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How Sara Blaedel Went from Avid Mystery Reader to Bestselling Crime Writer


 

Long before I started writing crime fiction, I was a huge fan of the mystery & thriller genres. From early childhood, I was an avid reader, who found suspenseful stories intoxicating. So invested did I become in those backdrops, plotting, and characters, that I considered myself an integral player. I fancied myself involved in the action and most especially in the evidence-gathering, fact-finding missions, and ultimate solving of the cases. It was exciting and transformative.

As an author, my most important tasks are to serve up storytelling that satisfies, engrosses, transports, and justifies the time spent navigating through the pages. Which means that I endeavor, always, to bring my A-game and push myself to reach higher, to go deeper, and to make sure that what I’m offering rings true, makes sense, and is worthy of the investment of my wonderful readers, for whom I am eternally grateful.

My Top Three Tips for Writing Mystery & Thriller

1. Write what you’d want to read; if you don’t find it compelling, entertaining, and captivating, it likely isn’t.

2. Research tirelessly and expansively; authenticity is essential.

3. Don’t skimp on development; every element must be fully cooked.

 


 

About Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel is the author of the #1 international bestselling series featuring Detective Louise Rick. Her books are published in thirty-seven countries. In 2014 Sara was voted Denmark’s most popular novelist for the fourth time. She is also a recipient of the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award. She lives in New York City.

 

 

 

 

A Chilling Thriller Set in Stalin’s Soviet Union


 

 


Lukas Fauset’s first career ambition was “detective” but gave up some point after realizing it took a lot more work than putting on a wide-brimmed hat and trench coat. His fallback ambition of “spy” was similarly derailed, but as a Digital Product Developer he, at the very least, still gets to work with code.

 

Why You Need to Drop Everything and Start Reading This 2018 Edgar Award-Winner

It would probably be impossible for 2018 Edgar Award-winner Attica Locke to put out enough books to satisfy me. She is one of those authors where I will drop everything in order to read any new work of hers. She’s also one of the crime authors I most recommend.

While the reasons are many—including her excellent writing—I most often recommend her books for two reasons: people ask me a lot for a book to read after Tana French (Locke’s Jay Porter series) and for a book where the setting is very much alive (The Cutting Season and Bluebird, Bluebird). These Attica Locke books have great characters, settings, and mysteries that will completely draw you in. 

So, pour yourself a super cold drink and crank the AC, because we’re going to hot, hot Houston, Texas:

Travel to Belle Vie, an eighteen-acre plantation in Louisiana, where Locke expertly uses the land—and all its dark history—to stage a murder mystery.

We’re headed back to Texas and we’re going to sweat like it’s nobodies business! Seriously, hold an ice cube to the back of your neck.


Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor who always has a book in one hand. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog “What’s in your mouth?!” Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.

 

How to Write Historical Crime Fiction

William Shaw, author of the historical mystery series Breen and Tozer, which is set in London in the late 1960s. We asked him for his advice about how to write a historical crime novel.

 

1. Research.

Obviously. It wouldn’t be a historical novel if you didn’t. Inevitably, though, you will find you do two chunks of research. You can’t begin to write a word without immersing yourself in your era. But be prepared to start the research over once you’ve finished. After 100,000 words or so, you’ll have more questions than you started with.

However, unlike at the start, when you’re just wallowing in piles of history books, now your questions will be ultra-specific. Like, how long would it take to drive across London in 1968? What coins did London phone boxes take? Once you have specific questions, you can call up real experts, and you know what? They won’t mind at all; in fact, that’s where the real fun starts.

For A Song for the Brokenhearted, I had found a naturalist who could tell me about British wildlife in 1964. And when I found my expert, it was like they had waited for years for someone to come up with that topic.

 

2. Embrace the known unknowns.

The juiciest bits are the bits between the facts. History leaves holes; this is where you play. There’s not much in the way of a record of Thomas Cromwell’s childhood, so Hilary Mantel was free to make it up in Wolf Hall. Whatever your era, the language of the common person is probably only sketchily recorded, so you’ll have to imagine what they said and how they said it.

 

3. … but beware the unknown unknowns.

Some of the assumptions you thoughtlessly make will turn out to be plain wrong. When I wrote my first draft of She’s Leaving Home, I had Constable Helen Tozer driving a police car all the way through the book. Luckily, my recent historical past features people who are still alive. I met a couple of women who had served in Tozer’s police division in London in 1968; when I ran the plot back to them they were fine, until I reached the bit about the driving. They looked at me like I was insane. “Oh no. Policewomen didn’t drive cars, then.” Really? Ok. Major redraft.

