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1. The Crime Writer's Reference Guide:
$15.61 $14.94 list($22.95)
2. How to Write a Damn Good Mystery
$11.55 $10.50 list($16.99)
3. Writing Mysteries: A Handbook
$15.00 $10.01
4. How to Write a Mystery
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5. Raymond Chandler: A Biography
$10.46 $8.95 list($13.95)
6. The Weekend Novelist Writes A
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7. Time to Be in Earnest : A Fragment
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8. You Can Write a Mystery (You Can
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9. Plotting and Writing Suspense
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10. Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide
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11. Writing Mysteries (Self-Counsel
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12. Just the Facts, Ma'Am: A Writer's
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13. How to Write Mysteries (Genre
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14. Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and
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15. The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers:
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16. Rip-Off: A Writer's Guide to Crimes
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17. The Red Hot Typewriter : The Life
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18. Amateur Detectives: A Writer's
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19. The Elements of Mystery Fiction:
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20. Murder One: A Writer's Guide to

1. The Crime Writer's Reference Guide: 1001 Tips on Writing the Perfect Murder
by Martin Roth, Martin Writer's Complete Crime Reference Book Roth
list price: $17.95
our price: $17.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0941188493
Catlog: Book (2003-01-01)
Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
Sales Rank: 50911
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A complete reference source for writers of TV, film, mysteries, thrillers, action/adventure, romantic suspense, and psychological mysteries. This complete guide features accurate information about every aspect of crime, from weapons to police departments to crime jargon to standard operating procedures for criminals. Covers numerous aspects of crime and outlines general rules of thumb for writing. Also details specific policies and procedures of various law enforcement agencies.

KEY FEATURES:* The perfect companion book for all writers looking to add crackling accuracy and tension to their crime novels or scripts.

* Updated information and Foreword by Sgt Rey Verdugo, Top Criminal Investigator and Technical Consultant for Film and TV.

* An invaluable reference with practical material road-tested in crime writing workshops given by Roth and Verdugo. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

1-0 out of 5 stars Save Your Money
I'm not sure what the other reviewers found so compelling. I found little here other than pages and pages of lists. Some examples: 6pp. of LAPD police radio codes, 3pp. of FBI case classifications, 16pp. of org charts for the LA County Sherrif's Dept. My favorite, however, is the full page devoted to a listing of "Weapons Used by Criminals" which begins "Acid, Air gun, Ax, Bayonet, Bazooka, Billy Club..." Well, you get the idea. The portions of the book not devoted to lists tend to be laughably superficial (e.g., "Street gangs now battle over who sells the drugs and where." Really, thanks.) Granted, there are suggestions for further reading, but my advice would be to save yourself some money and do your readers a favor -- do your own research.

5-0 out of 5 stars Spice up your writing
I don't usually write crime novels, but when I decided to try my hand at suspence I realized just how much help I needed. I searched through many reference books and found The Crime Writers Reference Guide by Martin Roth to be a savior for me. It gives great tips on investigating, cops, the courts, illegal drugs, the prison system and crime. A handy book to have by your computer when you need to amp up a scene or two or just need to be factual. I found the investigation, crime and prison chapters to be especially helpful. Plus, at the end of each chapter is a "Where to go from here" that gives you extra resources to look up, so you don't have to stop with this book and you have the titles and authors of others to investigate. A great companion to this book is one I found by accident titled "Crime Scene" by Larry Ragle. I wrote a review on that one too, so go there and check that out.

5-0 out of 5 stars Individual chapters cover what a writer most needs to know
The Crime Writer's Reference Guide: 1001 Tips For Writing The Perfect Murder by Martin Roth is a detailed resource especially intended for aspiring authors of mysteries, suspense thrillers, action/adventure crime novels, true crime stories, and police procedurals novels. Individual chapters cover what a writer most needs to know in order to avoid common errors and misconceptions when writing about crime, criminals, police, courts, and prisons. A highly recommended basic primer, this edition of The Crime Writer's Reference Guide is enhanced with a new Foreword and updated information supplied by Rey Verdugo, a former police officer, a top criminal investigator, and a technical consultant for film and television projects.

5-0 out of 5 stars What you need to know to write a crime drama
The premise of this book appeals to every screenwriter that is ready to enter the world of crime and investigation, a book written for screenwriters regarding the world of crime. This book is the ultimate starting point for creating a believable world for thrillers, mysteries, and other related crime dramas.

Written by Martin Roth with adaptations from Sargeant Rey Verdugo, this book grabs hold of you at page 1 by offering the 10 most common mistakes writers will make regarding police work. So, Is "taking a suspect down to the precinct for questioning" an appropriate phrase to use in your screenplay?

Then, the Crime Writer Reference Book states the different types of crimes and possible motives for creating such crime. It allows you, the writer, to explore any possible scenario and making that scenario accurate.

5-0 out of 5 stars A must have for writers -- essential guide
As a screenwriter, there's a slew of reference guides available...but I must say this one is really a must-have. Regardless if you are writing an article, novel, non-fiction, TV or film-- if it has any reference to crime in it at all - do yourself a favor and pick up this guide. Because I do not have "Criminal/police" info readily available, this guide allows me (and my characters) to sound more credible and authentic. Another item I'd like to mention is the layout -- very easy to refer to -- lists of crimes, motives, firearms, etc. Saves me time and enhances my stories! Great book -- Highly recommend. ... Read more


2. How to Write a Damn Good Mystery : A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript
by James N. Frey
list price: $22.95
our price: $15.61
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312304463
Catlog: Book (2004-02-12)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 18300
Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Edgar award nominee James N. Frey, author of the internationally best-selling books on the craft of writing, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, How to Write a Damn Good Novel II: Advanced Techniques, and The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, has now written what is certain to become the standard "how to" book for mystery writing, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery.

Frey urges writers to aim high-not to try to write a good-enough-to-get-published mystery, but a damn good mystery.A damn good mystery is first a dramatic novel, Frey insists-a dramatic novel with living, breathing characters-and he shows his readers how to create a living, breathing, believable character who will be clever and resourceful, willful and resolute, and will be what Frey calls "the author of the plot behind the plot."

Frey then shows, in his well-known, entertaining, and accessible (and often humorous) style , how the characters-the entire ensemble, including the murderer, the detective, the authorities, the victims, the suspects, the witnesses and the bystanders-create a complete and coherent world.

Exploring both the on-stage action and the behind-the-scenes intrigue, Frey shows prospective writers how to build a fleshed-out, believable, and logical world.He shows them exactly which parts of that world show up in the pages of a damn good mystery-and which parts are held back just long enough to keep the reader guessing.

This is an indispensable step-by-step guide for anyone who's ever dreamed of writing a damn good mystery.
... Read more

Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and Practical
I have been a fan of James N. Frey since his first "how to" book, "How to Write a Damn Good Novel". I was pleasantly surprised that he has now adapted his method to the mystery genre.

This book does not go into all the poisons, weapons, clever plot reversals, etc. that you might find in other mystery writing books, but it does tell you where and how to begin, how to create characters with depth and interest, a plan for a logical and surprising plot, and tips on improving writing style. To me, it is the first book I have read on this subject that makes the writing process clear. I have been a fan of mystery novels since childhood, and I always wanted to write one but did not know how to generate a good enough story. Now, since Frey's book, I have an idea I am excited about and I am, for the first time, writing a mystery novel.

1-0 out of 5 stars The Real Mystery...
This was one of the worst writing guides I have ever purchased. The real mystery is why it received so many great reviews on this site. Are you all Friends of Frey?

I bought the book thinking that the previous review ("A great guide, but some "facts" are actually opinions," February 14, 2004) was a great kickoff, eager to hear more from Frey himself. For example, the idea of flying through a quick first draft, writing it almost as a screenplay and blocking out the actions in all caps, intrigued me. Frey rolls around to this idea towards the end of the book and admits it wasn't even his own idea but one he'd lifted off a half-ploughed writer at a conference. Having finished the book, I can say I got as much from the review above as I did from the book itself.

Frey treats his own method as THE WAY to write, gives no alternatives, and makes no acknowledgement that there are a number of ways that writers approach their work. Worse, he states that thick, well-rounded characters are preferable, but then peoples his own examples with the thinnest of trope characters. He even advocates these 'archetypes' (which read more like stereotypes) as a good way to start framing your characterization, a process I think is completely backwards, and tends to leave writers in the shallow waters where they began to kick about. The examples he gives throughout tend to be uninteresting and lack consistency; when he gives an example of a poor writing sample he does not remedy the ill by making that same sample better or good or 'damn good,' he just skips to a new example completely, which tends not to be 'damn good' itself.

Most annoying, Frey kicks off nearly every chapter or salient point with a blatant stump for one of his other published books on writing. I finished the book frustrated I had purchased what amounted to a paper-thin infomercial for books I now have no desire at all to purchase.

Skip this silly book completely and invest in Orson Scott Card's excellent "Characters & Viewpoint" or Carolyn Wheat's "How to Write Killer Fiction."

4-0 out of 5 stars One Philosophy of Writing Mysteries, But Not the Only One
If you're interested in writing mysteries, this is a good place to begin. A lot goes into the writing of a mystery, so it's important to put some forethought into the process. I concur with the reviewer who asserted that some of Frey's "facts" are actually opinions. Frey is very much a "planner," so if you're a blank pager, you may feel put off by Frey's perspective. Let's face it -- There is NOT exclusively one way to write a novel, and that includes mystery novels. Different writers have different ways of approaching the page -- and different ways of approaching story. Thus, keep in mind that "Frey's Way" is not "The Only Way."

One element that I disliked about Frey's book is that he seems to have a bias against "literary fiction," and that bias definitely comes through in the book (although he doesn't address this often). However, if you're willing to overlook that element and take whatever helpful advice Frey does impart on his readers, the book is definitely worth reading.

