Monday, May 11, 2009

The Mystery is the Writer

By the time I got home from a long day's work this evening, I noted that some more messages had creeped into my personal email account. Well, in more than one account actually. Imagine that...

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Anyways... But after being torpedoed by my 9 year-old daughter into helping her with her long division homework (just another chance to go back in Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine of my mind, if there is one), I finally started opening some of those electronic missives. Which then caused this conversation with my long departed grandmother*:
¿Cuál es este email?

Huh, it's a form of mail that arrives electronically to your computer, Ma.

Never mind. So, I sit down again in front of my computer and I'm going through the new messages, when I notice the new email newsletter from The Mystery Bookstore. In it, they list the 2009 Agatha Award winners (my son will be happy to note that Chris Grabenstein won for his The Crossroads novel), The Macavity Award nominees (which includes Sean Chercover's Trigger City and The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes, Corey) and a whole bunch of other stuff concerning mystery writers. They even have some Fifty Grand first editions for sale, too.

O-K... and this is leading where? Alright, I'll get to the point. It's the writer... the mystery writer. The creator of all of that fun and mayhem some of us love to delve into. I can go on about the imagination of these authors... Just then my kids drag me over to the TV for this classic bit that's on a rerun of Malcolm in the Middle involving the incomparable Bea Arthur (may she rest in peace):

Where was I? Oh, yes... the mystery writer. Which lead me to try and recall how many of these writers became the subjects themselves of the stories on TV, books, or movies:
  1. Murder, She Wrote (mystery writer solving crimes)
  2. Castle (mystery writer helps NYPD solve crimes)
  3. Murder by Death (mystery writers being setup to solve a murder while at dinner)
  4. Deathtrap (mystery writer pulls off murder... only to be caught by another writer)
  5. Sleuth (mystery writer plots to kill wife's lover)
  6. The Langoliers
Wait a minute... what's that last one? I know. Isn't that a Stephen King story? The horror writer?!? What is he or it doing in this post (and why am I talking to myself)? It's because this novella (from the author's Four Past Midnight book) is one of my favorites (along with his Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Body from Different Seasons). King is now recognized as one of the best storytellers we have in print. And whether its straight horror fiction, redemptive dramatic or nostalgic tales, his skill in writing the prose is exceptional. His dark scary stuff unfortunately puts off many and causes them to dismiss work of his that has nothing to do with that realm of fiction.

The novella The Langoliers, not necessarily the TV movie, is one of those (along with those others I've mentioned) that I encourage people to try and read. If you enjoyed any Twilight Zone episode (ever), you'll be on familiar ground with this one. In fact, one of the key characters in the story, a Bob Jenkins, is a mystery author. And it's he, using the plot devices of the genre, that figures what is actually going on. Yes, King writes a mystery... one a little more fantastical than most. But a mystery, nonetheless. 

Oh, god. It's only Monday. Now... where was I?

* ever since yesterday's Fifty Grand post, she's been in my head.


  1. This may be my favorite of your many wonderful posts. It's multi-layered, as critics are wont to praise. And it's poignant and has a point and it makes me laugh and makes me nostalgic and makes realize how long it's been since I read Stephen King. And it references 'Casablanca' AND Peabody and Sherman ... This may be the best blog post I've ever read.

    That Bea Arthur clip is indeed a classic.

  2. Thank you, Corey. I was feeling whimsical yesterday. And I am so glad I didn't come off like I was in a drunken stupor ;-).