Extract from podcast episode 5 (Sept 2010) – crime publications

  • There are some great mini-mystery books. Lagoon Books produce small (about A6) hardback murder puzzle books of a dozen or so stories (c. £5 each) where you are the detective with such titles as ’60-second murder puzzles’ stories), ‘Murder on the Riviera Express’, ‘Murder in Manhattan’, ‘Death after Dinner’ and ‘Five minute crime lateral thinking puzzles’ and the solutions are written in a mirror-imagine format at the end of each story.
  • Other mini-mysteries include 5-minute mysteries (around 40 cases for the reader to solve) and 2-minute mysteries (with c. 80 to choose from). These types of books are great for ideas. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone have been writing fantasy books in this vein for over 20 years (I did them in my teens and was hooked).
  • MQP publish slightly-smaller-than-A5 ‘suitcase’ books such as ‘Classic Mystery Stories’ (including the likes of Charles Dickens, Roahl Dahl and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and ‘Classic Murder Stories’ (including Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Block and Patricia Highsmith).
  • The Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing is a 500+page book which includes an A-Z of terms, authors, characters etc. rather than being a guide to writing, and takes a bit of getting used to but is well worth persevering.
  • The Open University has published a book called ‘Researching Crime & Criminal Justice’. Being a course book, it’s very technical but is crammed with statistics and facts as well as activities to complete.

Needless to say there are hundreds of books to help you write crime and a few are:

  • ‘Writing crime fiction’ by Janet Laurence, published by Studymates, includes narrative style, pacing, and even the art of placing red herrings. www.studymates.co.uk/Creative%20writing.html has a list of all their creative writing-related books.
  • ‘Writing the private eye novel’ is a handbook by The Private Eye Writers of America and published by Writer’s Digest Books. Amongst other aspects it includes sections by Lawrence Block (on structure), Loren D Estleman (on creating suspense), Ed Gorman (on writing the PI series) and Sue Grafton (on using a writing journal).
  • ‘100 Great Detectives’ is a book where ‘famous mystery writers examine their favourite fictional investigators’. Edited and introduced by Maxim Jukoubowski (I hope I’ve pronounced his name correctly), the subjects are penned by the likes of GK Chesterton, Ed McBain, Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Colin Dexter and John Le Carré.
  • ‘The Criminal Hand’ is a small (130 page) but fascinating book which looks at the handwriting of criminals including Hawley Harvey Crippen, Lord Lucan, Jack the Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe (aka the Yorkshire Ripper), Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark Chapman, Ian Brady and even Adolf Hitler, under various headings including ‘clues to criminal types’, ‘a gallery of murderers’, ‘hoax letters’, ‘spies’, ‘female criminal handwriting’ and ‘murder or accident?’.
  • Mills & Boon published crime under the ‘Black Star Crime’ label for c. £4 each but sadly it was a venture that didn’t last long and they have discontinued the range.
  • Forum Press publishes the following magazines…‘Master Detective’, ‘True Crime, Detective Monthly’ and ‘True Detective’ are all monthly. They also publish quarterly magazine ‘Murder Most Foul’ and their website is www.truecrimelibrary.com where you can subscribe, buy individual copies or listen to/save audio files recounting classic cases.

Speaking of crime… I shall be interviewing fellow Litopian Jack Martin (www.amazon.co.uk/Jack-Martin/e/B0041DZSKO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1) shortly… we discussed his westerns back in December 2010 and this time we’ll be talking about his crime writing and interest in Jack the Ripper – and I’ll also be speaking with crime writer Lesley Cookman (http://www.lesleycookman.co.uk) this month (April 2011).

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