That said, even with the annoyances of Frey's clear grudge against the literary, I would still recommend this book for those who are interested in writing mysteries. He does dwell on some important, and generally crucial, points to consider: character development and character "biographies," knowing your culprit and your hero/detective/sleuth, and the "plot behind the plot." Overall, I'd say that the exercises he recommends are helpful. His perspective also provides a nice balance for those of us who are not necessarily "planners" in our writing; thus, he addresses many issues that we may be wise to address either before the start of a novel, or at least at the story's outset. Keep in mind, however: There are numerous ways to go about the writing process. Writing is not a formula; it's a creative process. Hopefully. We all have unique ways of approaching that process, and creativity is about uniqueness--in thought, in word, and in action. Read this book, but keep in mind the old adage: To each his (or her) own.

5-0 out of 5 stars Everything the title promises
I'm not a mystery writer -- I don't like reading mysteries nor do I like watching them -- but I believe this book offers excellent advice for all fiction writers who want to write suspenseful prose. Frey dispenses helpful guidance on creating believable plot lines, developing credible characters, and working with outlines. Even experienced writers will find many of his tips insightful. The book is very well organized and throughout, Frey backs up his points with numerous examples.

4-0 out of 5 stars A great guide, but some "facts" are actually opinions
Despite its drawbacks, How to _Write a Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript_ is the best book I have yet read on writing a mystery. For a step-by-step guide to mystery writing, I found it more flexible, more readable and less stuffy than _The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery_. _How to Write a Damn Good Mystery_ offers excellent guidance for character creation, but I would recommend _Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors_ by Brandilyn Collins, which goes into character creation in greater depth, as supplemental reading.

I highly recommend _How to Write a Damn Good Mystery : A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript_ with two caveats:

1. The author often offers his opinion as fact.
2. The book sometimes reads like an advertisement for the author's other how-to-write-fiction books.

Jim Frey mentions his other how-to-write-fiction books about twenty times during the course of this 267 page book. At an average of one plug every thirteen pages, that doesn't sound too bad. But, Frey tends to begin chapters by talking about his other books, which quickly becomes repetitious and grated on my nerves because I thought it unnecessary: Don't tell me what you said in another book, just tell me again in this book. I can only recall one place where he mentioned a fiction book he wrote. This may be because all the mystery novels he has written are now out of print.

Jim Frey uses his ten years of teaching experience to justify some of his opinions, which he presents as facts. Jim's mystery novels are all out of print and he appears to be making a living putting on writing workshops and writing how-to-write-fiction books. This makes me a little wary due to the old truism, "Those who can do; those who can't teach."

One of Frey's opinions, presented as a fact, is that you must have a plan before you begin writing fiction. Read interviews of your favorite writers and you will notice that they all have different writing habits and approach their work in different ways. For instance in one interview, Elmore Leonard said: "I have no idea where it's going. I have no idea how it will end. I just start it. Sometimes, Chapter 1 will become Chapter 2 or 3; one time it became Chapter 10. I don't plot the whole book out. I'd rather not know what's going to happen myself." Dean Koontz, in _Writing Bestselling Fiction_, also suggests that beginning writers start with an outline, but admits that is not the way he writes. Elmore Leonard and Dean Koontz are best-selling authors, whose books are still in print. They and many other authors I have read recognize that the creative process can be different for each writer. It drove me nuts every time that Jim Frey presented his experience a fact or as the only way to perform a particular writing task.

Frey also offered examples that showed how his method fits in with those presented by other authors. One I can think of is what he calls a "mini-scene" which Swain and Bickman call a sequel. I gravitate toward the practical and examples and Frey offers the ultimate example by walking you step-by-step through creating the characters and plot in write-along mystery, Murder in Montana. He also goes into how to actually write a scene and revise it through the final draft. This example is great and I wish he spent more time "where the rubber meets the road," with the actual writing process.

_How to Write a Damn Good Mystery_ is easy to read, and offers good sound advice (if you take the author's opinions as just that) presented in logical, step-by-step approach. Here's what I took away from Frey's book in the order he recommends:

1. Start with creating the murderer using concepts from Lajos Egri's _The Art of Dramatic Writing_: creating the physiology, sociology, and psychology of the character and giving the character a ruling passion.

2. Creation of the murder and what Frey calls the "plot behind the plot": the plot line of the murder from the murderer's perspective. Write a journal in the voice of the character [I find this very practical as this type of writing is very close to fiction writing].

3. Create the detective, then 2-3 false suspects, and the other characters who will people the novel. Create journals in the voice of each of these characters.

4. Create what Frey calls a stepsheet, which is a plot outline for the entire novel that also shows what happened outside the scenes to appear in the book.

5. Speed write a first draft, writing important dialogue, but summarizing action in all-caps [the way action is summarized in a screenplay]. The idea is to get through the first draft in a few days.

6. Polished prose is actually prose that has been rewritten many times: rewrite the story 15-20 times, then polish the prose, bettering bits of it hear and there 30-40 times more.

7. Learn how to write good prose by typing 2-3 pages a day, verbatim, from a novel of a highly accomplished author. Then try to write a page in the same style.

I found a lot to like in this book. I will be reading it again, but I'll skip over the parts that grate, and concentrate on the golden nuggets. On a scale of one to ten, I'd give _How to Write a Damn Good Mystery : A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript_ a solid eight. ... Read more


3. Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
by Sue Grafton, Jan Burke, Barry Zeman, Mystery Writers of America
list price: $16.99
our price: $11.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1582971021
Catlog: Book (2002-04-01)
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
Sales Rank: 20008
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The mystery, like other stories, relies on believable characters, a strong narrative, and crisp prose. But it is also "a way of examining the dark side of human nature," says Writing Mysteries editor Sue Grafton. The book's 37 contributors ponder everything from brainstorming ideas to dealing with editors. Jeremiah Healy jump-starts the book with a piece that considers the unwritten "rules" of mystery writing. Stuart Kaminsky discusses research--experts, it turns out, are just waiting for you to contact them--and Sandra Scoppettone discusses vivid villains. Sara Paretsky contemplates the pitfalls of using a recurring hero, and Michael Connelly contributes a fine piece on characterization. "The best crime novels," Connelly says, "are not about how a detective works on a case; they are about how a case works on a detective." Other chapters focus on amateur sleuths, convincing dialogue, depiction of violence, and specialty genres. The book's short chapters form a sort of mystery writer's antipasti plate. Some won't resonate, while others will leave you wishing you had a larger serving. An ideal primer for mystery writers.--Jane Steinberg ... Read more

Reviews (5)

2-0 out of 5 stars Empty advice - scrambled eggs with not enough ham
A favorite device of the Writer's Digest Books imprint is to collect a couple dozen magazine articles under some organizational headings, add an introduction by a well-known genre name (Sue Grafton, in this case), and publish it as a book. I've found these collections to be uniformly unsatisfying, short on real how-to information and long on shopworn cliches. Writing Mysteries is no exception.

The biggest failing of Writing Mysteries is that, regardless of what the table of contents promises, it presents no real strategy for approaching the complex task of planning and writing a book-length manuscript. Many of the chapters were clearly written to fill magazine column space. They cover topics that have been covered elsewhere time after weary time, too often in an off-hand or precious manner, and they tend to give empty advice - where do you get ideas? anywhere; do you use an outline? sometimes; and on and on. Worse, many of the chapters are rambling and poorly organized, and some deal only tangentially with the topic announced in the chapter title (or subheading).

There are useful tips here, but you have to mine the whole mountain to find the nuggets. You'd do better to purchase a single-author, comprehensive guide to writing mysteries. You'll get those nuggets of writing wisdom, along with a lot more actual how-to information.

5-0 out of 5 stars General, but full of Great Suggestions
Every aspiring mystery writer, especially beginners, should take a good look at this book. It can save beginning writers a lot of grief. More experienced writers may find some of the focus a bit tedious, but that very same beginner focus has come in handy for me a number of times (usually when a project is losing steam, or I'm having difficulty with pacing... things like that). I definitely recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Do NOT Wait to Get This Book If You Want to Writer Mysteries
WOW! I just finished reading this book and I NEVER read a book twice, but I plan on going back and re-reading every chapter in this book at least twice to make sure I didn't miss anything in the first go-round.

This chapters in this book are written by some of the best Mystery writers in America (hence the title) but what they divulge in each chapter, informationwise, is worth it's weight in gold (or in budding mystery writers--worth it's weight in editor's advice, author's hints to getting printed, and agents dreams for all their best selling authors).

Don't wait until this book can be purchased used -- buy it new at full-price now--you won't regret it. Then read each chapter, high-light the good points, then go back and re-read a chapter or two often.

My favorite and most rich in information chapter was the one near the end describing what agents do for writers in terms of monetary contracts, how hard-copy versus soft-copy books will enrich you one way or the other, and there's even a chapter on e-printing that shared lots of neat little pieces of information.

But, the best thing about this book is you feel like the Mystery Authors who contributed a chapter each were sitting next to you, telling you little secrets about writing and the industry that they were only telling you so you could succeed and get ahead of all the others. And they were all very encouraging, positive thinking, essays.

Sue Grafton edited the book and my hat is off to you Ms. Grafton--I have read every one of your Kinsey Milhoune books A-Q, and if you don't get R out soon, I'm going to die!

Highly advise buying this book if you are aspiring to be a Mystery Writer in any genre.

5-0 out of 5 stars Everything you'll need to finally write that mystery!
Writing Mysteries, 2nd Ed.: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
Edited by Sue Grafton, with Jan Burke and Barry Zeman
Writers Digest Books(2002)

"Writing a novel is a long distance run of the imagination...Writers need all the help they can get, wherever they can get it..." (George C. Chesbro, p.91)

So you want to write a mystery? There's a few things you'll need for your journey, among them a healthy dose of curiousity and imagination, but nothing so important as a well-worn copy of Writing Mysteries (2nd Ed.), written by the Mystery Writers of America. Everything you'll need is here, organized into just under 300 pages of collective wisdom, from well-known and not-so-well-known mystery authors.

The handbook is divided into three parts: Preparation, The Process, and Specialties. Part I includes chapters on "The Rules and How to Bend Them," how and where writers get their ideas, the pros and cons of writing with a partner, and several chapters on research and background, all exploring different facets of these subjects.

