Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: quotations

Does a book’s first sentence grab you?


Conventional wisdom says that the first line in a novel should grab you by the lapels and drag you into the story.  Charles Dickens did a pretty good job.

For lots of examples of good beginnings and not so good, continue reading at


Writing advice from mystery authors


Some years ago (but not as many as you might think) when I was in grad school, I enrolled in a summer seminar, part of the National Writing Project.  One of the other students, who was a high school English teacher, gave me a marvelous little book of quotations.  I’ve treasured it ever since.  It’s one of those few books that’s always on the top of my desk along with a dictionary, AP Stylebook and a few others.

Today I thought I would share some of my favorite bits of writing advice from mystery writers.  You can do a Google or Yahoo search forWriters quote book sml  5061 “writer quotations” and possibly find some of these quotes but not all of them and not in the same place.  My quote book is wonderful.   I turn to it for inspiration, a laugh or both.  See availability notes below.

“My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.”  John D. MacDonald

“Those big shot writers…could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.”   Mickey Spillane

“At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.”   Raymond Chandler

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”   Elmore Leonard

“The best time for planning a book is when you’re doing the dishes.”                 Agatha Christie


The book I have is “The Writer’s Quotation Book; A Literary Companion, Third Edition,” James Charlton, editor.  It’s certainly out of print, but used copies are available in several places online, including Powell’s.   Used copies of the fourth (and presumably last) edition are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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