Tag Archives: Crimereads

The Birth of an Immortal Literary Character: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ‹ CrimeReads

Leslie S. Klinger on Robert Louis Stevenson’s most enduring – and unsettling – creation.

October 18, 2022 By Leslie S. Klinger, VIA MYSTERIOUS PRESS

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

—Italo Calvino
from article…

What makes a literary character immortal? There are only a handful: instantly recognizable, immeasurably plastic, timeless beings that have grown larger than life—they have captured our imaginations in ways that only a few flesh and blood beings may have.

Often, their creators were envious or oblivious of their creation’s merit. For example, Mary Shelley regarded Frankenstein as her “hideous progeny,” Arthur Conan Doyle despised his tales of Sherlock Holmes as distractions from his worthier pursuit of writing historical fiction, and Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in no small part as a tribute to his idol Sir Henry Irving. Certainly none of these creators imagined that their creations would live for centuries, firing the imaginations of millions of readers, stage-goers, and movie fans.

In 1886, Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde joined this elite company. (1) Unlike the other authors, Robert Louis Stevenson was hardly a “one-hit wonder”: His adventure novels Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Master of Ballantrae are highly regarded and treasured by generations of readers, as is his poetry (A Child’s Garden of Verses). Though he died at age forty-four, his fame was already established, and he was lionized by many other popular writers of the day, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton.

While his literary reputation ebbed and flowed in academic and critical circles over the succeeding century, Stevenson is viewed today as a writer of “originality and power.” (2) Yet Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is unlike anything else Stevenson wrote, weaving a compelling condemnation of Victorian ideals into a shocking story of crime detection. (3) Hailed today as a potent blend of mystery, science fiction, and horror, the novella, like Frankenstein before it, has been too often simplified, distorted, and refashioned into a warning about good defeated by evil. The true nature of Stevenson’s tale is far more complex.

Continue reading The Birth of an Immortal Literary Character: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ‹ CrimeReads

The Magic of Cookbooks in Fiction ‹ CrimeReads

Lucy Burdette on the long tradition of weaving cookbooks into the plots of mystery novels.

August 29, 2022, By Lucy Burdette

from article…

When one of my writing pals sent me a link to a vintage Key West Woman’s Club cookbook published in the 1940’s, the plot for my 12th Key West mystery, A DISH TO DIE FOR, finally took off. First, a little background. Food critic Hayley Snow and her dog find a body on the beach about ten miles north of Key West. It’s a shock of course, and she’s still reeling from the emotional fallout of her discovery when she remembers she’s agreed to help sort donated cookbooks for the Friends of the Key West Library.

When I reached this point in the novel, I’d been talking with my writing friends about struggling with the plot. I loved the opening scenes, but how did this man’s body end up on the beach, and why? And how could I weave in the food angle that is expected with a foodie protagonist? Could something about the donated cookbooks contribute to a murder solution?

Soon after our meeting, my friend Angelo sent this email, along with a photograph of the Key West Cookbook: I don’t know if this would be of any use to you, but I thought you’d find it interesting. I belong to the Historic Florida Page and this came up today. I wonder if they have a copy of the cookbook at your library? It was done by the Key West Woman’s Club. What’s cool is that the book was written out in longhand. 

Source: https://crimereads.com/cookbooks-fiction/

Long Live Pantsing ‹ CrimeReads

Chris Offutt discovers the “pantser v. plotter” debate and promptly reevaluates his fifty-six years of writing.

By Chris Offutt, June 7th, 2022, via Grove Press

I recently left the house and someone asked what kind of writer I was.

I told them I was the kind that preferred to stay home. I didn’t tell them why—to avoid questions such as that. The person followed up by saying, “Are you a pantser or a plotter?”

Not only did I fail to understand the question, I also misheard the second option as “plodder.” Yes, I said, that was my approach. I just plodded along, writing my average of one page per day.