Part II, The Process, dives right in to beginnings, middles, and endings, with specific sections focusing in-depth on characterization, creating a series character, using point of view, and developing one's personal writing style. Discussions on dialogue, pacing, and "clues, red herrings, and other plot devices" lead into the beginning of the end--thoughts and recommendations on plot, revision, agents, and markets.

Part III, Specialities, contains separate and thorough chapters each detailing a particular type of mystery writing--writing short stories, for younger audiences, true crime, e-book mysteries, and even a list of additional recommended reading and references.

So there you have it--everything you'll need to know to write a mystery--from the inkling of your first clue to the portrayal of the hero/sleuth your audiences will clamor to read about again and again. The best of the best are here--Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, Tony Hillerman, Michael Connelly, Stuart Kaminsky, Sara Paretsky, Joan Lowery Nixon, Lawrence Block, and a host of other unique voices to guide the beginning mystery writer on the journey from idea to publication. With humor and honesty, a varied assortment of very different writers share their thoughts and even some of their "trade secrets" in this excellent writer's resource. Every aspiring mystery writer should have a copy of Writing Mysteries within arm's reach.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best reference for mystery writers
Put this book at the top of your reference list if you are a mystery writer. From research to writer's block to finding an agent, any problem you encounter will be addressed in this book. You can easily find the subject you're looking for without having to thumb trough the whole book.
It's like having all your favorite writers at your beckon call when you need advice, without the legwork. Unlike most reference books, it doesn't stifle creativity with a lot of rules and this-is-how-it's-done's. Fun to read, and-most importantly- it got me excited about my own writing again. ... Read more


4. How to Write a Mystery
by LARRY BEINHART
list price: $15.00
our price: $15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0345397584
Catlog: Book (1996-07-09)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 154496
Average Customer Review: 4.62 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

WHODUNIT? YOUDUNIT!
So you want to write a mystery. There's more to it than just a detective, a dead body, and Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with the candlestick. Fortunately, Larry Beinhart--Edgar Award-winning author of You Get What You Pay For, Foreign Exchange, and American Hero--has taken a break from writing smart, suspenseful thrillers to act as your guide through all the twists and turns of creating the twists and turns of a good mystery.
Drawing on advice and examples from a host of the best names in mystery writing--from Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane to Scott Turow and Thomas Harris--plus some of his own prime plots, Larry Beinhart introduces you to your most indispensable partners in crime:
*Character, plot, and procedure
* The secrets to creating heroes, heroines, and villains ("All writers draw upon themselves and their experience. While the whole of yourself might not be capable of being either a serial killer or an FBI agent, there are parts in each of us that are capable of almost anything.")
* The fine art of scripting the sex scene
*The low-down on violence ("A crime novel without violence is like smoking pot without inhaling, sex without orgasm, or a hug without a squeeze." )
*And much more!
From the opening hook to the final denouement, Larry Beinhart takes the mystery out of being a mystery writer.
... Read more

Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Helpful, witty, and wonderful, but biased--not for cozies!
The things I love about this book are that it's clever, formally interesting, and fun to read, and that it is irreverent. It doesn't tell you to scrutinize the market and write only the sort of book that is viable and popular. It identifies the structures and details that make for pleasurable reading, and it encourages you to be innovative and unique. It sets you in the direction of thinking about the specific choices you've made for your book and how you can make them more compelling. However, this book should be called How to Write a Crime Novel, since the author is not concerned with traditional cozy mysteries--a huge portion of the mystery market, I would imagine--and admits that he doesn't understand their appeal. I would guess that if you are interested in hard-boiled crime fiction, you could get a whole education about its best and brightest here, since Beinhart's examples and analysis mine hard-boiled fiction for some amazing and entertaining material. He also offers many lists of exemplary hard-boiled writers and books. But the things the author says about cozies (and quotes others as saying about them) are unjustifiably paltry and cliched. As someone who is trying to write a cozy mystery series, I found this book extremely helpful, but not ideal.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Writer--Excellent Read (highly recommend)
... Even though this book is specifically for writing mysteries,

it is by far the best of all the writing books I have.

Besides being a great writer, which makes this book a quick and enjoyable read, Larry gives practicle advice, inspiration, examples, and walks you through each step of writing a mystery.

I've put aside all other writing books and I'm reading this one for the second time.

It is well worth the money.

5-0 out of 5 stars I Agree ... One of the Best
This is a great book for both the beginner and the experience writer. It walks you through the process without holding your hand. Outlining the process from start to finish it can help the self-taught refresh their memories and to double check themsleves while providing a start to finish map for the new author to follow. Even for those who don't need the information contained within its covers, this is a good read that makes you think about the subject.

3-0 out of 5 stars Lots of good information
I'm writing my first mystery and I need all the help I can get!

This book was more helpful than just a general how-to-write book; it's focused on the mystery writer and his or her especial needs.

It's a lot of fun, and yes, I did laugh out loud at a few parts. Good read.

Sorry about the three stars, but only the JANE EYREses of the world get five from me.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best "how to write" books I have ever read.
Simply put, Beinhart's book is one of the best "How to Write..." books I have ever read. Unlike many books in which the author mostly inspires the reader and/or shares what has worked for him or her, Beinhart gives multiple examples from contemporary and classic works, as well as from his own experiences. I knew that this book had fire in it when I found myself outlining my plot, characters, etc. as I read along. I was also pleased with the Beinhart's honesty about the business and politics of the publishing industry. This book deserves a space on the shelf of every mystery writer--published and unpublished. ... Read more


5. Raymond Chandler: A Biography
by Tom Hiney
list price: $26.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0871136902
Catlog: Book (1997-05-01)
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr
Sales Rank: 295953
Average Customer Review: 3.78 out of 5 stars
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London-based journalist Tom Hiney does particularly good work assessing the impact an English public school education had on this most American of writers (1888-1959), the man who turned hard-boiled detective stories into literature with novels like The Big Sleep. But the author is equally acute in discussing Chandler's years as an oil executive in Los Angeles, his marriage to a woman 18 years his senior, his alcoholism, and the Philip Marlowe mysteries that made him rich and famous in middle age. A sympathetic, unflinching look at a gifted artist and very unhappy man. ... Read more

Reviews (9)

4-0 out of 5 stars Hiney's Detective Work Yields All The Clues
While other reviewers apparently fault the author for daring to depict the rather ordinary demise of the "great man", Chandler's life was more devoted to his isolation and misogyny than it was to his novels. Hiney's triumph is showing what an interesting life it was, nonetheless. Chandler was just a writer who loved words more than he loved people, who loaded up his cynicism in neat little rounds and fired at humanity with some precision. That same cynicism drove him to view life through the bottom of a shot glass, at no little cost to his art (or I suppose as some might argue to enhance his art). Mostly he wanted to get it right - mostly he did, especially in "The Long Goodbye". I like that Hiney doesn't let the extraordinary Mr. Marlowe overshadow the strains of ordinariness in Chandler's character. I certainly enjoy Chandler's fiction the greater for this very good life.

3-0 out of 5 stars He Made A Bad Ending
Tom Hiney brings no new material to this biography and no startling new approach to the previous and very enjoyable biography by Frank MacShane. This is however a more contemporary book, written with a breezy journalistic style which makes it hard to put down, indeed compulsive. Not least in its charms is the snap and crackle of nearly everything Chandler himself wrote, not least the letters, which Hiney is wise enough to quote from liberally.

My main complaint is that I came away from this book with a sense of the author's disgust at his subject's decline into chaotic behaviour and helplessness after the death of his wife. My recollection of the MacShane book is of a certain tragic sympathy in the treatment of Chandler's last, disasterous years. Here one feels Hiney is disappointed with Chandler, that somehow the hero he has been peddling let him down. It is somehow the reader of the biography who is let down, suddenly finding the author whose wit he has grown rather fond of, dismissed as a sad old drunk. A readable book, but skip the ending if you like your Chandler, and go to the letters - which do not fail to show this sad, witty man at his droll best.

2-0 out of 5 stars Good read with baffling errors
This biography reads very well, but it's almost impossible to understand, as other reviewers have noted, how Mr. Hiney could have made such egregious errors recounting the plot of Farewell, My Lovely. It calls into question the possible accuracy of his research into biographical details. On pages 116-117 of the paperback edition, there are three key errors. First, Hiney indicates Marriott was killed by his cronies, but it was Velma/Mrs. Grayle who killed him. Next Hiney claims Jules Amthor was a pyschiatrist, but Amthor was a psychic consultant. Hiney then uses Marlowe's sarcastic portrayal of the people who call on Amthor as a veiled reference to Chandler's views on psychiatrists, whom Chandler had consulted during his bouts with alcoholism during his oil industry days. The leap taken by here by Hiney on wrong information is just mind-boggling. On a far less egregious error he quotes Anne Riordan as saying to Marlowe "Do you have to say things like that?" because, according to Mr. Hiney, "Anne is fond of Marlowe, but doesn't like the swear words he uses." But Anne's response isn't to a swear word, instead it comes after this line from Marlowe: "The Mayor is doing all this, changing his pants hourly while the crisis lasts." This error is minor compared to confusing who killed Marriott and the psychiatrist/psychic consultant problem, but as a third mistake within justs two pages, any reader who's familiar with Marlowe's books may be ready to throw Hiney's biography out the window. And that's a shame because it's a very readable bio.

2-0 out of 5 stars Should have been far better
I thoroughly agree with the last reviewer Mr Reed. Hiney's biography contains a significant number of very basic errors in describing the plots of Raymond Chandler's novels and short stories. These are elementary details, and a serious biographer has no excuse for making obvious factual mistakes.

I don't think this is a bad book either, but I do question conclusions of anyone who cannot check source material thoroughly.

Frank MacShane wrote a biography of Raymond Chandler which I believe is far better than Mr Hiney's work.

3-0 out of 5 stars One can't help but wonder
Hiney's biography, while illuminating in a number of ways, has one severe problem that undercuts its quality. He makes mistakes, obvious factual ones. When recounting the plot to "Farewell, My Lovely," he is wrong. Other synopses of stories and novels are not quite right, as though he read them in a hurry or not at all.

This doesn't mean that Hiney wrote a bad book, but I can't help but wonder. When such easily verifiable facts are incorrect, what can one make of his conclusions based off of other, now suspect, facts?