You might have your characters in a 12th-century European novel sitting down to breakfast before going to work in the fields, as Ken Follett does in Pillars of the Earth. Most people won’t notice, but all it takes is one person who knows that wouldn’t have happened… (Confession: I only know this is wrong because a disappointed historian pointed it out in a review).

 

4. Wear your knowledge lightly.

Just because you have spent days researching the Victorian sewer system doesn’t mean you have to inflict everything you know on your reader. It is enough for them to get a sense of what Victorian London smelled like. As in any fiction, the only detail that is relevant is the stuff that enhances theme, characterization and plot. Everything else is showing off.

George MacDonald Fraser, writer of the brilliant Flashman books, tucked his knowledge into footnotes that were so well-written, they were as entertaining as the text itself. And then there’s the language. Yes, it’s good to use words and phrases that remind you of a period, but verily, don’t over-egg ye pudding.

 

5. You must have a time traveler in your cast list.

Finally, the single most important thing is… you must have a time traveler in your cast list. Let me explain. If crime fiction is a type of morality play—as I think it always is—then historical crime exists in a really, really weird moral universe. How do you begin to reconcile the wacky beliefs of the age you are writing about with our liberal modern present? How are you going to cope with a world in which your even your best characters must presumably think that, say, slavery is perfectly normal, that women should have no rights of their own, and that homosexuality is utter depravity?

The trick is that somebody in your book—usually a narrator figure—is not really from that time at all. This is a hell of a thing to pull off. C.J. Sansom manages it brilliantly with his narrator Shardlake. Shardlake shares our revulsion with the cruelty and religious zealotry of his time, because he is like us. Shardlake is disabled and his outsider status has, over the years, forced him to see the world differently.

In my Breen and Tozer series, it’s not the narrator, but the sidekick who is out of her own time. Breen is more or less of his age. It’s his loud, rock music-loving Tozer who represents our point of view, challenging his post-war preconceptions of how the world ought to be. The trick is to find that character, and if you can, you’re halfway there.

 


William Shaw is the author of Salt Lane, The Birdwatcher, and the Breen and Tozer series.

You Call That A Crime Novel?


 

Why isn’t every novel that hinges on a crime or criminality considered a crime novel? When books come along and we throw them into their chosen pigeonhole, it feels like our aim is often a little off. Here are five famous books that could, with just a little argument, be considered crime novels.

 

The Literary Novel:

The Spy Novel:

The Classic:

 

The Classical:

The Fantasy Novel:

 

 


About Malcolm Mackay

Malcolm Mackay is the author of For Those Who Know the Ending which is definitely a crime novel, and the Glasgow Trilogy, which has been nominated for several international prizes.

 

 

Austin Grossman Interviews Daniel O’Malley

Austin Grossman had three pressing questions for THE ROOK author Daniel O’Malley. Here they are, in no particular order.

a)  What would you say the greatest super-secret organization in SF and F?  What were some models used for THE ROOK?

I don’t know that anything was actually a model.  But some fictional secret security organizations really made an impact with me.

I remember that the White Witch’s secret police in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe made me feel deeply uneasy at the time. “Some of the trees are on her side.” And it’s led by a wolf. So, I’ve always held a soft spot for them. Although, in retrospect, what kind of secret police leave notes signed ‘Captain of the Secret Police’?

And I don’t know if they count as super-secret, since everyone knows they exist, but the Militia in China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station really struck me when I read about them. Police that walked around in disguise all the time, only to emerge out of nowhere when there was crime. They pull hidden masks out of their collars, and sometimes they are riding flying jellyfish. They’re scary police, I don’t want them in my town, but they’re pretty damn cool.

 With The Rook I wanted to give the sense of a regular office where bizarre things were happening in the background, or incredible occurrences were being discussed in a perfectly serious and deadpan way. I think the Men in Black movies did a good job with that sort of thing. I also wanted a place where many of the staff, from the elite commandos through to the phone receptionists, might have supernatural powers. Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon and Todd Klein did a terrific comic called Top 10, and it was about the police in a city where everyone had super powers. So, the guy cooking your hotdog might be doing it with heat vision, or the boy band on the radio might all be former sidekicks. My organization is not quite so saturated with powers, but I remembered that, and thought it was fun.

b) If you knew you were going to have total amnesia, what’s the first note you would write to your future self?

Continue reading “Austin Grossman Interviews Daniel O’Malley”

A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski and Ed Brubaker: Part II

This week, we celebrate the publication of FUN & GAMES by Duane Swierczynski, a book that CNN.com says “reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie on speed, full of high-octane action, flying by at a breakneck pace, not for the faint of heart, but also with plenty of humor.” Here, we present Part II of a conversation between Swierczynski and award-winning writer Ed Brubaker, author of CRIMINAL, SLEEPER and INCOGNITO, among many others.

