Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mystery Readers/reviewers needed

Below is the information from today's posting under "Masterclass" - This is a relatively new blog and the postings have been really great so far. I would like to encourage all you mystery fans out there to post reviews on the site. Reviewers are wonderful to us authors.

you can see all the postings by going to - hope to see you all in the postings - E :)

Below, Doug Allyn makes a casual reference to his fifth Edgar nomination. He neglects to mention that he has actually been nominated seven times, more than any other mystery writer in any category, and once walked home with the little porcelain bust of Poe. He arrived on the mystery scene with a bang in 1986, winning the Robert L. Fish Award for Best First Short Story, which despite its name, is an Edgar equivalent. He has also won the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s Readers Choice Award more times than any other writer.

by Doug Allyn
What a fun site this is going to be. In the premier essay, Ed Hoch posed the question, ‘why do I write short stories?’ and while I agree 100% with Ed’s answers, (the precision of the plot, the intensity of the experience), my own reply would be quite different.
As Samuel L. Jackson says in “Pulp Fiction,” (just after he shoots the kid on the couch) “allow me to retort.”
Here’s a dirty little secret short story writers guard like aces in a game of Texas hold ’em. As an art form, short stories offer more creative freedom than the novel.
Whoa, aren’t there limits? Poe himself said “The short story must involve a single incident which is resolved at a single point in time.” Or words to that effect.
Horse hockey. Here’s the truth: The short story must be…short. If you can’t make your point in fifteen thousand words, you’re either writing a novel or you belong in politics. Aside from the lone limit of length, shorts offer all the splendid possibilities of the novel, plus a few perks.
For example: Jeffery Deaver sometimes employs literary slight of hand in his excellent short fiction. He’ll describe a character with complete accuracy, relying on the reader’s own preconceptions to provide the mystery. His stories supply a double kick when we realize Jeff hasn’t misled us, we’ve tricked ourselves. It’s a gutsy gambit, and while Jeff plays it to perfection, the technique won’t work at novel length, where further descriptions would necessarily destroy the illusion.
Shira Rozan’s exquisite, Edgar-nominated tale, ‘Building,’ illustrates another bonus of the short form; the hero needn’t be likeable. Her brutish narrator tells his tale in savage interior monologues. As a short, the story works brilliantly, but a novel set inside this guy’s head would read like a bad month at Buchenwald.
What about time? Unlike the novel, a short can actually play out in real time, in a single, intense moment, a la Poe. Nor are greater lengths a problem. My personal fave, and a big influence on my own work, is John O’Hara. Best known for epic, socially conscious, (i.e soapy) novels, O’Hara also wrote short stories that trashed every time limit profs tried to drum into my skull in Creative Writing 101.
Some O’Hara tales resolve in minutes, others can take decades to play out, but the payoff is always worth the wait.
In short fiction, style is like a smorgasbord, and in my own work, I’ve pretty much tasted everything on the table. The late, great, Cathleen Jordan (longtime editor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine) once remarked that there was no such thing as a Doug Allyn story. When you open the envelope, you never know what you’re going to get. Which ain’t necessarily a good thing.
After my fifth Edgar nomination, (and fifth loss) my agent griped that the weirdoes who populate my tales couldn’t win. (My hero that year was an alcoholic undertaker) “Try somebody more mainstream, a cop or a private eye, even a lawyer.”
Perhaps he was right. Or not. When I did win, my hero was a medieval minstrel obsessed with a blind bear. Not exactly mainstream novel material.
I truly believe the most egregious limitations of the short form are those we impose on ourselves. Writers are human. We want people to like our stuff, (with the exception of Joyce Carol Oates, who doesn’t give a damn, and rightly so), but our eagerness to please sometimes tugs us toward safer, oft-traveled pathways.
There’s nothing wrong with using a classic form when it suits the story, but when we restrict ourselves to the familiar, in an attempt to ‘give the readers what they want,’ we risk becoming the equivalent of Golden Oldies radio.
Time and again, our readers have proved their ears are wide open. This year’s Ellery Queen Readers Award winner, was a first time writer with an off-the-wall tale of a college professor driven to outlawry in the Everglades.
Why write short fiction? Because when we trust the readers, our creative options are unlimited. Write it right, and they will come.

Posted in Mystery Masterclass on June 2nd, 2007RSS 2.0 Trackback.
June 2nd, 2007 at 5:18 pm, Tom Walsh Says:
Doug Allyn: “What a fun site this is going to be.”
Doug, it’s already fun, but it would be a lot more fun with greater reader participation!
The bloggers, published writers all, are doing their part with great enthusiasm and success. But where is the input from folks who are merely readers?Comments encouraging the bloggers are fine, they’re just not enough. So far, we have only four Instant Reviews, three by published writers and the other by an elderly gent with no authorial ambitions. Why haven’t more, non-writer fans of short form crime fiction been willing to contribute a review?
Wouldn’t it be great if mystery fans were like sports fans who can’t wait to share their strongly held views (positive and negative) about yesterday’s game? The goal of this site is to promote the short mystery story. What better way than to review a story just read? Well, all right, bloggers’ stories should be off limits (for reasons of civility). That still leaves a heck of a lot of stories to discuss. Fans, start typing!
June 2nd, 2007 at 9:49 pm, Elysabeth Eldering Says:
I agree - where are the readers? It seems the same few of us are commenting (not that it is a bad thing) but still we need to promote this blog and need to get more readers in here to do reviews - I would but since I have so many reviews going on right now, it is hard to get more going (unless I can post a review that I’ve posted on other websites here?) - I know that the more we get ourselves out there, the more readers we will attract. Like I’m part of this blog -I’ve just adopted it as one of my own - lol.
I will post on my blog - looking for readers to do book and short mystery story reviews - and I’ll get others to post too - I’ve got several places to post - hopefully that will bring in the readers - E

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