This is a good book and a useful window into Chandler's life, but when the most elemental literary analysis of the man's work is off, and badly, one can't hold it in too high esteem.

One can only hope that a better biography of Chandler comes along. ... Read more


6. The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery
by ROBERT J. RAY
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0440506581
Catlog: Book
Publisher: Dell
Sales Rank: 37401
Average Customer Review: 4.64 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Like Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, Sara Paretsky and Thomas Harris, you, too, can learn the trade secrets of quality detective fiction.

It's true.Just one year from now, you can deliver a completed mystery novel to a publisher--by writing only on weekends.Authors Robert J.Ray and Jack Remick guide you through the entire mystery-writing process, from creating a killer to polishing off the final draft.Each weekend you'll focus on a specific task--learning the basics of novel-writing, the special demands of mystery-writing, and the secrets professionals use to create stories one scene at a time, building to a shivery, satisfying climax.Using Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library as a model for the classical mystery tale and Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park for the hard-boiled mystery, this unique step-by-step program gives you all the information you need to reach your ultimate goal: a finished book in just 52 weeks!

Let two successful masters of the genre show you how...

Discover:

  • Why you must create your killer first
  • The tricks to writing dialogue that does it all--moves your plot, involves your reader, and makes your style sizzle
  • How to "bury" information (and corpses) for your reader to find
  • Why you should NOT build your book around chapters
  • Special techniques for clearing writer's block
  • Plus: examples from Sue Grafton, Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Cornwell, Thomas Harris, Raymond Chandler, and more. ... Read more

    Reviews (14)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A review of The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery
    Most aspiring and accomplished writers own at least a modest collection of how-to-write books. The majority of these books are inspirational with a smattering of tips and techniques thrown in.

    The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery is different.

    Step-by-step methods for constructing a tight mystery novel plot with compelling and convincing characters fill every page. Examples of the authors' own novel process along with those of other masters such as Agatha Christie, Martin Cruz Smith, Sue Grafton, and Raymond Chandler illustrate each step.

    There are no timid suggestions in vague jargon here. The authors have taken great pains to make sure each and every facet of their combined writing and teaching expertise is explained thoroughly and usefully.

    The importance of a solid "backstory" is the focus of early chapters, giving the writer a solid view of their story before moving on to the writing itself. The far too common problem of writing oneself to a standstill is virtually impossible if the plot and characterization techniques are followed. The remainder of the book contains a treasure trove of specific techniques for creating scenes, convincing dialogue, and "real" settings. The reader will learn how to group their scenes into logical "acts", control the story's pace, and use the language to set tone and resonance.

    While structured specifically for the mystery writer, the techniques can be applied to other genres with relative ease. Any novelist, whether still aspiring or already accomplished, will find a wealth of insight into the plotting and characterization process. The beginner searching for one all-around USEFUL how-to-write book would do well to pick this one.

    This is no-nonsense book crammed with useful, week-by-week projects which will lead the writer to the successful creation of a well-written, satisfying mystery.

    The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery puts the "HOW" back into the how-to-write book market.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Great writers write great writing books!
    Bob and Jack have the keys to hot writing! Image, action, body parts! Behind the scenes of Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery are two dynamic men who lead writing practice several times a week, teach writers at the University of Washington and never stop giving encouragement and wisdom to other writers. This book is the result of how they live and write and it is five star! Look no farther if you are a pro or novice. Herein are the steps and the hands to pull you up the stairs of your own creative mind.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Weekend novelist? Probably not.
    Writing fiction is like painting a landscape. A lot of artists can do it, and each one has an individual way they do it. It is the same with writing. Many people have written good novels; each one approaches it differently. So when someone like Ray Robert tells you how it's done, don't believe him. I'm not saying that his method doesn't work for him. What I am saying is it probably won't work for you. (It didn't work for me.) You have to figure out what works for you. Check out Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. You won't regret it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars If you only get one book....
    This was the single most helpful book I found to help complete the process of writing an entire mystery. Its most valuable section is on plotting, devoting the appropriate amount of time and space to each of the critical parts of a novel. Much of the advice here is to be found else where--the back story, the characters, the scene writing--but is better organized and more comprehensible in this volume. So, if you plan to only buy or use one book on writing, this is the one I believe would be the best place to concentrate your time and money.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Very Good
    I bought this book to learn more about creating a suspenseful story (not necessarily a traditional mystery novel). It was successful in that respect, but the biggest benefit I reaped was all the help in plotting (a weakness of mine). High recommended. ... Read more


  • 7. Time to Be in Earnest : A Fragment of Autobiography
    by P.D. JAMES
    list price: $12.95
    our price: $9.71
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0345442121
    Catlog: Book (2001-02-27)
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    Sales Rank: 70297
    Average Customer Review: 4.21 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    The great British mystery novelist P. D. James, otherwise known as the Queen of Crime, has redefined the genre over a career spanning close to forty years. TIME magazine called her the “reigning mistress of murder,” whose vivid and compelling novels have made her one of the world’s leading crime writers. Biographers have urged her to allow them to write about her life, but she has always kept them at bay, valuing her privacy.

    However, at the age of seventy-seven, P. D. James decided for the first time in her life to keep a diary for one year, foremost as a record of her thoughts and memories for her family and herself, but also as a “fragment of autobiography” for publication. As she beautifully describes the salient events of a dizzying year full of publicity duties, giving lectures and fulfilling other public commitments, she lets the memories flow, wandering back and forth through the years to illuminate an extraordinary life and to give striking insights into the craft of writing. The book became a New York Times bestseller – as have all of her recent books – and does more than simply satisfy the curiosity of her many fans.

    Mystery author Eric Wright wrote in The Globe and Mail that “The final effect is not of a fragment, but of a finished miniature portrait of the artist in her 77th year. … The form she has invented, a kind of public diary, creates an intimacy that a major autobiography would never achieve. …a revealing portrait of a gifted human being, full of common sense and humour, someone we would like to know.”

    In the book, James comments on everything from architecture to literature to fox hunting to the decline of moral values in modern Britain, and shares with us her love of reading and the joys of family life (she has two daughters, who live in the United States, and several grandchildren). However, she refuses to delve too deeply into the painful areas of her personal life now well in the past, though she has clearly experienced some hard times. “They are over and must be accepted, made sense of and forgiven, afforded no more than their proper place in a long life in which I have always known that happiness is a gift, not a right.” Readers have found this reservation admirable and elegantly refreshing in a time of “self-rummaging, self-serving autobiography” (Joan Barfoot, The London Free Press). Still, hints of pain slip in, and we may sometimes read between the lines.

    Time to Be in Earnest is a privileged and engrossing look into the life and mind of one of the great mystery writers alive today, one who has earned comparisons with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers. James is also deeply thoughtful, a remarkable woman who witnessed much over the course of the twentieth century. Whether describing motherhood in London during the bombardments of the Second World War, her fine career as a civil servant in the British Home Office, or her later life as a formidably successful writer, she sheds light on a lifetime of exceptional achievements.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (19)

    4-0 out of 5 stars One Writer's Life
    One reviewer said of this book, ". . . parts about the more technical aspects of book writing and publishing . . . tend to be dry and would hold more appeal to writers and those in the publishing business." These were the parts I liked best, and I'm not a writer. But I am a reader, and I've read and enjoyed most of P. D. James's books and the other books she discusses.

    James kept a diary during the year she was seventy-seven. She records what's happening in the present and reflects on aspects of her past. In the present, James is constantly traveling, giving talks, and spending time with friends old and new. She appears to be a very busy person. All this traveling about, though not exactly boring, is not exactly fascinating either. To me, the more interesting parts were about the past and especially her thoughts and opinions on other writers, mainly mystery writers. Ms. James is another big fan of Jane Austen's, and an appendix gives the text of a talk she gave to the Jane Austen Society on mystery in EMMA.

    Ms. James's outlook on life is that most things were better in the past (with the big exception of sanitary protection). She appreciates her relatively good health and independence and is grateful for each day, storing up good memories to sustain her as she grows older.

    James is too refined to speak ill of anyone and is unwilling to reveal personal details about her life with a mentally ill spouse. She is quite willing to share her opinions on public issues, but she's reluctant to give us the inner P. D. James.

    Still, I was more interested in this book than the other one I was reading at the same time, V. S. Naipaul's A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS.

    If you're a mystery fan, you'll probably enjoy James's remarks about other mystery writers of the past.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Refined Revelation
    It has taken me over a year to fully appreciate this "fragment of autobiography". There are no strict rules for autobiography writers to follow, except that they talk about the themselves. P.D. James, the acclaimed British mystery writer, does that in her own, 'Time To Be In Earnest', and the reading experience is one which leaves a definite impression.

    At first read-through, the book leaves one with a slight sense of having been cheated. Most celebrity autobiographies written in today's age wallow in over-exposure. We get to know what goes on in their minds, their businesses, their homes, even their bedrooms. Even when the subject is dead, and a *biography* is written, the author attempts to portray the person as emotionally as possible. With 'Time To Be In Earnest', Ms. James does not make us suffer through any of that. Her life story is told in a charming "daily (sometimes) journal", which reflects on the news of the day, and then nicely segues into memories of her past.

    We get to know much about P.D. James's childhood, her parents, siblings, home-life, etc. She is purposefully vague about her marriage, but she *does* provide sufficient information about it that we get the idea. That is what is so elegant about her book - it is informative, without being messy. What I found *most* fascinating were her views on the world of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Some things I agreed with her on, some things I did not. But all of her 77 year-old ideas gave this particular 25 year-old much to think upon.

    'Time To Be In Earnest' truly tracks the 77 years of not only a highly-successful British woman's life, but of the country itself, and of the world that has come, gone, and is here today. .

    4-0 out of 5 stars Don't Have to Be a P.D. James Fan
    After an uneven beginning, Time to Be In Earnest, settles down to an earnest and enjoyable memoir (it is in diary form, covering a year: 1997-1998).

