I think all writers have days when the ideas and words just aren’t flowing. Hell, this may be one of those days for me. If I’m honest, I have weeks when I just don’t feel like putting word to paper. When that happens, it means I need to go read. I find writing books a bit dry, with the exception of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. No dryness there. I pick it up about once a year to remind myself that this is a tough activity and my frustration is normal. But mostly I turn to fiction when I need inspiration. Here are some of my favorite mystery books and writers, and why.
1. Break In, by Dick Francis. I first discovered Mr. Francis when I was about ten years old, and have read just about everything he wrote before he died in 2010. Break In is my particular favorite for two reasons. I love the main character, Kit, and his relationship with his twin sister that fuels the mystery. The thing that blows me away about this book, however, is that there is no murder. Imagine being a murder mystery writer and challenging yourself to write a book with no dead body in it. Yet Mr. Francis pulls it off spectacularly, maintaining the tension in the novel other ways. I wish I could have met him.
2. Mary Daheim, and her Alpine mystery series. I love these, and there are currently 26 of them out there. I’ve read them all. I picked them up because I love a series with a hook in the title—numbers or the alphabet, like Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich. I’m working on book three in my Claire Conover mystery series and cannot even imagine doing book 26. Wow. Ms. Daheim is referred to as a cozy mystery writer, but I’ve always considered the Emma Lord books more of an amateur sleuth series. And they are very character driven, which I love love love.
3. Anything and everything by Julia Spencer Fleming. Her first one is In the Bleak Midwinter, and all her titles are from hymns. Her main character is a female Episcopal priest, so the titles make total sense. I really want to hang out with Clare Fergusson for a day, in real life. Once again, very character-driven books.
4. Lastly, and most important, Anne George. Anne was the one who encouraged me to start writing, and I’m so grateful for that. Her Southern Sisters mysteries are set here in Birmingham and funny. I did a fan website for her, starting in 1999. To thank me she sent me copies of her books, and they would arrive on the day of publication. Always signed with a sweet note. In 2001 she called me to say that she was going to have to have surgery. She had had a porcine valve replacement in her heart many years before, and as she put it, “I’ve outlived the pig.”
Anne died March 14, 2001 on the operating table. I’ve heard there was just so much damage to her heart that it was irreparable. I’ve also heard she knew she had less than a 50% chance of survival. She had finished her last book before the surgery, Murder Boogies with Elvis, so imagine my surprise when it arrived on the day of publication. She had preordered it for me. You know what? I haven’t read it. I just can’t say goodbye. Even sixteen years later.
Oh I hate I’m leaving on a sad note. Anne would kill me. Thank you for reading my post, and I hope you will check out the Claire Conover mystery series. The first one is called Little Lamb Lost, about a social worker in Birmingham, Alabama. What will happen when one of her young clients is found dead? The second in the series is Little Girl Gone, about a thirteen year old runaway found sleeping behind a grocery store. I also have a website, www.margaretfenton.com. Thanks again.