Straight Talk on Mystery Writing

Winning an Edgar last month had a big impact on acclaimed "literary" writer Susan Straight, who writes about the experience, and the power of mystery writing, in a page two essay in today's Los Angeles Times Book Review. She's writes, in part:

In 1996, while in a Berkeley bookstore signing my novel "The Gettin
Place," which links the Tulsa Riot of 1921 and the L.A. Riots of 1992,
I met a sociology professor who told me only mystery writers truly
delineate and fully imagine America's often overlooked landscapes. He
taught a class using only mysteries, and told me mine would be joining
the syllabus.

It was one of the most gratifying things anyone has ever said
to me, and I felt that way during the Edgars, when I watched the
convivial, joking mystery writers pay tribute to one another and
realized how many of their books I've loved. The propulsive plots, the
dialogue, the intricate detail of murders and clues and geography. What
Edgar Allan Poe did — frighten us while fascinating us, digging deep
at the part inside us that we recognize even in those awful characters
— is what mystery writers still do.

[…]Now I look at Edgar's
downcast, black-brushed eyes and hope to write something dark and noir
again, something to take readers into places and souls where they might
never otherwise dare to venture. *

2 thoughts on “Straight Talk on Mystery Writing”

  1. What a great quote and essay. It’s nice to see how real and deep Susan Straight’s passion for writing is. She has a real calling for the art.
    The mystery novel that did it for me was Chandler’s, “The Big Sleep.” For pure energy, depth and interest it comes out ahead big time.
    One of the reasons might be the character, General Sternwood. You feel his loss and his pain. The same is true of many of the other characters. They’ve gotten themselves into trouble and are trying to get out of it and stay alive and make some money (in shady ways.) It doesn’t seem to matter who plays Marlowe, either. Bogey and Robert Mitchum were both great, one intense, the other laid back — didn’t matter. Great perfomances.
    Anyway, it’s hard to say where the desire to be a writer comes from, but I know that when I read one of Stevenson’s novels — I think it was “Treasure Island” or maybe “Kidnapped” — I thought that if I could write something as good as this, my life would be fulfilled. Strange. You read a storybook and it changes your life.
    However, it actually IS a great L.A. day today in Guelph, Ontario, Cananda. Sun. Blue sky. No wind, no humidity. Ahh. Hope everybody has such L.A. weather-magic, today.


Leave a Comment