Missed Part I? Start reading it here.

DS: The idea for Charlie Hardie, the house sitter, came first, though he didn’t have a name for a long time. You think “house sitter,” you kind of think “burnout.” (My apologies to the many fine professional housesitters working the mansions of America today; I don’t mean you guys.) Anyway, at the very least, I imagined somebody’s who’s been through a rough patch. Someone who used to know how to handle himself, but maybe had fallen on hard times, and was more than a little rusty. Like you said, all of this stuff goes into a mental blender and spins around for a long time… and slowly, a character emerged.

See, I like your question a lot — and it applies to Charlie, because it’s clear he wants to escape from his life. Yet, life won’t let him. It keeps picking on him.

The idea for the… uh, female lead (don’t want to spoil anything) was more or less inspired by certain pieces of celebrity gossip. As well as the whole idea that you can easily bump into a celebrity in L.A., which I find interesting — would you recognize, say, Blake Lively in a very out-of-context situation? Like, if she suddenly broke into your hotel room and told you people were trying to kill her?

Question for you, along the same lines: Do you get starstruck at all? And if so, is it for actors, directors, writers, or musicians?

Continue reading “A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski and Ed Brubaker: Part II”

My Own Dark Places

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us their thoughts on why Los Angeles is so associated with noir. Read Jonathan Santlofer’s story “What’s In a Name?” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

When Rockstar asked me to put together an anthology to accompany their darkly beautiful video game, LA NOIRE, I pounced. Having been enamored with noir both on the page and on the screen since my brooding teenage years, my mind was spinning Chandleresque tales before I wrote a single word or asked another author to contribute. I wanted to invite a hundred writers but it ended up a small collection, every story burnished black as ebony, all jittery gems that invite the reader to trespass along those sunny/seamy LA streets. For my own story I slipped into the mind of a killer and had fun mixing fact and fiction, bringing in shadowy underworld figures I’d only read about, like Mickey Cohen and Johnny Stompanato, real life bad guys who seem quaint, almost harmless, compared to my fictional psychopath, a true noir creation inspired in equal parts by the game LA NOIRE, postwar Los Angeles, and my own dark places.

Jonathan Santlofer is the editor of LA Noire: The Collected Stories, as well as the author of 5 novels. He is the recipient of a Nero Wolfe Award for best crime fiction novel of 2008, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy In Rome, the Vermont Studio Center and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S. He is co-editor, contributor and illustrator of the anthology, THE DARK END OF THE STREET, and his short stories have appeared in every top mystery/crime anthology. He is also the artist behind Ken Bruen’s serial novel BLACK LENS.

Noir Seal of Approval

As a contributor to LA Noire: The Collected Stories, we asked Andrew Vachss to give us his thoughts on noir. Read Andrew Vachss’s story “Postwar Boom” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

I learned, a long time ago, that people can read for entertainment and come away with enlightenment, so long as the vein of truth runs throughout and doesn’t detract from the narrative force. I understand there are those who believe “noir”—or “hardboiled,” or whatever term they prefer to lavish upon themselves—writing shouldn’t be cluttered up with “that other stuff.” As if littérature engageé is only acceptable in “magical realism” novels translated from original Incan scrolls. All these “outlaws” who want me to live by their rigid little rules … good luck to them. I understand I am too “pulp” for the literati, and too “literate” for the pulpsters. Lost a lot of sleep over that. I’d rather burn a bridge than crawl over it, and genre- worship isn’t one of my disabilities. Apparently, as with all religions, some people believe they can dictate definitions. I don’t ask these self-appointed high priests for the “Noir Seal of Approval” that only they (think they) can grant.

Andrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social-services caseworker, and a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum-security prison for “aggressive-violent” youth. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youths exclusively. He is the author of two dozen novels, including The Weight, his latest. To read an excerpt from this crime-fiction novel about Sugar, an old-school professional thief, visit http://vachss.com/weight.

Chapter 2 of The Wreckage

Next month we are publishing The Wreckage by Michael Robotham. Start reading the book that Booklist called (in a starred review), “Fine and ambitious with characters who are wonderfully human–smart, determined, decent, and flawed. Thoroughly compelling.”

Need to catch up? Read the Prologue and Chapter 1.

2

LONDON

Being measured for a new suit was not something Vincent Ruiz expected to happen until he was lying cold and stiff on an undertaker’s slab. And if that were the case, he didn’t suppose he’d care about an effeminate stranger nudging a tape measure against his balls. Maybe he’s weighing them. Every other measurement has been taken. Continue reading “Chapter 2 of The Wreckage”