September 03, 2007

In Point of Fact, I Am Here.

I am alive and well. It just so happens that I got waylaid by the following projects: 1) catching up on sleep; 2) fulfilling family obligations; 3) dealing with business overhead; 4) catching up on sleep, again; 5) reading an Ellery Queen mystery about a serial killer loose in New York City during a heat wave in the late 1940s.

The point to remember is that detective fiction is strangely analogous to humor: just as the comic must deal in material that is as funny and uncomfortable and painful as possible—without actually drawing metaphorical or literal blood—so the crime writer must come up with a solution to the puzzle that, upon reflection, must appear to have been staring the reader in the face the whole time. In both instances, one must play footsie with a very fine line.

That is why one man's wit is another man's hostility; there is an element of the subjective to the whole enterprise.

I am, as a mystery reader, pretty cooperative: I try not to actively solve the puzzle unless I feel I've got no choice. (Some books practically beg one to get out a piece of paper and start listing clues, but these are normally of the poorest quality, and barely worth finishing at all.)

I want to be fooled. Yet if at all possible, I want to be fooled only slightly. If it's the least bit feasible, I'd like to guess the final mystery one page before it's revealed in the text, yet before such knowledge would spoil the surprise. It is just as one pulls off that wrapping paper that The Truth should knock one over: "of course!"

"Hide it in plain sight." It's easy to say, but almost impossible to do.

I finished reading the mystery by the Queen cousins, and resolved to close the gaps on the L.A. and Phoenix puzzles I'm creating, once and for all.

I decide to get all "twelve step" on my husband, regarding the creative process. "I don't have to create the perfect psycho for this particular book," I explain to him, rather earnestly. "I just have to create the best psycho I can today."

The mystery writer is, at the very same time, the most moral and the most amoral of creatures. There is no resolving this one; we can only craft the best books possible, and keep them scrupulously free of talking pets. At that point, our missions are fulfilled, and the editors, critics and readers take over.

Keep in mind, though, that more readers one acquires, the less one has to care what the critics and editors say. At a certain point, one can even bring back the talking pets, and all is well. What are the critics going to do, after all?—argue with one's bank balance? "It's slop, that financial security," they will say.

"I don't care for the dreck that she put in her IRA," they will complain.

"The quality of her beach home? Strictly second rate," they'll sniff.

I, of course, won't care at all. I'll just install a swimming pool for my husband, and buy another car.

Posted by Attila Girl at September 3, 2007 07:50 PM | TrackBack

Cat of Many Tails is my FAVORITE Ellery Queen. Holy cow. I must discuss it with you when you're done. I never meat anyone else who ever read it!

Posted by: caltechgirl at September 4, 2007 10:44 AM

I'm done, Babe. Come right over!

Posted by: Attila Girl at September 4, 2007 11:30 AM

Also on the list from my "Ellery Queen advisor":

The French Powder Mystery
The Greek Coffin Mystery
The Egyptian Cross Mystery

Volumes he recommended that I have already consumed:

The Chinese Orange Mystery (this one is truly superb)
The Dutch Shoe Mystery
The Four of Hearts
The Finishing Stroke (I adore everything about this except the solution; I would have preferred a different villain)

I really cannot understand why no one has reissued these.

Posted by: Attila Girl at September 4, 2007 11:35 AM

"I really cannot understand why no one has reissued these." Well, sounds like you have a project.

Posted by: RWB at September 4, 2007 03:43 PM

i'll borrow whatever you're done with!

Posted by: caltechgirl at September 6, 2007 04:51 PM

I have visited your site 078-times

Posted by: Visitor385 at September 22, 2007 04:13 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

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