At the authors panel I attended earlier this month, we were asked why we had chosen to write mysteries in a specific era.
There are several reasons why I chose the 1950s, not all of them very interesting. But in short, it’s an era that had more colorful charm than grizzly forensics. Since I’m all about the puzzle of a good mystery, that works well for me. The 1950s had great fashion, textures, music, and it was a complicated time socially as everyone tried to create a normal — better — life after the war. Basically, there’s a lot for me to work with.
The challenge is the era’s rampant sexism and racism. Not a good thing. And while I’m not a huge history buff, I can’t simply gloss over the pieces I don’t like. Of course, I’m writing murder mysteries not social historical commentary, but I really do try to use social accuracy to enhance the story and the mystery part of the adventure, without making it so central as to distract the audience. (And I sincerely hope I’m doing a good job.)
After all, we’re reading mysteries to enjoy ourselves.
Last week’s panel was a blast! I learned a lot, sold some books, and I got to meet two vastly diverse and talented historical mystery authors. M. Louisa Locke writes the Victorian San Francisco Mysteries. And Jeri Westerson writes the Crispin Guest Mysteries (among other things) which take place in Medieval England.
Both women were very friendly and supportive to me personally, as well as being all-round fascinating people. I was having so much fun listening and participating, that it was near the end when it suddenly dawned that I’d never met other historical mystery authors before. I’ve been writing mysteries alone for over 6 years, and I’m the only one I know who writes mysteries set in 1950s Seattle, but I’m not really a tribe of one. 🙂
And now my reading list has grown to include more great historical mysteries!
M. Louisa Locke Jeri Westerson
I’ve been selected as a mystery author panelist for the PCA/ACA National Conference. I’ll be joining a couple of (far more established) authors of historical mysteries. I’m not wholly sure what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to meeting other fans of the genre and the opportunity to discuss my work!
I’m not a particular fan of the romance genre, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a mystery that just happened to have a splash or romance, provided that the mystery itself was compelling, puzzling, and downright exciting.
By the way, since classical or “traditional” mysteries omit overt sex, I’m really only talking about subtle romance — not the racy stuff that makes you blush and hide your book cover when you’re in public.
For those of you who read Agatha Christie, (and I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t) you know that the Queen of Crime often laced a bit of romance in her books. In fact, several of her stories end with a solved murder and a couple in love. So in short, a little romance with my mysteries great, but there better be a clever crime to solve!