As any fan of murder mysteries knows, the genre can
encompass all kinds of stories, from English country murders to small hidden
towns in Montreal to intrigue in Washington to …. You name it.
All these novels tell about the murder:
the who, what, where, and why of it.
But the best ones tell another story as well. A murder mystery can serve as a vehicle for
social commentary, for exploring an historical event, for telling a love story,
or any of the many reasons that a writer decides she has something to say.
The nice thing about creating a series in this genre is that
you can have ongoing characters who grow and change over time. They have stories of their own to tell,
alongside the story of the victim and the perp.
Reading a series is like visiting old friends, catching up, finding out
what’s new with them. And writing a
series is much the same. It’s a lot of
fun for me to write about Bella and Art and their friends, to find out things I
didn’t know before, to travel together.
Are murder mysteries in the same class of fiction as great
literature? Maybe not. And yet – Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha
Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers gather new fans to this day, so if a definition
of literature is something that touches readers of many places and times, has
something to say and something to teach, then maybe murder mysteries are worth
reading after all.
I’ve finally got to the end of my new mystery novel, Death on the Danube, and I found out ‘whodunnit’ and why. Bella Sarver and her new husband, Art Halperin, meet a bunch of interesting people, including at least one with murder in mind. It was a lot of fun to discover who these people are and what makes them tick. As the writer, I set them in motion, but then they take on a life of their own and who knows where that’s going to lead?
The story takes place on a cruise along the Rhine-Main-Danube Rivers, with many stops on the way from Amsterdam to Bucharest. I enjoyed researching the historical backgrounds of my settings and the artists who lived and worked in them. (How did anyone ever write a book before the Internet?) But now comes the hard work of starting at the beginning and revising the entire novel so that it really comes alive.
I mentioned this to a friend the other day and she asked me about the tediousness of the task of revision. Her question took me by surprise, because I don’t think writing is the least bit tedious. Now that I have all my characters in place, I look forward to the chance to flesh them out so they can become living, breathing people. It’s all part of the fun of writing. It’s an adventure for myself as well as for my characters.
I’m hoping to get the final draft in shape by the Fall. Wish me luck!
I’m happy to have two of my most recent pieces on exhibit at the Studio 630 Summer Show. The opening reception is Sunday, June 9th, 1 to 3 pm. The Gallery is located at the National University of Health Sciences, Bldg B, on Roosevelt Rd. at Highland, Lombard. The show will be up for 2 months, and is well worth a visit.