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Friday, October 14, 2011

5 Deadly Resources

Like so many writers, I love writing books. Er, I mean I love books about writing. Although I do certainly love writing books.

Anyway, I have a nice little collection that I turn to for inspiration -- this practice is also known as stalling. A certain amount of my How To shelf space is devoted to writing books specifically in the mystery genre, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites and perhaps some of you could share yours.

The Mystery Writer's Handbook (edited by Herbert Breen). Sure, you probably have the current MWA edition edited by Sue Grafton -- that's certainly a good one -- but my favorite is the 1956 edition which offers articles and advice from writers like Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, Anthony Boucher (who does an essay titled "You and the Reviews and the Reviewers") and John D. MacDonald. It's loaded with tips and tricks and insights. Okay, in fairness the market tips are no longer relevant, but good writing is good writing, and the fundamentals don't really change that much.

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith - This is a wonderfully dry little book from the 80s by a true master of the art of suspense. Like my vintage MWA edition, I love this for the insight it gives into the mind of the wickedly clever Highsmith.

Writing Crime & Suspense Fiction and Getting it Published by Lesley Grant-Adamson - I have no clue who Lesley Grant-Adamson is. I've never read her fiction, but this slim offering from Britain is a little different in its perspective on...well, everything. And that's what I like. I don't always agree with Grant-Adamson, but she's not rehashing the same old tired advice we see in current mystery writing books. She's thinking it through and coming up with her own take. It's a splash of cold water when you're in a writing funk.

Writing Detective and Mystery Fiction (edited by A.S. Burack) - I don't know how many editions there are of this thing. Mine is dated 1967 and its revised from the 1945 edition. Like the MWA edition, a lot of the advice pertaining to market and contacting publishers is only of historical interest. But it offers insight and advice from everyone from S.S. Van Dine (I didn't say you had to TAKE all the advice) to Dorothy L. Sayers.

The Fatal Art of Entertainment (Interviews with Mystery Writers) edited by Rosemary Herbert. This is exactly what the title describes ruminations on writing crime fiction from talents like Sue Grafton, PD James, and Tony Hillerman. There are thirteen essays plus a foreward by Antonia Fraser. It's an enjoyable read. I wouldn't say that it was chock full of practical advice, but sometimes you just want to hear about writing from people who really do know what they're talking about.

That's it for me. Anyone feel like sharing your own favorite mystery and crime writing books?

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Twitter: @JoshLanyon
 

11 comments:

Rita said...

*this practice is also known as stalling" ROTFL
Great resources. I haven’t heard of a couple of these. I write suspense and thriller and there aren’t so many helpful books out there. I do use stories from the NYT and Washington Post. There is also a new book out Top Secret America I will be looking into .

Toni Anderson said...

Sometimes I have to stall before I can start fresh :) That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I haven't heard of many of these. I need to check them out.

Marcelle Dubé said...

I like books on writing, too, though I rarely read them cover to cover. It's stifling. The only book on writing I devoured is Orson Scott Card's "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy". It's 20 years old now, but at the time, it was a revelation. Not only that, it introduced me to Octavia Butler, as Card used her "Wild Seed" to show examples of what he meant.

Josh Lanyon said...

The news is full of great stories, Rita. And the lovely thing about fiction is we get to wrap them up so they make sense and give closure.

Josh Lanyon said...

That's my story a lot of the time too, Toni! So I completely buy it.

Josh Lanyon said...

Marcelle, I think we all read those How To books like the Bible when we start out. Then we realize there is no one size fits all answer when it comes to writing. Not even when it comes to things like grammar and punctuation. It's freeing but it's also the moment you realize there is no safety net.

JB Lynn said...

Great list of books. Thanks for sharing! I agree with you completely about the Highsmith book!

Shirley Wells said...

A great list of books, Josh. I love books on writing and Patricia Highsmith's is one of my favourites. I hadn't heard of Lesley Grant-Adamson's book so I'm going to check it out. Thanks!

Josh Lanyon said...

Thanks, JB.

Josh Lanyon said...

Hey there, Shirley. Glad I could come up with a new one!

Wendy Soliman said...

Yeah, I know all about stalling and have a shelf just like yours.

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