Tag Archives: Crimereads

Five Speculative Novels Set In Worlds Full of Books ‹ CrimeReads

By Hester Fox, April 12, 2023

From article…

The only thing better than getting lost in a library?

Reading a book about one, of course. Whether it’s the Library of Alexandria, the British Library, or your favorite local branch, libraries hold a special place in our hearts and imaginations as portals to all sorts of knowledge and different worlds. If books are a “uniquely portable magic,” as Stephen King says, then libraries are a wellspring of enchantment, places where our imaginations are given license to run free.

My upcoming book The Last Heir to Blackwood Library features a sprawling abbey on the windswept Yorkshire moors. When Ivy Radcliffe inherits the abbey in 1927, she arrives to find that there is a magnificent library kept under lock and key by the servants. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary library; the contents of the books seem to spill out into real life, and Ivy’s memory begins to fade with each passing day. Ivy will have to unravel the mystery that lurks at the center of the library if she is to have any chance of saving herself, as well as her beloved abbey.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, then here some other books you might enjoy that feature fantastical libraries, cozy bookstores, and stories that pay homage to the magic of the written word.

Source: Five Speculative Novels Set In Worlds Full of Books ‹ CrimeReads

Redemption for Doctor Watson ‹ CrimeReads

Olivia Rutigliano reads the detective duo as a brilliant double-act, designed by Watson himself.

Published October 29, 2021 By Olivia Rutigliano

Olivia Rutigliano is the Associate Editor of LitHub’s CrimeReads vertical and the Senior Film Writer at LitHub. In addition to Lit Hub, CrimeReads, and Book Marks, her work appears in Vanity Fair, Vulture, Lapham’s Quarterly, Public Books, The Baffler, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Politics/Letters, The Toast, Truly Adventurous, PBS Television, and elsewhere. She is a PhD candidate and the Marion E. Ponsford fellow in the departments of English/comparative literature and theatre at Columbia University, where she specializes in nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature and entertainment.

It’s not easy playing second-fiddle. Think about this for a moment: is there a character in all of Western literature more misunderstood, more defamed than Doctor Watson, the erstwhile sidekick of detective Sherlock Holmes?

So often, in twentieth-century film and television adaptions, Dr. John Watson is represented as a blithering idiot—often old, always naive, and perpetually astonished. He exists in a constant state of amazement; at the very most, providing a contrast that makes Holmes seem even smarter.

This is strange, because, as he is written in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Watson could not be more different than this scurrilous remaking. Holmes and Watson meet in 1881, in a laboratory where Holmes is conducting research. Watson, a surgeon, has just returned to London from a stint in Afghanistan as an army doctor. He’s looking for lodgings, and an old friend directs him to Holmes, who is in the same situation. When they meet, Watson finds Holmes fascinating. Holmes finds Watson suitable.

As both a doctor and a war veteran, Watson is in the unique position to appreciate Holmes’s scientific detective work, as well as offer meaningful assistance as needed. In fact, he appreciates it so well that he begins to profile Holmes, which attracts more attention towards Holmes’s business. And he’s young; according to an estimation by Sherlockian scholar William S. Baring-Gould (which has been corroborated by other scholars, including Leslie S. Klinger), Watson is probably only about twenty-nine years old.

Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…

Source: Redemption for Doctor Watson ‹ 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