    P.D. James has a distinct voice, comprised of dignity, reserve, confidence, practicality and intelligence. This voice or persona flows throughout the book. Not a reader of P.D. James' mystery novels, I have no way of knowing if this voice appears in her fiction. It is not a quiescent voice and therefore, not lightly ignored. It does give the reader an image of the author's personality, an image that may or may not be accurate.

    P.D. James has an eye for detail, a quality that can bog down many a memoir and almost does in this case. However, there is something lesiurely, even unaggressive, about the wealth of detail, and it is intermingled with reflections on religion, nature, life, entertainment, writing and much more. And if you enjoy well-written pictures of nature, the prose of P.D. James will certainly delight and satisfy.

    In fact, there's a bit of everything in this autobiography for everyone. I found the comments about writing and true life detective cases most interesting as well as P.D. James' experiences in WWII. There are references to Chatsworth, the House of Lords, the BBC and more prosaically, P.D. James' cat, the Civil Service and the work on her house.

    There is always the suspicion in reading autobiography that it will be like watching other people's home movies: just a tad deary and confusing. This is not the case of Time to Be In Earnest. The smoothness of the writing carries the reader past all unknown faces (and it's fun to "meet" the few known ones). One gets the experience of the author's life as it happens. Many--if not most--memoirs/autobiographies are the analysis of events after they have been lived. This is true of sections of Time to Be In Earnest as well (and the analysis is always interesting) but the process of living alongside someone is what sets this book apart.

    It is not a book to rush through. Read it a bit at a time and catch the very English flavor of a very English lady.

    4-0 out of 5 stars interesting enough
    P. D. James is the only mystery novelist of whom I've read the entire oeuvre, apart from Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, and I don't really know why. A sense of obligation to the reigning British Queen of Crime? Appealing length and density? Although I do remember one excellent book, Original Sin, it is perhaps not surprising I found this "fragment of a biography" more entertaining than her novels, since a lot of what she terms "character buildup" and "scene setting" always seems to me a terrible drag on the narration. As a personal diary, it is too organized - no wonder, since it was intended for publication from the start - and there are no spontaneous bursts of emotion or painful self-examination that is so exhilarating in Sylvia Plath's journals. With James it is all carefully laid out, a prosaic entry too often expanding into an essay on government, the art of the crime novel, civil justice, etc. But still, the writings betray a highly intellectual mind at work, and a winning perseverance that has triumphed over pain and hardship.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Rare Treat
    P.D. James has given her readers a rare glimpse into her thinking. I saw the daily events as ways to connect with what she wanted to say about her beliefs and about her very interesting and productive life. I have read all of her books and was pleased to be able to understand the author behind the mysteries which she so skillfully writes. I also enjoyed her glimpse into a world which is fading fast - a world where character was important and manners counted for a lot. ... Read more


    8. You Can Write a Mystery (You Can Write)
    by Gillian Roberts
    list price: $12.99
    our price: $9.74
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0898798639
    Catlog: Book (1999-08-01)
    Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 72565
    Average Customer Review: 4.71 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Have you ever thought about writing a mystery, and gave up the idea because you weren't sure how to start it?Well now is your chance to go out and write that mystery you have always dreamed of.You Can Write A Mystery, written by Gillian Roberts, author of the Anthony Award-winning Amanda Pepper Series, will help you start your mystery and guide you through to the end.

    "The 'rules' that govern the mystery are the rules that govern all fiction. Every novel needs suspense and drama," says Roberts.With this book you'll learn how to build your story from the grave up.Roberts focuses on what she calls the "SEVEN C'S", why you need them and how they help your story.She offers examples and exercises that will help you complete your story filled with cliffhangers, intriguing characters and hooks.This book also offers practical suggestions for handling problems likely to arise during the writing process.Along the way, Robert's will teach you:

    - The 15 commandments for mystery
    - How to design your sleuth
    - The Seven Cs your book can't do without - characters, conflict, causality, complications, change, crisis and closure
    - How to hide clue, and exploit red-herrings
    - Research techniques
    - How to develop a style, find a tone and construct a killer plot

    You Can Write A Mystery, offers practical guidance for the first-time writer.Its easy-to-understand format will help the most amateur to become a mystery writer.In addition to the practical writing advice supplied, Roberts also offers expert advice for editing, revising and submitting a top-notch manuscript. ... Read more

    Reviews (7)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Great Starter Book
    Gillian Roberts puts together an excellent resource for any writer pursuing publication in the mystery genre. Her lessons are hard-boiled and practical. For example, her first chapter launches the reader into a series of commandments "for mystery writers who want to be published." These include, among others: think like a professional, overcome writer's block, don't wait for the muse, and don't self-edit prior to completing the first draft.

    After reading Roberts' book, I managed to re-work my book "Abby and the Bicycle Caper (ISBN: 0595305652), and plan to use her advice on my future works. Read this book if you are serious about writing mysteries. I also read a similar book by Sue Grafton, but found it a bit unapproachable, which is entirely my opinion, as Grafton is a recognized authority in her field.

    This book also served as a great motivator to me, which I believe it will also do for you.

    4-0 out of 5 stars I'M AT A LOSS FOR WORDS
    As an aspiring writer, I frequently read technical writing books to improve my style. I am currently enrolled in a correspondence writing course and for my last assignment, I chose to really (yes, this time it's the one!) start a novel.

    Oh, I had stumbled with a few "false starts" in the last two years, since I began my courageous adventure. However, they were all lacking in many elements that is so desparately needed for a novel to succeed.

    I stumbled on this assignment -- to write the first "official" chapter of a novel, reviewed and critiqued by a professional in the field.

    I read a number of chapters in this book, in an effort to hone in on the techniques of mystery writing and WOW! (I couldn't sit and read it from cover to cover due to time constraints on my deadline.) I completed my chapter and sealed the envelope in sheer writer's ecstasy!

    I have since completed the book in my "down time" and feel that the information included between the covers is just what everyone needs. It fits into that "comfortable zone" in the endeavors to complete a novel.

    LATE BREAKING NEWS! I received my critique yesterday from my instructor and because of the knowledge provided in this book, she was very pleased with my work. I'll quote her, so you can get an idea how a professional in the writing field responded to such useful information:

    "Now, I liked this a lot. Great emotion, intriguing suspense, characters that feel real and interest me. This definitely has a lot going for it. Of course, how you play out the remaining chapters will determine how strong the overall book will be and what sort of marketing potential it has, but you've made an excellent start."

    Wow! I did it! And I owe it all to this book. It's definitely a must read!

    5-0 out of 5 stars You Can Write A Mystery...Review
    This little gem not only gives aspiring novelists a wealth of information but also provides book reviewers with a guide from which books can be critiqued. I was immediately attracted to this book by the title and was not disappointed as I scanned the contents. It explains many important issues that must be addressed if a story is to be successful but are mostly not considered on a conscious level by the reader. The point of view,or the vantage point from which the reader sees the story; building the plot and using false leads; transition and the order of scenes etc. You get the idea.

    Anyway, I think this book will help me when I'm reviewing a book and will add to my enjoyment while reading. Mysteries will be read from a broader and deeper perspective and the admiration for writers and their skill has increased.

    Thanks in advance for a vote if this review was helpful.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Fundamental writing with some insider's tips thrown in
    YOU CAN WRITE A MYSTERY is, at the core, a fiction-writing basics book that applies to any subject. Author Gillian Roberts includes tips that apply specifically to mystery writing, but that would enrich any story.

    This book is excellent for those who wish to begin writing and need a place to start. The book includes enough information to get you well on your way to writing a mystery (or any fiction you want to supercharge with a little suspense). The tone is clear and concise, and the author conveys her experience in both writing and reading mysteries, giving formulas and "sleight of hand" tricks for muddling your readers.

    5-0 out of 5 stars a gifted teacher
    As a former English teacher, I began Roberts' guide with some reservation thinking I'd heard it all before. Surprise! Roberts mission is to share her well-honed knowledge of structure with her expertise as a published writer. I particularly liked the fresh way she explains fundamentals with her final chapter: Finding your voice:the microedit. I went right out and bought the hardcopy of Timeline just to see how a current best seller follows her advice. Her work is inspirational. ... Read more


    9. Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
    by Patricia Highsmith
    list price: $12.95
    our price: $9.71
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 031228666X
    Catlog: Book (2001-09-01)
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press
    Sales Rank: 148589
    Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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    Amazon.com

    Suspense, like other genre fiction, is often assumed to be inferior in quality to more "serious" fiction. A suspense story can be every bit as well-wrought as any other, argues Patricia Highsmith in Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. To show how, Highsmith focuses as much on her failures as on her successes. Amid discussions about growing ideas, story development, plotting, first and second drafts, and revisions are anecdotes from Highsmith's own career. Highsmith (Strangers on a Train) admits to editing with crayon (doing so "gives one the proper cavalier attitude"), napping on the job (it helps solve problems), and having written one "really dull" book. Though this book is slim, there are some lovely thoughts on such issues as creating a murderer-hero with "pleasant qualities," "stretch[ing] the reader's credulity," and using "as much care in depicting the face and appearance of ... main characters" as a painter would with a portrait. --Jane Steinberg ... Read more

    Reviews (15)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Helpful, Yet Sometimes Contradictory Advice
    Patricia Highsmith produced some really wonderful works of suspense. It helps to be familiar with at least one or two of them before jumping into this book; she refers to her work quite a bit...maybe a little too much. Yet, Highsmith's comments are mostly helpful in such areas as plotting, point of view, and revisions.

    From the very beginning, Highsmith advises writers to write in order to please one person: yourself. If you read good works and are satisfied with your own work, you're probably producing good writing. She also recommends focusing on characters and allowing them to take on a life of their own.

    There are times when Highsmith seems to throw out all kinds of advice, sometimes contradicting what she has said earlier. For example, she strongly advises outling each chapter and its events, yet she also advocates winging it free-write style, without knowing where you're going.

    Overall, a helpful book, but more valuable information should be packed into its 145 pages.

    4-0 out of 5 stars How She Did It
    In her introduciton to Plotting and Writing Suspense, prolific suspense author Patricia Highsmith tells us that this will not be a how-to book, but a book that collects her own ideas and thoughts on the craft of writing. She isn't there to give us a grammar lesson. She wants to tell us how she does it and, hopefully, teach us a thing or two in the process.

