March 26, 2013

Why I Write Murder Mysteries by Athol Dickson

I'm a big fan of author Athol Dickson's novel River Rising, a lyrical, riveting, inspiring story that stunned me with both its style and unique twist, and made me really want to write. Yes, all that from one book. 

And now, Athol has branched out into murder mysteries? More on that in a minute...

Bio:
Dickson's mystery, suspense, and literary novels have won three Christy Awards and an Audie Award. Suspense fans who enjoyed Athol's They Shall See God will love his latest novel, January Justice, the first installment in a new mystery series called "The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs." The second and third novels in the series, Free Fall in February, and A March Murder, are coming in 2013.

Critics have favorably compared Athol's work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher's Weekly), Hermann Hesse (The New York Journal of Books) and Flannery O'Connor (The New York Times). 


So...if you've read Athol's previous works, you may be asking: So why murder mysteries? Here's his reply:

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Why I Write Murder Mysteries by Athol Dickson

Recently I read a fascinating article in The New York Times about what may well be the first true murder mystery novel ever written. Conventional wisdom holds that the honor belongs to Wilkie Collins, who published The Moonstone in 1868, but the author of the Times piece discovered a novel written six years earlier called The Notting Hill Mystery, which he claims has all the ingredients of a modern murder mystery, and deserves the credit as Whodunit Number One.

The novel was published in serial fashion in a periodical, as was common in those days, and the author used a pseudonym. But apparently there’s good reason to believe The Notting Hill Mystery was written by Charles Warren Adams, one of the publishers of the periodical. Hopefully, Adams will one day receive the full credit for his invention of my favorite genre. It was a monumental achievement.

But intriguing though this is to a mystery aficionado like myself, the real meat of the article for me come almost as an aside near the end, where the Times piece says, “Adams was also notably religious, which points to an unexpected characteristic of the first detective novel: it’s profoundly moral. It asks not just how evil exists, but what is to be done about it. Detective novels, like sermons, can offer gratifyingly simple answers to those questions, or thoughtful and troubling ones.”

It seems to me we love a good murder mystery because in the end they’re the stories which touch most directly on death and justice. Death is the ultimate mystery of real life. What is it, exactly? Why must it exist? What should we do about it? Even the best of murder mysteries can’t answer those questions completely, but the best murder mysteries all explore the possibilities.

And when we start exploring death, something in us cries out that it isn’t right. We all long for justice, don’t we? That’s the other thing a good murder mystery delivers: a little imitation justice. The bad guy gets his in the end, or else someone has the guts to stand and rage against the second greatest mystery of all, which is why injustice exists in the first place.

I love that about murder mysteries. It’s why I’ve read, oh, about a thousand of them. And it’s why I’m writing “The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs.”

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January Justice, the first book in Athol's "Malcom Cutter Memoirs" Series, is now available, and I am looking forward to reading it. I'll be back soon with a review, so watch for that. -C


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ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF. . . .

RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME:

I've published three novels and a novella (more about those on my website.) I've been writing all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.

I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)

They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.

I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.

I used to have a Harley. Now we have twenty-something kids. Decent trade, really. The window-rattling grumble isn't quite the same, but we are still enjoying the ride.

I am a proud Grammy. Don't even think about taking candy from my babies.

I hate shopping (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a girl)

MY ROOTS:
I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.

Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.

There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.

NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.

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Like There's No Tomorrow, Like a Love Song, and The Memoir of Johnny Devine are available in print & eBook at Amazon, B&N, Audible, Smashwords, iTunes, & Kobo.