Mystery

Category: Mystery

The Magic of a Backstory

Posted on September 11 by Steve Burrows in Mystery

The spotlight shines on the magician’s stage. In the box lies a lady, her torso sliced in two by a shiny, razor-sharp blade. In the audience, breathing stops. Beads of sweat trickle down temples, palm are damp. Can she have survived her ordeal? Is she still alive? Suddenly, the magician speaks: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait a while before you find out what happened.”

Recently I was the moderator for a panel discussion that was part of Calgary’s participation in the nationwide Arthur Ellis Crime Writing awards simultaneous shortlist announcements. The topic was “Not Your Grandmother’s Whodunit.” Over the course of the discussion the panelists and I examined the changing face of crime writing over the last century.

At one point in Widow’s Walk, the twenty-ninth novel in Robert B. Parker’s masterful series featuring Spenser, the Boston private eye, Spenser says to another character in the book, “In all the years I’ve known you, you haven’t aged any more than I have.”

    The joke in this remark is that at the time—Widow’s Walk is a 2002 book—Spenser would have been all of seventy-two years old!

Every crime novel begins with a disquieting event, whether in the news or observed, that ferments in the author’s imagination, sometimes, for years before appearing on the pages. The germ of the idea for Shallow End, fourth in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series, came from my earlier years working as a special education teacher.

For some time now, I’ve been learning to juggle. I’ve pretty much mastered the principle of throwing objects up in the air at different times; it’s just catching them on the way down I’m still having trouble with. Regardless of how high I throw things, they always seem to come back to me at the same time. The same is true of writing a series. I have written one Birder Murder Mystery per year for the last four years and sent them out into the public arena. This is the equivalent of throwing them in the air.

New People and Places

Posted on September 6 by Barbara Fradkin in Mystery

But fifteen years is a long time for a writer to spend with the same characters in the same place. I wanted to travel. I wanted to meet new people. So I put him, his long-suffering wife, and his loyal colleagues on the shelf, left the complex, subtly hued city of Ottawa, and set off into the wilderness, both literally and figuratively.

By now, many of you will have seen this article in USA Today, stating that “creepiness” is linked to clowns, men, and birdwatching. I have to say, I agree whole-heartedly. There are few creepier things than stalking through a quiet forest early in the morning only to be confronted by a man in a polka-dotted jumpsuit and a red nose, carrying a pair of high-end Swarovskis.

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