    It's great fun to read this legendary author's thoughts. After all, Highsmith has written some of the best novels of suspense; The Two Faces Of January, The Blunderer and, of course, The Talented Mr Ripley series. In this book, she collects her thoughts on the genre and on the process of writing. And she tells us quite bluntly that what worked for her as an author might not work for us. But I think that any author (or fan) could and will learn a thing or two from this author's lessons.

    The best parts are when Highsmith takes her own books apart to show her readers that not even the established writer is safe from the typical mistakes most writers will make at one time or another. And if there is one thing that you'll come away with from reading this book is that writers (pros and beginners alike) have to learn to practice and practice and practice some more. Practice, according to Highsmith, does make better. And that is one lesson I will not forget.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining
    I'm glad I bought this book. As an author of suspense myself, I found it very worthwhile. It won't teach you how to write--but I've found no book can really do that. In the same vein as Stephen Kings book On Writing, it is more an account about how this highly successful author developed her craft over the years, her successes and failures. If you want a how to guide you would be better off with another title. It also enhances the enjoyment of this book if the reader is familiar with Highsmith's books. I found it interesting to know where she got her ideas and how she developed a small incident into a novel.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing, but useless.
    Very little useful information contained in this book. You can learn more about the craft from reading her fiction!

    Get Stephen King's On Writing instead. Much more practical advice.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Behind the Scenes at the Abbatoir
    A modestly written, terse, readable and nuts and bolts book about how plots come to be put together, how a writer makes a living (or doesn't) and how to tell the story. What I found most charming about this "How-To" book was that it wasn't chirpy, wasn't preachy, didn't have a whiff of unreality arising from its advice, and was eminently practical. The only crime writing manual so far that I have picked up, browsed in, bought, took home and actually finished reading from cover to cover (sometimes doing the reading on a bus, that's how gripping it is). Recommended. ... Read more


    10. Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigating (Howdunit Series)
    by Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, John Landreth
    list price: $15.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0898795494
    Catlog: Book (1993-05-01)
    Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 491353
    Average Customer Review: 2.33 out of 5 stars
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    Reviews (6)

    1-0 out of 5 stars People, this is NOT real life PI information
    After reading some of the other reviews, I am compelled to write again. This book contains almost no information relating to what really happens in a PI's life! The book is being marketed as a resource for mystery writers to show what goes on "behind the scenes" when working cases. I am here to tell you that if what the authors described really happened, the PI would likely find him or herself in court being sued and/or being placed under arrest for violating local, state, and Federal laws. I don't know where the authors found this "consultant" but the stories he shares quite frankly make me ill. This book does nothing but perpetuate myths and lies about the industry.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
    I have to say that I was really disappointed with this book. For the most part, the book is nothing more than stories of the personal experiences of a real PI. While real life stories can certainly help a writer, I would have perferred a little more facts regarding the legal aspects of private investigating and a little more information on private investigating in general instead of just mostly reading about one PI. I came away from this book not knowing much more than before I read it. I really wouldn't recommend buying it. I'd suggest purchasing JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM instead. I found it to be much more informative than this one.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Skip This One
    Unless you just have to own every single book in the Howdunit Series, I'd really recommend skipping this one. It did help me out a little but, for the most part, I found the information contained in this book to be useless. The authors spend way too much time talking about real PIs and their experiences. It's as if the writers are saying that you should base your fictional PI and his experiences on the real ones in this book. Do the authors not realize that a person can be sued for that? The authors even waste several pages of the book to do nothing but give physical descriptions of real PIs. The book actually takes the time to state that the average height of PIs is 5'10'' and the average weight is 175. Why exactly is that important? A PI can look like whatever a writer wants him or her to look like. The PI can be a little green man from Mars if the writer wants him to be. Although if the PI is a Martian, then the writer obviously isn't shooting for realism and doesn't need a book to help them be more realistic in the first place. The authors also spend too much time stating that what we see on TV isn't completely realistic. Like anybody with half a brain can't figure that one out on their own. The book contains very little about laws and regulations, which was what I was looking for. A few accounts of personal experience are fine, but I feel that the book would have been much better if there had been a lot less of that and more about each state's regulations and other things such as that. I just found this book to be a complete waste of money and time. I wouldn't recommend it.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Not realistic
    As a licensed and practicing private investigator, I can tell you that this book does not describe the experiences shared by 90% of real life PIs. Much of what is written appears to have been embellished by either the authors or the consultant to be more dramatic and exciting. For example, Mr. Blythe describes how local law enforcement would encourage private citizens with problems to go directly to his home, no matter what time of day or night. Come on! No officer whom I have ever met would do such a thing! Mr. Blythe describes how easily PIs can obtain a full credit report on someone. Very illegal in 99% of the cases!!! This is a great book if you are looking for ideas of how to get your PI in legal hot water. Other than that, check out Greg Fallis' book in this same series for reliable info.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Best PI Crime Writing Companion
    As a crime writer (First Kill, The Girl By The Lake), I know that research is time consuming and frustrating. Before you even think of writing a PI mystery, read this book cover to cover. It offers a realistic overview of what a PI does and how he/she goes about the job. There is a chapter called 'The Interview' which shows clearly how an interview is conducted and how to read a person body language when interviewing. It is filled with examples so that the writer can see how to implement the information into his/her own work of fiction. Get it, read it and start writing convincing PI fiction. ... Read more


    11. Writing Mysteries (Self-Counsel Writing Series)
    by Margaret Lucke
    list price: $17.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1551802058
    Catlog: Book (1999-06-01)
    Publisher: Self-Counsel Press
    Sales Rank: 1056646
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    Book Description

    - Create an appealing detective - Construct an intriguing plot - Build suspense with style - Market your mystery to agents and publishers ... Read more


    12. Just the Facts, Ma'Am: A Writer's Guide to Investigators and Investigation Techniques (Howdunit)
    by Greg Fallis
    list price: $16.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 089879823X
    Catlog: Book (1998-09-01)
    Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 213380
    Average Customer Review: 4.29 out of 5 stars
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    Reviews (7)

    5-0 out of 5 stars The non-professional's roadmap
    This book is an excellent resource for writers who want to imbue their stories with the authentic details of unnatural death but don't really have all the tools and training of a full-time medical examiner or police investigator. Maybe the life of a real cop isn't as exciting as portrayed on TV, but neither is it as shallow. In my case, as a crime author, the text was an invaluable reference, putting some highly technical material into easily digested context. Recommended for writers of all kinds who need a good reference work on the myriad ways to die.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Very Good
    This is a very good book. Not only does it contain a great deal of information about investigation techniques but the author also manages to convey, in great depth, the emotional aspects of the business. I definitely recommend this book.

    4-0 out of 5 stars useful resource
    This is definitely a great resource for the aspiring mystery novelist since the book helps authors construct realistic plots for police procedurals. This is because it contains crucial information about how investigators conduct investigations. However, some of the material covered is obvious but, nonetheless, there are many interesting facts.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource!
    Just the Facts Ma'am is filled with useful information. It goes through the qualities of an investigator, and the skills needed to become one. There is so much in this book, it is nearly impossible to describe it all to you...you'll just have to read it yourself!

    Some very interesting sections of this book include: crime scene investigation, 21 points to follow in a death scene investigation, common police mistakes, how to collect evidence, interviewing and interrogation, and my favorite section of the book is surveillance.

    Just the Facts Ma'am also covers such issues as the dangers of investigations, and specific case studies as examples of previous investigations. I'm really impressed with this book so I'll have to give it 4th place in my "Favorites in the Howdunit Series". It is absolutely a necessity to all crime writers. The whole Howdunit Series is definitely worth the bookshelf space!

    5-0 out of 5 stars An informative, enjoyable introduction
    I enjoyed the evening I spent reading this introduction to theart of investigation. ...[I]t was a good introduction that, like anyuseful introduction, sets the stage for further reading. Anybody who just wants to know more will enjoy it; any writer thinking about writing a murder mystery (as I was when I picked it up) will see its value. The author obviously knows his stuff, and presents it in a clear, precise fashion that ranges from the obvious to the insightful. Definitely worth reading. END ... Read more


    13. How to Write Mysteries (Genre Writing Series)
    by Shannon O'Cork
    list price: $14.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0898793726
    Catlog: Book (1989-10-01)
    Publisher: Writers Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 479382
    Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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    Reviews (1)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, especially for new authors.
    How to Write Mysteries is a must for the libary of the budding author. Not only does it offer practical advice, but it offers plenty of inspiration. ... Read more


    14. Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul
    by Barbara Reynolds
    list price: $23.95
    our price: $23.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0312153538
    Catlog: Book (1997-04-01)
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press
    Sales Rank: 94973
    Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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    Reviews (2)

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the most beautiful biographies I have ever read!
    An amazing look at the life of this incredible Christian woman! This book dives into the depths of her mind and her life. No secret or interesting fact is spared in this delightful biography. I recommend it to anyone interested in the life of this fascinating visionary.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Anything But Whimsical
    Dorothy L. Sayers did more in her life than just create the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey. In addition to writing the Wimsey novels and short stories, she was one of the first female graduates of Oxford, a translator of Dante, a poet and a Christian apologist whose reputation at the time rivaled that of C.S. Lewis.

    Her longtime friend, Barbara Reynolds, draws on her memories of the woman as well as her voluminous correspondence and has written a lively account of Sayers' life.

    Those who admire the Wimsey novels will find their enjoyment heightened after reading this book. As I found in researching the "Annotating Dorothy L. Sayers"..., Sayers flooded her work with literary, historical and social references that represented the best of her education as well as her interests in the murderous and the macabre: Shakespeare, John Donne, Greek mythology, contemporary English music-hall acts, Gilbert & Sullivan, notorious 19th-century murders and snippets of classical Greek and Latin. To write "The Nine Tailors," which featured a church and its bell-ringers, Sayers spent two years studying campanology, and had to endure, she wrote, "incalculable hours spent in writing out sheets and sheets of changes, until I could do any method accurately in my head. Also, I had to visualize, from the pages of instructions to ringers, both what it looked like and what it felt like to handle a bell and to acquire rope-sight.'" After the novel was published, she thought she had been caught out on only three small technical errors, but did well enough to be asked to serve as vice-president of the Campanological Society of Great Britain.

