Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Whodunit: murder mysteries 101


Who has sold the most mystery books? Where did the line, “the butler did it” come from? And who wrote the first detective novel?

Begun more than 170 years ago, the detective story is a staple of American literature and equally popular overseas. American writers are joined on best seller lists by mystery authors from the UK, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy and other countries. In essence, killing people on paper is popular the world over.

This begins an occasional series on the history, subject matter, authors, techniques and trivia of this genre.

Fedora,-gun-etc.-Sepia--Es-The modern detective story was born in 1841 with the publication of The Murders in the Rue Morgue in Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia.

First in an occasional series

Edgar Allen Poe’s story describes the analytical power used by detective Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of bizarre murders in Paris. Like the later Sherlock Holmes stories, the tale is narrated by the detective’s roommate. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but a monkey did it. Yes, it is a bizarre twist to have a murderous monkey, but consider who wrote the story.

Following the publication of Poe’s tale, detective short stories and novels gradually became popular. English novelist Wilkie Collins published The Moonstone in 1868, a detective novel that includes several features of the typical modern mystery, including red herrings, false alibis and climactic scenes. Continue Reading →

The Maltese Falcon reexamined


“And when you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.” Sam Spade to Joel Cairo.

With apologies to Robert B. Parker, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and a few others, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is the quintessential murder story. Although Sam Spade appeared in only one novel, the cynical, hardboiled detective who bends the rules but still lives by a code, set the standard for all the gumshoes who would follow in the 85 years hence. “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble,” he tells the comely and mysterious Brigid O’Shaughnessy.Bogie-&-Elisha-Cook

Although Spade is such a well-defined and described character, it is difficult for me to separate him from Humphrey Bogart, the actor who portrayed Spade in the 1941 noir film of the same name. Bogart’s height and general appearance don’t match Hammett’s description, but by every other measure, Bogart is Sam Spade.

Recently I reread the novel and, for perhaps the 10th time, watched the film. The similarities and the few differences are worth examining. In fact, there are at least two mysteries within the mystery. And at this point, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, do so. Then come back and read the rest of this article. Continue Reading →

Is it easy for a man to become a woman, on paper?


By S.B. Redstone

Editor’s note: How difficult is it for male mystery authors to create believable female characters? It is easier for women to create compelling male characters? Examining those questions was the assignment for guest writer, author S.B. Redstone. This column is his response.

I don’t know what the percentage is of male writers creating female detectives and vice versa. I did some research on the web, but did not come up with any definitive statistics.

Certainly, Agatha Christie created well-known male detectives: Hercule Poirot and Inspector Japp. Nancy Drew and Miss Marple may be the most notable female detective characters written by women.

Stieg Larsson wrote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with a marvelously imaginative female protagonist. William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman. Dashiell Hammett wrote The Thin Man with a husband and wife detective team.

Television programs have so many female detectives on the networks, most having to be sexy and beautiful to draw attention to the mundane scripts, which are probably created mostly by men. However, I don’t doubt every writer can create both gender characters in their stories. Based upon all the novels I’ve read, male and female writers do an equally great job in creating memorable characters of the opposite sex. I suppose, as an example, if a male writer couldn’t create notable women characters, which wasn’t the case for Hemmingway or Defoe, they could write such books as The Old Man And The Sea or Robinson Crusoe.

My detective, Aubrey McKenzie, wasn’t designed to be Sherlock Holmes, analyzing clues to catch a killer. She was designed toSinister-obsession be an obsessed detective who would pursue a criminal to the ends of the Earth. With so many different detectives in print and on television, I wasn’t about to create the ordinary.

I chose a woman detective who would have a unique personality and temperament, and stand out from the crowd. Aubrey doesn’t solve crimes with just her intellect and intuition, she has a paranormal ability, which enables her to solve unsolvable crimes, but at the same time it causes a disaster for her social life.

With Aubrey, she brings a powerful emotional response in her pursuit of a most elusive and heinous killer. I paired Aubrey with a male detective, Joshua Diamond, who is her opposite. By having a romance occur between them, I could playfully show how a paranormal ability would affect their relationship. Since I grew up watching 1930’s and 1940’s detective stories with male and female detective teams, which I still love to watch on television, I made the dialogue between them witty, contentious, and heartfelt.

Author S.B. Redstone

Author S.B. Redstone

In my novel, A Sinister Obsession, the challenge of writing female characters was to think like a woman. Be a woman. Now if you were Tarzan, and grew up in the jungle with only ape parents, writing about women would be quite challenging. Simply stated, I become my characters. I enjoy that. It’s a real fun thing to do, especially in my novel when I am dressing Aubrey in designer clothing.

I also enjoyed creating several other women characters with equally fascinating and dynamic personalities. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a household of females, worked with females, had female patients in my therapy practice, have many female friends, have a wife, and daughter.

As a therapist, it’s been my professional business to study people and the truth is, men and women don’t live on different planets. Many women characters I’ve developed through the years have come from women I knew. Based upon my therapeutic training, I’ve been able to develop unique insights into the human mind that has enabled me to create accurate personalities that leap off the pages. Lastly, what I do not know about women, which is still quite extensive, I ask my wife.

Biography, S. B. Redstone

After attaining master’s degrees in Social Work and School Psychology, and then completing a post-graduate education in Psychoanalytic Therapy, I became a School Psychologist and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I wrote a personal improvement book, Taming Your Inner & Outer Bullies: Confronting Life’s Stressors And Winning. I have written articles on the web about human nature and relationships, given lectures, and appeared on radio shows. Always having a vivid imagination, I wrote short stories before tackling novels. My mystery thriller, A Sinister Obsession, was published by Black Opal Books. As an expert in the field of human psychology, I have been able to develop realistic characters from the dark side of human nature where my villains don’t aspire for happiness through personal achievement, but rather from their demented narcissistic schemes. I am a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. I reside in New York and Florida with my wife, computer, and golf clubs.

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