Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Mystery Writers.

by Pat Browning

Meet the mystery writers -- who they are, what, why and how they write. Jean Henry Mead edited this worthy collection from interviews and essays she published on one of her blogs. Entertaining and instructional, the collection is available as a trade paperback and as an e-book in the Kindle Store.

On the list are working journalists such as Vincent Zandri whose experience includes bribing his way out of West Africa. A prolific author, in the spring of 2011 he sold more than 100,000 Kindle E-book editions of his noir novels. He does a lot of work for Russia Today TV and is a part-time rock drummer for the punk band Blisterz. He advises beginning authors not to get married: "For the first ten years of your working life, the writing will be both spouse and mistress."

Ohio journalist/author Craig McDonald's ROGUE MALES was nominated for a 2010 Macavity Award and his newest novel, PRINT THE LEGEND, asks: Was Hemingway murdered? He picks Hemingway as the 20th century's most important author: "He liberated the language and reinvigorated the American novel."

Then there's broadcast journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan, who has won 27 Emmys and 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Her current Charlotte Mcnally series features a broadcast journalist, and her new series launches this fall with THE OTHER WOMAN, featuring a Boston reporter tracking an ex-governor's secret mistress. Small wonder that this fearless journalist/author keeps a Zen saying on her bulletin board: "Leap and the net will appear."

Bruce DeSilva is a retired journalist whose first book ROGUE ISLAND made PW's list as one of the 10 best debut novels of 2010. His advice: "Read books the way boys of my generation tinkered with cars, taking them apart and putting them back together again to see how they worked."

J. Michael Orenduff's background as an educator includes a stint as president of New Mexico State University in the 1990s. In his popular POT THIEF series, the protagonist is part-thief and part-social critic, who finds popular culture unfathomable.THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED EINSTEIN won the 2011 Lefty Award.

Timothy Hallinan, who has three series going - the Poke Rafferty series, the Junior Bender e-book originals and the Simeon Grist reprints - calls this a golden age for mysteries and thrillers. "... And in one of the most remarkable shifts in modern marketing history, women became the driving force in mystery writing ... The e-book has broken New York's stranglehold on what we read -- and what we can write, too."

Randy Rawls, a retired career Army officer and ghostwriter, is the author of the Ace Edwards series and currently working on new series with a Florida-based PI named Beth Bowman. He says: "I believe that one of the successes of writing is knowing when you've bombed. I've bombed on several efforts. They rest on my hard drive, waiting to be saved. Maybe someday I'll get back to them. There are few bad stories, just bad writing."

Another author who retired to write crime fiction is Leighton Gage. He wrapped up a stellar international career in advertising before settling in Brazil and publishing his first book at age 65. Gage comes from a line of Yankee sea captains, which might explain his wanderlust and curiosity about the world.

Of his popular series about Mario Silva of the Brazilian Federal Police, he says that after learning most mystery fans are women, he toned down graphic violence and added an element of romance. "As to why I write, remember what Samuel Johnson said? `Anyone who writes for anything except money is a fool.' Yeah, that's what I thought, too. I wish it were true. But with the pittances we writers earn, I gotta admit, I do it for glory."

Equally frank is Shane Gericke (pronounced YER-key), who gave up a 25-year editorial job at the Chicago Sun Times to write fiction. His advice: Get the writing habit by writing something every day, even if it's a blog or a letter to your mother. "Commercial fiction is, at base, factory work, as you're putting out product for people to buy, and your production line needs to run smoothly. If you love to write, that shouldn't be a problem. If you don't love to write, find another business." Gericke's latest thriller TORN APART was a national finalist for Thriller Award for Best Paperback Novel of 2010 and named a Best Book of 2010 by Suspense Magazine.

Alafair Burke grew up with a father who was writing and a mother who was a librarian. "We were a family that not only told stories, but thought it was perfectly natural to write them down. My mother would take me to the library every Saturday for a new stack of books. The rhythms of storytelling and character creation become ingrained when you read all the time."

A former prosecutor in Portland, Oregon, Burke teaches criminal law and procedure at Hofstra Law School in New York, and writes two crime series -- the Samantha Kincaid series about a Portland Deputy D.A., and the Ellie Hatcher mysteries about a NYPD Detective. In LONG GONE, Burke's first stand-alone thriller, an art gallery manager finds her boss dead and the gallery stripped bare.

Ever the pro and perfectionist, Burke writes that after she finished her eighth book, she "... paused a moment to celebrate having a beginning, middle, and an end. Then I opened a new, blank document on my computer and I started again from the beginning. Yep, I rewrote my book."

THE MYSTERY WRITERS is chock full of good advice and interesting personal tidbits. In all, there are 60 mystery writers within 12 categories.

The categories and authors are:

SUSPENSE: James Scott Bell, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Joan Hall Hovey, Ellis Viler, Cheryl Kaye Tardif.

CRIME NOVELS: Lawrence Block, J.A. Jance, Bruce DeSilva, Diana Fanning, Craig McDonald, Geraldine Evans.

POLICE PROCEDURALS: Leighton Gage, Alafair Burke, Martin Edwards, Pat Brown, Marilyn Meredith, Bob Sanchez, Maryann Miller.

THRILLERS: Robert Liparulo, Vicki Hinze, Shane Gericke, Timothy Hallinan, Lise Glendon.

PRIVATE EYES: Sue Grafton, Randy Rawls, Mark Troy.

NOIR: Vincent Zandri, Roger Smith.

TRADITIONAL MYSTERIES: Sandra Parshall, Gerrie Ferris Finger, Madeline (M.M.) Gornell, Earl Staggs, Holli Castillo, Alan Orloff.

HISTORICAL MYSTERIES: Julie Garwood, Ann Parker, Nancy Means Wright.

CONTEMPORARY WESTERN MYSTERIES: Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson, Curt Wendleboe.

HUMOROUS MYSTERIES: Lois Winston, J. Michael Orenduff, Rebecca (R.P.) Dalke, Marja McGraw, Susan Santangelo, Ann Charles, W.S. Gager,Chris Redding.

COZIES: Elizabeth Spann Craig, Anne K. Albert, Ron Benrey, Maggie Bishop.

AMATEUR SLEUTHS: John M. Daniel, Margaret Koch, Jacqueline King, Lou Allin, Karen E. Olson, Pat Browning, Leslie Diehl, Sunny Frazier, Jinx Schwartz.