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       the concept is to give insights into an author's style, craft, and knowledge through selected excerpts.) 
Writing Mysteries 
Sue Grafton, Editor; with Jan Burke and Barry Zeman
(with contributions from over three dozen members of the MWA)
Cincinnati, Ohio: Writerís Digest Books, 2002 

Given the names of the authors writing the articles in this book, one would expect this would be an outstanding book. Well, some of them should stick to writing novels or nonfiction books and leave "how-to" to others. Some writers can teach and some teachers can write, but there are too many who canít do both. 

The book is well organized into three parts . . . Preparation, the Process, and Specialties. There are thirty-five articles by some three dozen members of the Mystery Writers of America. Ten of the articles are outstanding. The rest range from ok to so-so to poor. One of the biggest problems is the tendency to self promote. It should be added that some of these articles apply to all genres. Most of these articles are written for the complete novice. Anyone with a degree of ability will become impatient with statements of the obvious.

Chapter five, Expertise and Research, by Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman is one of the better articles. Some good points are made regarding how much expertise and research are necessary and how much is too much. Settings should be geographically accurate. The article mentions some resources for getting information with emphasis on libraries. Oddly enough, there is no mention of computers. The article still gets a high rating with its stressing technical accuracy for settings, psychological characteristics, events, and other elements in the writing.

Chapter 6, Where Do I Find a Jewish Indian? Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love Research by Stuart M. Kaminsky is an excellent article, well written and generous with information. An important point made is to ask an expert. He goes into detail on that point.

Chapter 7, Background, Location, and Setting by Julie Smith is another excellent article. She makes the point that background can be as important as character and plot.

Chapter 8, Characterization by Michael Connelly may be the best article in the book. He makes the point that character is not defined by quantity but by quality. He gives excellent examples.

Chapter 12, Vivid Villains, by Sandra Scoppettone is another of the better articles in spite of some self promotion. She gives some good research pointers and delves into the psychological aspects very well.

Chapter 13, In Search of a Novel, by George C. Chesbro is another of the better articles. It stresses plotting and structuring. Keeping notes that could lead to story lines is important. Chesbro keeps a box for that purpose. He calls it an idea box. He stresses continuity of tense and person.

Chapter 19, Pacing and Suspense, by Phyllis Whitney is another of the better articles. The main focus of the article is avoiding too much or too little suspense. The writer will become bored if there is too much suspense continually all through the story. Of course, too little will have the same effect.

Chapter 23, In the Beginning is the End, by John Lutz is another of the better articles. Lutz stresses the need to know where you are going . . . a firm idea of plot. This is essential for planting clues and foreshadowing. If you donít know where you are going, the possibility and plausibility of clues can be compromised. 

Chapter 24, Revision, by Jan Burke gives a thorough overview of the process, effectively covering all points.

Chapter 27, The Mystery Novel From an Editorís Point of View, by Ruth Cavin, places emphasis on grabbing the reader from the start. She stresses the importance of characterization and the need to build suspense. She also reminds the writer to "show, donít tell." 

Chapter 35, The Best of the Genre and a Reference List of Books on Writing and Technical Information, the last chapter in the book, provides useful references for the writer compiled from questionnaires answered by the various authors of the contribuitng chapters.

The reader can only wish that more of the articles in this book were useful, but those that are, place the book into a favorable category. 

--Reviewed by William T. Delamar