    But the books also contain much of Sayers herself. Obviously, Sayers' alter ego was expressed in the character of Harriet Vane, the mystery writer she put on trial for murder in "Strong Poison," who was romanced by Peter in "Gaudy Night," and who married him in "Busman's Honeymoon." But Sayers also drew on her life experiences and her interests. "Gaudy Night" reflected her experiences at Oxford, her desire to live the scholarly life and the importance of intellectual achievement, while the parsonage she vividly recreated in "The Nine Tailors" was drawn from her childhood memories, and the gentle churchly Rev. Thomas Venables was modeled on her parson father.

    Christianity played a great role in Sayers' life from the start, and the success of the Wimsey novels enabled her to shelve the detective and turn to writing plays and books that expounded the doctrine of the Church of England in laymen's terms. In this, she was enormously successful, and even sparked a ruckus when one of her plays featured the disciples talking in modern slang, predating the uproar over "Jesus Christ Superstar" by three decades.

    Reynolds also tells the story of the illegitimate child Sayers bore. While it would be easy to condemn her for turning the boy over to a cousin to raise, Reynolds also made clear that Sayers did it to protect her parents, who she thought would be terribly hurt by her misjudgment. Considering that she visited and paid for his upkeep and education, and told him the whole story when he was an adult, it seems to have been the best of all possible choices.

    The pleasure of meeting Miss Sayers can only be increased by looking into her letters, which have been published in several volumes. From the first, Sayers seems to have been bright, precocious and determined to make her own way, and it's a pleasure to see in Reynolds' biography that she did so splendidly. ... Read more


    15. The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers: 1899-1936 : The Making of a Detective Novelist
    by Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Reynolds
    list price: $26.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0312140010
    Catlog: Book (1996-04-01)
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press
    Sales Rank: 718629
    Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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    Amazon.com

    C.S. Lewis suggested that Dorothy Sayers's letters would one day be recognized as among the finest epistles produced in the 20th century. In fact, this first volume, covering the years from Sayers's early childhood to the later years of personal tragedy and literary triumph, shows a broad-ranging talent and reveals a rich life full of language study, poetry, and books.

    Barbara Reynolds, author of the celebrated Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, has selected a cross section of letters to represent the full spectrum of Sayers's expressions and emotions. Most troubling are those desperate letters to John Cournos, the novelist's lover and the man who ultimately jilted her. Also fascinating are her notes to her illegitimate son John Anthony (fathered by Bill White, a "car salesman and motor engineer"), messages expressing deep love that are, simultaneously, touched with the restraint of a mother held distant by social convention. Beyond these very personal moments, however, one traces the budding and then flowering of a literary career. Sayers's years at Oxford and after are peppered with references to her reading, snippets of her writing, and records of her travels in France and elsewhere. As P.D. James writes in the preface to the volume: "by the end of 1936, when this volume ends ... she could look back on half-a-lifetime of courageous living and ultimate achievement.... The enjoyment with which I read this first volume of letters is matched only by my happy expectation of pleasure to come." --Patrick O'Kelley ... Read more

    Reviews (1)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Lady of Letters . . .
    As Baroness P. D. James states in her preface to this engrossing book, "we have what is in effect an epistolary autobiography" of the young Dorothy L. Sayers, from age five to forty-three, when the author became the household word that she is today. (Later letters comprise volume two.)

    The earliest letters are sprinkled with references to poems, plays or short stories that she had written, in any-or all-of the four languages at her command (English, French, German and Latin.) She fell madly in love with the theatre, not to mention the leading men of the era. Before she reached the age of thirteen, she had read (in the original French) The Three Musketeers, and from that time on, referred to her familiy and assorted locations by their assigned names from the book. She took for herself the identity of Athos. At eighteen, her headmistress announced that Dorothy had come top in all England in the Cambridge Higher Local Examinations with distinction in French and spoken German. The following year she entered Somerville College at Oxford.

    Men as men didn't enter her life until she had completed Oxford. She fell in love only once, but they couldn't marry due to multiple differences in values. Subsequently, she had a short-lived affair with another man, who was the father of her only child, a son raised by Dorothy's cousin. Their roles were reversed in the boy's life; the cousin was his 'Mum' and Dorothy his aunt. Not until after her death did the truth come out.

    These letters bring to vivid life the enigma who was known world-wide as the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, the perfect foil. She couldn't afford a luxurious flat, a Daimler, or an Axminster carpet; she could, however, provide them for Lord Peter. She made him and his family and his possessions incredibly real for her millions of readers.

    Any devotee of Lord Peter Wimsey will be exceedingly grateful to Barbara Reynolds for her years of loving care in sorting through and editing these letters of one of the world's great novelists. We can but wait-patiently-for volume two, in order to learn how Dorothy wore her hard-earned and well-deserved fame. ... Read more


    16. Rip-Off: A Writer's Guide to Crimes of Deception (Howdunit)
    by Fay Faron
    list price: $16.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0898798272
    Catlog: Book (1998-08-01)
    Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 387686
    Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars
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    Amazon.com

    Something tells us we would be naïve to believe this book would appeal solely to mystery writers. Detective Fay Faron, syndicated newspaper columnist ("Ask Rat Dog") and author ofMissing Persons, has written a primer sure to turn any novice (writer, of course) into a scam expert. Rip-Off removes the mystery from such cons as the pigeon drop, Latin lotto, Gypsy-sweetheart scams, guaranteed-prize mailers, charity scams, bait-and-switches, biz-op scams, the Texas twist, identity theft, carny cons, chain letters, psychic hotlines, three-card monte, Ponzi schemes, 809 phone numbers, and gambling stings. Faron's writing advice focuses on identifying the basic traits of perps and pigeons (60 percent of pigeons are seniors, but we're all susceptible), defining the lingo (drag broad, shaky mom, mish roll, etc.), and counseling writers to "tell the story from the point of view of the victim." --Jane Steinberg ... Read more

    Reviews (5)

    1-0 out of 5 stars Just Plain Lousy
    When I ordered this book, I was hoping for more than a cursory look at some of the great scams and cons throughout history. It fell woefully short in many respects. It seems to me that Ms. Faron has learned all she knows from watching a Discovery Channel special or movies, such as The Sting, Traveller, or Paper Moon. It provides nothing in the way of original insight or research. The author's writing style is disjointed and confused. It jumps between subjects quickly without segues. I can see how non-writers can be interested in this book, but as it sells itself as a guide to help an author with character and plot development, I expect a little more than "You might want your character to do this..."
    I do admit that the title is fully fitting. Ms. Faron has conned us buyers.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Another goodie from the Howdunit Series!
    This is a great book! It gives details of all types of deceptive crimes. Many of them really get you thinking, "Now how'd they do that?" Now let me tell you, this book is not ONLY for the writer. If you deal with the public (at all, and that is nearly all of us) this book is for you! It'll get you thinking back to this book each time you bump into someone, make change, or even stand in the elevator with a croud!

    Rip-Off covers such crimes as: glamour scams, impostors, counterfeits, buisiness frauds, street cons, carney cons, gypsies, gambling scams, and so much more. The book describes each rip-off and gives an example to demonstrate it in action. It even goes into detail about hand signals given by the 'look-out'. There is so much information in Rip-Off: a writer's guide to deceptive crimes, you'll just have to check it out yourself.

    Rip-off is really a humourous book. I never realized just how sly these people are. Before reading this book, I definatley could have been scammed. Rip-off rates in 3rd place for my favorites in the Howdunit series.

    2-0 out of 5 stars There are better sources
    The Howdunit series is a wonderful resource for writers. These books can save hours of legwork and research. Unfortunately Fay Faron's book does not really belong in the series. This is not to say it's a bad book. If you are interested in con games and want to protect yourself, it is as good as most of the other books on the market that cover this topic. As a research tool, however, it falls woefully short. Most of the cons are given only the most rudimentary descriptions, and some (such as the notorious shell game, which is still prevalent on the streets of major cities) are not mentioned at all.

    The book does well with some modern con artists, such as the Travelers, but is completely devoid of historical information. Certainly in a book for writers, some mention must be made of the great con artists of this century; people such as The Yellow Kid, Limehouse Chappie, Buck Boatwright, and Charley Gondorff. Remember, not everyone sets their fiction in the present day.

    The author plays it close to the vest when it comes to her sources. Certainly a book such as this should have an extensive bibliography, but this one only lists a few books. There are some notable omissions from the list, the worst case being the absence of The Big Con by David W. Maurer. Written in 1940, Maurer's book is still the best resource for information of how con games are played, and the book I would recommend it over Rip-Off to any aspiring writer interested in writing about con games.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Rat Dog Strikes Again!
    Excellent book. This book was very helpful to me, both as an aspiring crime writer and police officer. The section on Gypsy/Traveler crimes was especially of interest, due to the area I work in. I'd better watch out for con-artists...even with the print in front of me it took me three or four reads to figure out some of the scams she describes. Faron's laid-back writing style and personal anecdotes make this an entertaining as well as informative, read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars You can't go wrong with this book.
    After reading a copy of this book that I picked up in my local library, I went straight out and bought a copy to add to my (extensive) collection. This is easily one of the better books on Con Games that is generally available today. I liked it for both the very readable writing style, and for the volume of diverse information it presented. Rather than just rehash the same half dozen con games (the pigeon drop, the bank examiner, home repair scams, etc) that you'll run across in almost any other book or web search on the subject, Ms. Faron presents a wide variety of scams for your contemplation, including a few that I was not aware of (and I collect books about them). If you have any interest in the subject of Con Games at all, BUY THIS BOOK! You won't regret it. ... Read more


    17. The Red Hot Typewriter : The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald
    by Hugh Merrill
    list price: $24.95
    our price: $24.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0312209053
    Catlog: Book (2000-08-12)
    Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
    Sales Rank: 240638
    Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Although John D. MacDonald published seventy novels and more than five hundred short stories in his lifetime, he is remembered best for his Travis McGee series. He introduced McGee in 1964 with The Deep Blue Goodbye. With Travis McGee, MacDonald changed the pattern of the hardboiled private detectives who preceeded him. McGee has a social conscience, holds thoughtful conversations with his retired economist buddy Meyer, and worries about corporate greed, racism and the Florida ecolgoy in a long series whose brand recognition for the series the author cleverly advanced by inserting a color in every title. Merrill carefully builds a picture of a man who in unexpected ways epitomized the Horatio Alger sagas that comprised his strict father's secular bible. From a financially struggling childhood and a succession of drab nine-to-five occupations, MacDonald settled down to writing for a living (a lifestyle that would have horrified his father). He worked very hard and was rewarded with a more than decent livelihood. But unlike Alger's heroes, MacDonald had a lot of fun doing it.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (6)

    3-0 out of 5 stars good sketch of macdonald, but he deserves more than a sketch
    As a longtime fan of the Travis McGee novels, I was eager to learn more about the writer who created him.

