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Margaret Lucke p2

Margaret Lucke, author of House of Whispers, mentions some interesting true crime books and some crime fiction authors...

READERSVOICE.COM: I haven’t read Writing Mysteries yet, but could you recommend some essential reading for people learning to write in the mystery genre?

ML: While I mentioned a lot of authors in my book Writing Mysteries, the one I refer to most often is my own first novel, A Relative Stranger. I used that book as something of a case study, and I hope it gives readers a helpful to peek into the writing process.

If you’d like to try your hand at a mystery, it’s a good idea to read widely in the genre. That will give you a sense of its history, its clichés, and what its readers expect. You’ll also discover the great variety of exciting stories that fall under the mystery and crime fiction umbrella.

A good place to start is with one of the Top 100 lists. In 1995, Mystery Writers of America published a list called the Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time. Five years earlier the Crime Writers Association, based in Great Britain, put out a similar list, the Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. The two lists overlap, though quite a few titles appear on one and not the other. Both lists are easy to find with a Google search.

Of course lots of good books have come out in more recent years. Some writers whose books I’ve been enjoying lately are Deborah Crombie, Carl Hiaasen, Wendy Hornsby, Laura Lippman, Christopher Moore, Marcia Muller, Jodi Picoult, Bill Pronzini, William G. Tapply, and Anne Tyler. And I try to keep up with the work between produced by all the excellent writers here in the Northern California mystery community.

RV: What are some other favorite books you’ve read over the years?

ML: Two of my favorite reading experiences as a teen were Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk. I still enjoy dipping into them now and then, so they rate a space on my all-time favorites list.

I was led into mysteries by Nancy Drew and my mom’s shelves full of Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, and Nero Wolfe novels. I devoured those as a kid. Then I discovered Ross McDonald and Raymond Chandler and I was hooked for life.

In nonfiction, I loved Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City. It combines two of my interests, urban development and crime. It’s the story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair told through parallel biographies of architect and urban designer Daniel Burnham and serial killer H.H. Holmes. And I just finished a fascinating book called Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz. She and a friend had begun a bike trip across the U.S when they became victims of a random attempted murder in an Oregon campground. The crime was never solved. Fifteen years later, she went back to Oregon try to make sense of what happened. The book tells what she learned about crime, its effect on the victims and the community, and the nature of violence in America.

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-copyright Simon Sandall