Friday, August 26, 2011

Literary Mystery Writers--Introduction

I have a funny habit. It probably comes from bridging so many different communities practically since birth. I like to bring people together, especially my friends.

I’m extremely fortunate in my friends. I have lots of them, and most of them are terribly gifted in one way or another. Since I have such stellar friends, I naturally want them to have the joy I have of knowing and appreciating them. So, I like to put my friends together. Sometimes, it doesn’t work, but most of the time, one talented person gets to know another talented person, and they become, if not friends themselves, at least appreciators of each other’s work.

I’ve been traveling in academic and literary circles for quite a while. All that time, I’ve found great pleasure in novels of high quality written by (gasp!) genre writers. Oh yes, I’ve found schlock, too, just as I have in literary fiction and poetry. There’s good and bad of everything. And I’m here to tell you that there’s a tremendous amount of exceptionally fine writing in some genre fiction. Mysteries are a prime example.

As many of you know, I have written my own mystery novel, Every Last Secret, which will be published April 24, 2012 by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. It’s the first in a series, and I’m working on the next one right now. I’ve had an odd reaction from some people. I had won awards for my poetry, and they wondered why I didn’t write a literary novel. They also assume, now that I’ve wandered off the literary path, I’ll stop writing poetry. These assumptions come from an unfortunate practice among lit folks of assigning all genre novels to the category of “trash” novels. I am truly glad to report that none of my friends came up with these assumptions, just acquaintances.

It leaves me wanting to set some things straight, however. I am a poet and a novelist. I still write—and intend to continue publishing—poetry. I have found the mystery field particularly open and welcoming, and I think it’s possible to write any novel I want to write within the mystery genre (with the possible exception of fantasy and science fiction, and that’s changing rapidly). I believe most of the novels about real matters of importance in our society are being written in the field of mystery.

Above all, this situation leaves me wanting to bring together my many great literary friends and my new mystery friends. Already on this blog, I do a series bringing to attention books of interest by writers of color. Now, I want to add to it another series bringing attention to beautifully written mysteries of literary quality. There are many writers producing these. I won’t put a list of them here since I’ve learned what atrocities Blogger wreaks on my lists, but I sat down and listed a few randomly off the top of my head and came up with 32 without really thinking about it.

Consequently, every week I’ll continue with my writers of color series, but now I’ll also add my literary mystery writers series, which will consist of an interview, book and author photos, bio, and a short summing-up of why that author’s on the list. There will, of course, be weeks when I miss one or the other because my life runs that way, but I intend to try to be as regular as possible. I’m just in the process of contacting writers for interviews right now, so I can’t list who’ll be on when. What I can say is that next week I will be posting the series manifesto, which is a wonderful essay by Margaret Maron, one of the finest literary mystery writers, called “Yes, I Am a Mystery Writer.” It originally ran on her blog, and she has kindly agreed to let me run it as the opening salvo of this series.

I hope you’ll all come along with me. This is my version of a huge party with lots of food and drink where I bring together all of my variously weird and gifted friends. Who knows what wonderful synergies will arise from it? And at the very least none of us will wake with a hangover.



  2. Judith, You will learn about some great writers on this. I plan to do Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Nancy Pickard, Margaret Maron, Sharyn McCrumb, Sandra Parshall, Michael Connolly, Daniel Woodrell, Sara Paretsky, Charles Todd, Deborah Crombie, Dennis Lehane, Elizabeth George, and the list goes on and on. I'm really pleased to kick off with Margaret's essay, and the first interview will be with Kathleen George.