detective story must never vary from being absolutely logical.
2. A completely unpardonable sin is the substitution of accident, chance, or coincidence for logical deduction (no supernatural intervention, either).
3. The detective story must always play fair: no evidence can be made known to the reader, which remains unknown to the detective, and vice-versa.
4. All action must proceed from the central theme of the crime and the pursuit of the criminal.
5. No human frailties, like stupidity or a poor memory, can change or prolong the plot in any way.
There are some secondary rules, especially for the traditional puzzle that involves an amateur killer:
1. The crime must be murder.
2. The killer's motive must be strong enough to induce an amateur to commit murder
3. All suspects must be real suspects, the killer must be one of the suspects (don't bring in a new character at the end)
4. The murder must be pre-meditated, or if it is a crime of passion, or unintended, it must be ingeniously covered up.
5. The killer should be an intelligent, competent amateur, the crime elegantly planned which, except for the brilliant detective, would go unsolved.
6. Clues should be clearly presented. All information given to the detective must be given to the reader. This is called "Fair Play."
7. The detective is not superhuman but uses reasoning to fit the clues together .
These are not rules, but nice to have:
1. The detective is fun if unusual, fallible, and has personal problems.
2. Lead characters should grow and change
3. The detective should have a profession that allows him/her to spend time, money, and energy on the crime
4. Don't treat police as idiots
5. Don't make the victim an angel or the killer thoroughly evil.
6. The killer must be an amateur who has not killed before and does not plan to kill again - no serial killers, psychos, random killings (unless it's a police procedural or a ‘thriller’ – the traditional ‘puzzle’ mystery dislikes such matters).
7. The story must be moral in that BAD is punished, GOOD rewarded, and the universe is restored to harmony and balance.
8. In the classic whodunnit, the killer should be near the victim, and use an ordinary means
9. It is desirable for the murder to occur early in the story so the puzzle is whodunnit, not when-will-the-writer-get-down-to-business.
10. It helps if there is a deadline to beat; a "ticking clock."
Clearly, there are exceptions. Obviously, there are different expectations across sub-genres such as the police procedural, the caper or the PI story. And we know full well that real crime isn’t so tidy as all this; there is random violence, gang shootings and crimes of mayhem that are so horrible they can’t really be treated lightly in ‘the mystery’ as an entertainment. So I realize these ‘rules’ are limited. But they assisted me in writing my first two mysteries and I hope you’ll appreciate reading mysteries more having seen ‘the rules’, such as they are.
The reader only has 2 rules:
1. Don't read the end.
2. Don't tell Whodunnit.
On All Souls Day, Selena De La Cruz’s name is entered in her parish church's “Book of the Deceased.” The problem is, she's not dead. And someone thinks she should be. Is it "The Snake," a notorious drug dealer Selena helped to put in prison when she was a Special Agent with the DEA years ago? Or someone far, far more dangerous?