Later I went home and googled the question.  It turns out that “pantser” refers to someone who writes by the seat of their pants, meaning they don’t plan ahead with detailed outlines.  The origin of the term “fly by the seat of your pants” comes from a pilot named Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, who left New York for California and wound up in Ireland.

He’d discarded his flight plan and lacked a radio.  His twenty-year-old compass broke en route.  Yes, I realized, that’s exactly how I preferred to write—flying blind with no instruments and no plan.  I write by the seat of my pants.  Maybe my next book will wind up in Ireland and I’ll be known as Wrong Way Offutt!

I believe this approach creates a tension on the page and a certain excitement for me.  Before starting Shifty’s Boys I had an idea that the murder victim in the opening would be a character from its prequel, The Killing Hills.  Of course, I didn’t know who!  I just placed the unidentified body, then jumped to the protagonists, Mick Hardin and his sister, Sheriff Linda Hardin.  Later, Mick was in his sister’s house when someone knocked at the door. I truly had no idea who it was—I was pantsing—but the scene needed a new character and the story needed to get rolling.  The person at the door turned out to be the brother of the murder victim who wanted Mick’s help.  Perfect!  Mick always helps anyone when he can.

Source: Long Live Pantsing ‹ CrimeReads

Why the Mystery Novel Is a Perfect Literary Form ‹ CrimeReads

David Gordon on the long, rich history of private eyes – and why contemporary novelists keep on turning to them.

By David Gordon, April 26, 2022

From article…

I am a lifelong lover and obsessive consumer of all kinds of genre fiction in many mediums, from the original Star Trek series to yakuza and samurai films, from JG Ballard’s sci-fi nightmares to PG Wodehouse’s sparkling farces.

But if there is one genre form that attains a kind of Platonic perfection, the genre of genres, I believe it has to be the mystery, specifically the detective story.

In The Wild Life, the newest novel in my Bouncer series, Joe Brody, a strip-club bouncer who sidelines as a fixer for New York’s mob bosses, is given a new kind of assignment: detective. Sort of. A number of the city’s most sought after sex workers have disappeared and the bosses fear the worst – a serial killer in their midst. They ask Joe to investigate, forcing him to become a strange new hybrid, professional criminal turned amateur private eye, in a book that attempts to cross the heist novel with a detective story.

This is actually my third try at a detective narrative of sorts and each time I’ve taken a different approach. In The Serialist, a pulp writer is hired to ghost the memoir of a death row killer. In Mystery Girl, a desperate husband, hoping to win back his wife, takes the only job he can get – “assistant” to a possibly deranged amateur detective. Nevertheless, these variations on the form are mere crumbs at the feast, drops in the overflowing well that is detective fiction.

Despite remaining in many ways essentially the same since Dupin and Holmes, I believe that a large part of the mystery’s continued relevance, eternal popularity and seemingly limitless expansion is its ideal malleability as a form, retaining its essential nature while being twisted into new shapes over the decades.

Source: Why the Mystery Novel Is a Perfect Literary Form ‹ CrimeReads

Science Fiction For Crime Lovers: a Beginner’s Tour ‹ CrimeReads

Or, a look at five great scifi novels that also happen to be pitch-black noirs.

April 13, 2022, by Adam Oyebanji

–from article…

“I can’t read science fiction. It’s not real.”

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone say that—or something like that—when I try to explain my love of a genre chock full of alien invaders, interstellar spacecraft, and gun-toting princesses, alien or otherwise.

There is something so “out there” about SF that many readers never give it a chance.

If so, you’re missing out. Science fiction is “out there” because it sets its stories in a world that isn’t necessarily ours. Sometimes in a universe that has nothing to do with the one where you’re reading this article.

Daunting for the non-nerd? Sure. But think about it this way. If the whole universe is your playpen, you can write any story you want. Any story. A love story? Sure. Starcrossed lovers from warring worlds, for starters. A swashbuckling adventure? Ditto. Isn’t that Star Wars after all?

And crime novels? Absolutely. Wait. What?

Source: Science Fiction For Crime Lovers: a Beginner’s Tour ‹ CrimeReads