Wednesday, February 1, 2023

"Broken Hearted Killers" - A Serial Crime Fiction Novella


By Martha Reed


“Broken Hearted Killers,” the novella you’re about to read, spontaneously generated.

After nearly two years of COVID-19 isolation, a group of Writers Who Kill (“WWK”) authors met in the lobby of the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center to celebrate Malice Domestic 32-33-34, to meet face-to-face again, get re-acquainted, and to take a long overdue blogging group photo.

While we gathered, Rosalie Spielman and I chatted. We both agreed how great it felt to reconnect with people in-person. We remarked on the amount of pure writing talent that was being represented on the WWK blog and in the works of the individual mystery and crime fiction writers surrounding us.

That conversation sparked an idea. Being a keen student of crime fiction history and a big fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, I considered her involvement in The Detection Club (“TDC”). Formed in 1930 during British mystery writing’s Golden Age, the TDC’s membership list was truly impressive. C.K. Chesterton served as the club’s first president. Members regularly met for black-tie dinners. They collaborated to resolve knotty plot problems in their individual works. They agreed to abide by Ronald Knox’s Commandments to give their readers a fair shake at solving each mystery and at guessing the identity of the guilty party.

I also knew that TDC member authors wrote “The Floating Admiral,” a serial “detective novel of all the talents.”

C.K. Chesterton wrote the Prologue. TDC members Victor Whitechurch, G.D.H. Cole and Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane, and Anthony Berkeley contributed individual chapters.

And just like that, standing in the lobby at the 2022 Malice Domestic convention, an intriguing new suggestion reared its head. If TDC members could write a serial mystery tale, why not the Writers Who Kill?

Wouldn’t that be fun? I casually floated the idea with Rosalie. To my surprise and delight, and with a modicum of personal incipient panic, she immediately and enthusiastically agreed.

How it Came About

Next, while shuffling about lining up for the photo, we floated the suggestion to the other WWK authors, fully expecting the idea to get torpedoed since everyone was already overbooked with building their own writerly careers, participating in many conferences and author events, and fulfilling their publishing contracts.

We received a shock. The other convention attending WWK authors loved the novella idea. After the photo shoot, we posted the idea online. 16 WWK blog authors agreed to climb aboard: Connie Berry, Sarah E. Burr, Shari Randall/Meri Allen, Rosalie Spielman, Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Nancy Eady, Martha Reed, Kait Carson, Marilyn Levinson/Allison Brook, Paula Gail Benson, E.B. Davis, KM Rockwood, Jim Jackson, Grace Topping, and Debra H. Goldstein.

Each participating WWK author agreed to write one 500-1,000 word serial blog entry chapter based off the storyline that had preceded their assignment. As outlined by Dorothy L. Sayers in her “The Floating Admiral” Introduction: “Each writer must construct his instalment with a definite solution in view – that is, he must not introduce new complications merely ‘to make it more difficult’ … [E]ach writer was bound to deal faithfully with all the difficulties left for his consideration by his predecessors.”

Connie Berry generously volunteered to write an Epilogue to wrap things up. I was asked to provide a bit of backstory in this Introduction.

Consulting a calendar and individual schedules, we determined a target date range with the initial chapter installment being published on February 2nd and finishing the novella on February 18, 2023. Including St. Valentine’s Day among the dates suggested our theme: “Broken Hearted Killers.”

“Broken Hearted Killers” steamed on, full speed ahead.

The Experience of Writing a Serial Novella with 16 different authors

Chapter by chapter, the intricacies and underlying inherent difficulties became apparent. Following previously established hints, clues, potential red herrings, and McGuffins (e.g., an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters but that is insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself) proved to be a strenuous exercise in writing practice as the WWK authors constructed the story while keeping the overall narrative voice consistent.

Treading lightly, the final version was edited for naming conventions and character action consistency with everyone agreeing that part of the charm – and the challenge – of writing a serial novella was in knitting together the myriad details established by 16 different writers exhibiting 16 different writing styles.

In the end, I believe we pulled it off.

Without further ado, I am delighted to introduce “Broken Hearted Killers,” a serial crime fiction novella from 16 author members of the Writers Who Kill blog.


Martha Reed
February 1, 2023


  1. It's alive! (Young Frankenstein) This is so exciting!

  2. Martha, thank you and Rosalie for starting us on this journey. So excited to share with our readers.

  3. Hi Paula - You're welcome! It was a genuine pleasure working with Rosalie and the WWK authors as we explored this new writing adventure together. I'm still amazed by what we've done.

  4. How you ever herded us cats, Martha and Rosalie, I'll never know! Fabulous fun!

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Martha and Rosalie and all the other contributors. This has been such a fun project!

  6. I am so, so excited to read this novella! What a wonderful idea, and with such history behind it. The game is afoot!

  7. This sounds so fun I cannot wait to read it.