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9 February 2012 2 Comments

Why did Marlowe go in the bar?

Mrs. Rees has given me two lovely kids. She has enjoyed the presence of my parents. She even visited Wales with me. But I was never quite sure of her. Because she had only read one Raymond Chandler novel. In an effort to make our marriage complete, I suggested this week she augment her reading […]

2 February 2012 2 Comments

Daniel Silva’s Funny Buggers

Any writer knows that things can go wrong sometimes. Characters start to get wooden. Scenes won’t come alive. But the slipperiest dilemma of all –– because it’s the one least likely to be obvious when you’re re-reading the manuscript –– is when certain words turn out to have unintended consequences. A fine example of this […]

26 January 2012 0 Comments

Break Elmore’s Rules

Elmore Leonard has 10 rules for writing. They don’t cover most of the important points of writing. They could really be called: Ten Rules for Writing That Isn’t So Bad, Even if You’re Not Much of Writer. Still the rules have been turned into a book and are quoted with something a little more mystical […]

29 December 2011 0 Comments

Crime Fiction’s Best First Paragraphs: 3

Georges Simenon wrote “L’Affaire Saint Fiacre” (“Maigret Goes Home”) in 1932. It’s one of the first of the 103 novels involved Inspector Jules Maigret. You can tell from books like this that the writer was a bit of a bastard. And we ought to be grateful for that. The opening of “Saint Fiacre” (I’m going […]

22 December 2011 2 Comments

The Best First Paragraphs in Crime Fiction: Part 2

I’m writing this in a plain office in the corner of a building that was described by the realtor as “exclusive,” though it doesn’t exclude despondent ultra-Orthodox Jews panhandling for cash, plumbers who break all the pipes you hadn’t called them to fix, or the cheerful lady who lets her dog pee in the elevator. […]

15 December 2011 0 Comments

The Best First Paragraphs in Crime Fiction: Part 1

If you have a lot of time to waste, you never judge a book by its cover. But don’t try telling me you don’t judge it by its first paragraph. What makes a great first paragraph? And which are the greatest? We all have favorites, some of which have become clichéd –– as happens to […]

17 November 2011 6 Comments

Renko Rules

This is a crime fiction blog. So we ought to shoot straight. Here it is: there are lots of crappy detective novels out there. Which is why I say thank God for Arkady Renko. The hero of Martin Cruz Smith’s excellent series set in the Soviet Union and, later, Russia (with stops in Cuba, Ukraine, […]

27 October 2011 3 Comments

The Crime Writer’s Alter Ego

James Ellroy went out to dinner a few years ago with some French journalists in Paris. One of the journalists later recounted to me how Ellroy pressed them to take him out to Pigalle, which is a sort-of Red Light district. With distaste, they agreed. “Okay,” growled the Demon Dog, “so which one of you […]

8 September 2011 0 Comments

Why thriller titles…aren’t

Thriller titles often seem designed to confuse prospective readers. Pick up a book by a well-known author, read the title which is something like “Better Off Dead,” and you’re likely to think: “Did I already read that one? It seems to me titles in the thriller world have moved away from any kind of descriptive […]

2 September 2011 2 Comments

Corrupt online reviews

Eleanor Roosevelt said that no one can make you feel bad, except yourself. I live by that rule. Particularly when it comes to reviews. And double-particularly when it comes to online reviews. A recent Cornell University study found that 85 percent of amazon.com’s “top reviewers” had received free gifts from vendors. And 78 percent had […]