    "The Red Hot Typewriter" gives a brief glimpse of the man but doesn't go into enough detail. There's not a very strong sense of chronology, particularly with the McGee series, and the details that are there are cut short just when they were getting interesting.

    "Red Hot" contains just enough odd facts to make it worthwhile -- MacDonald's strange battle of wills with American Express, the origin of Travis as Dallas McGee (changed shortly after the Kennedy assassination), a strange sad feud between John D. and a close friend, and the conception of Meyer -- but a better, richer and more complete bio of MacDonald should (hopefully) appear soon.

    3-0 out of 5 stars rather bland and superficial
    I am a long time MacDonald fan, and have read most everything he wrote. I once made the pilgrimage to Bahia Mar to see the 'Busted Flush' plaque mounted there.

    I was delighted when I learned of Hugh Merrill's biography, and curious to know more about MacDonald, the man who created Travis McGee, and wrote so eloquently about the Florida environment.

    The Red Hot Typewriter is a disappointment.

    It is worth reading if you are a die-hard fan. It includes bits of interesting trivia. What was McGee's first name and why was it changed to Travis? Why the reference to a color in the Magee mystery series?

    However, you finish the book feeling as if you don't know John D. MacDonald much better than you did when you began. The author obviously did a lot of research. Unfortunately he presents it in a rather bland and superficial manner. It's as if the author's primary reference source was MacDonald's correspondence, and he didn't go much beyond that. The thoughts and personal anecdotes of friends and family are, for the most part, missing.

    What really surprises and disappoints me is that this book has no photographs, none, nada, zero. Pictures would have saved this book for me. I am at a loss to understand why any publisher would produce a biography without including pictures that complement the prose. One of many examples was Hugh Merrill's description of MacDonald's visit to the set where a Travis McGee mystery was being made into a movie. Surely, Warner Brothers publicity took pictures, but you won't find them in this biography.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Phone it in next time...
    How do you write a biography of a man and not talk to anyone who knew him, not visit anyplace he lived, and not include any photographs of the man or his family? It's easy: you write brief introductions to letters and passages from the writer's books, and call it a biography. The Red Hot Typewriter isn't red or hot. It is a color-by-numbers biography that is in the end colorless. A massive disappointment if you're a John D. fan, or a fan of good biography.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Educational and entertaining.
    Having grown up reading the Travis McGee series and more recently reading the rest of the vast library of John D. MacDonald, I found this book personalized the late pulp master for me, as I hoped and expected. You get a feel for the intellect of both John D. and his wife; the influence of his romance and relationship with his wife comes through in his life's work. My only complaint about the book is that I wanted more...but, then again, that is the feeling that I have as I re-read all of John D. MacDonald's books.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Informative, but incomplete
    As a diehard John D. MacDonald fan, I felt the book left much to be desired. MacDonald's pre-Travis McGee work, from l950-1960 most notably, was barely mentioned, or dismissed as unimportant. The author never took the time to interview the many people who worked with or knew MacDonald, relying only on correspondance. Overall, the book was a disappointment. ... Read more


    18. Amateur Detectives: A Writer's Guide to How Private Citizens Solve Criminal Cases (Howdunit)
    by Elaine Raco Chase, Anne, Phd Wingate, Anne Wingate
    list price: $16.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 089879725X
    Catlog: Book (1996-09-01)
    Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 581977
    Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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    Amazon.com

    Did you ever want your protagonist to make a citizen's arrest, but you didn't know the process? If the answer is yes, then turn to this volume from the Writer's Digest Howdunit series. It has all the information your sleuth needs for busting open the big case, including an overview on Internet hacking and descriptions of how real crime victims have solved their own cases. This book is recommended for mystery fans as well as scribes. I wish I had this back when I was reading those Encyclopedia Brown stories! ... Read more

    Reviews (6)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Some good info
    When I first started reading Amateur Detectives, I felt that it needed much more than it offered, however as I kept reading the book kept getting better and better. As the book starts off, it talks about the history of amateur detectives, which is specifically geared towards detective novelists. I found it fascinating to learn where some very established writers got their inspiration.

    The biggest (and best) section of this book talks about state and federal weapon regulations. It talks about concealed fire arms as well. It was very interesting to read the different laws per state, and especially interesting to read about my own state. I really have learned a lot about the gun regulations. This section really makes up for the slow beginning of the book.

    2-0 out of 5 stars A vague analysis on amateur detectives
    Elaine Raco Chase and Anne Wingate base the premise of this book as helpful based on the "one-must-do-one's-own-reading" premise; of the mystery novels we like, in order to write one of our own with believable characters and an interesting plotline. Although I totally agree with this suggestion, I can say this is hardly news for any serious writer of any genre. It is so how we are presented with a very extensive list of suggested reading, where all types of amateur detectives display their wit and wisdom (Chapter 1). I have found it very helpful indeed as reference for a bibliography on mystery novels. Later on, the book explains different laws for citizen's arrest in each and every one of the States of the Union. This is unfortunate (and very long), since it will only help you if you are setting your novel in the United States of America, making the book a prejudist one. The authors argue that whenever they requested information from other governments, they were ignored. I don't quite really know what to make of them as researchers.

    A chapter that can summarize the first intention of the book is the one called "Resume of an amateur detective" (Chapter 3). However, it is very superficial and it won't provide any more information about creating your own amateur sleuth than you may be able to find elsewhere or come up with from your own writer's imagination, AFTER you have done the required and fruitful reading. There is also a chapter with lots of internet resources but, unless they are very general (such as the Library of Congress or the White House), it becomes invariably outdated (this also applies for the chapter on laws of the United States which change, at least, every year). I think nowadays most writers would be capable of using a search engine and find whatever it is they are looking for on the internet and more.

    2-0 out of 5 stars To general and Americanised
    This book suffers from looking more like a law book for bounty hunters than a writer's reference. It's solid but too general, and the author assume that the only crime you'll ever write about is going to take place in the USA. They forgetting that people who buy the Howdunnit Series are from everywhere around the world. If you want a solid book on the same topic, get 'Private Eyes' by Hal Blyth in the same series. See my review on it.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Spend your money on novels.
    If you've read enough mystery novels to be considering writing one, nothing in this book will be new to you. The authors basically offer examples of what has already been done with amateur detectives, which can be useful in its way, but it's no substitute for doing the reading yourself.

    In addition, the book has a distracting number of typos and spelling errors; for example, the authors--or editors--can't seem to decide whether Frederic Brown's first name should have a "k" at the end or not, so they spell it both ways at various points in the book.

    IMHO, the book's best use is as a reading guide to amateur detective novels--but check it out of the library if you want to use it for that.

    5-0 out of 5 stars This book is wonderful!
    I am a beginner mystery writer & was unsure as to how my amateur sleuth would solve crimes. I have searched local bookstores for a book like this & am so glad I found it! The authors have done a remarkable job with their research and I am very appreciative. This book is a wealth of information that I won't only use in writing, but also in my personal life. I plan on buying all of the Howdunit Series because this one has been so informative. I now have an "edge" on creating a believable sleuth with reliable detective abilities thanks to this book. ... Read more


    19. The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit
    by William G. Tapply
    list price: $16.95
    our price: $11.53
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1590581156
    Catlog: Book (2004-05-01)
    Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
    Sales Rank: 99982
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    20. Murder One: A Writer's Guide to Homicide (Howdunit Series)
    by Mauro V. Corvasce, Joseph R. Paglino
    list price: $16.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 089879773X
    Catlog: Book (1997-06-01)
    Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
    Sales Rank: 456270
    Average Customer Review: 2.67 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Amazon.com

    Murder One is not written with the verve of some of the other books in Writer's Digest's Howdunit series, but if you need to know what kind of car serial killers prefer to drive (Volkswagens) or what happens to the contents of a human skull when subjected to intense heat (they "boil and explode much like a hard-boiling egg that is left unattended"), this is the place to turn. Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino, investigators for the Monmouth County, New Jersey, prosecutor's office, provide the inside scoop on murders involving narcotics, gangs, organized crime, families, strangers, crimes of passion, lust, sex, and more. --Jane Steinberg ... Read more

    Reviews (3)

    3-0 out of 5 stars An Addition To Your Reference Library, Not A Stand-Alone
    Murder One contains a lot of case studies of actual crimes. It also details motives and methods on all sorts of crimes including drug distribution, parents who kill their children and serial killers.

    While this book is a great quick reference book, solid crime writing requires a little more depth than this book offers. It's worth having, though, to get you started on the right track.

    4-0 out of 5 stars ¿Murder One¿ is a good, broad, writer¿s guide to homicide.
    "Murder One" accomplishes its purpose: It is a good writer's guide to homicide. Its breadth dictates lack of deep detail. It covers murder: weapons, business murders, narcotics murders, gang murders, organized-crime murders, contract murders, crime-of-passion murders and thrill/lust, sexual, mass, serial, vehicular and bizarre murders.

    All books, including "Murder One", I have read in the "Howdunit Series" have been incredibly helpful.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Poorly written book.
    The main drawback of this book is that the poor chapters about different types of homicide are not followed by any further literature. ... Read more


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