Murder Mysteries: Why and Where?
“I write murder mysteries.” That’s what I say when people ask me what I’ve done since I stopped being a college professor. I write murder mysteries for fun and I hope people will read them for fun. “But,” says a small voice at the back of my head, “murder is a horrific act. How can anything to do with it be fun?” A silly question, you might reply. It is the process of detection that provides the fun. Yes, but I don’t think it’s that simple.
It is certainly true that murder mysteries provide entertainment in a big way. You have only to walk past the shelves upon shelves in any bookstore, or nowadays click through the bookstores of e-readers, or glance over any evening’s TV programs—murder upon murder upon murder. And if people apologize for being a murder mystery fan, it is usually not because they have a conscience about finding fun in murder but because detective fiction ranks much lower than literary fiction in the academic hierarchy. Look for a mystery in a bookstore under “Fiction” or “Literature” and you will usually be told to look in another place.
The question that I’m asking myself in this blog is: “What is my place for mystery?” And I’m also asking you, “What is yours? Where do you put murder mysteries in your life, in your reading, on your shelves, in your literary hierarchies? How do you explain to yourself that they have any place at all? And if you write them, why do you do that? On what shelf do you want to see them? Who do you hope will read them?”
You will find reviews, interviews, commentaries on this blog. I raise a lot of questions for writers and readers. This is my place for mystery and I hope you will sometimes make it yours.
You can contact me, Dorothy James, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Short bio: Born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, translator, I have published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature including my 1970 book on the Vienna of the 19th century playwright and actor, Raimund and Vienna. I taught German language and literature at the University of London and the City University of New York, and English language at the University of Saarbrücken in Germany and I have written many articles on the teaching of foreign languages. I was chair of the German Department of Hunter College for fourteen years and President of the American Association of Departments of Foreign Languages in 1990. A recent translation was a website for the Democracy Centre, Vienna: Bildatlas Europa.
My first murder mystery, A Place to Die, appeared in April 2010 and is set in Vienna, a city where I lived for long stretches of time. My home is now in Brooklyn, but I often travel to Berlin, to Vienna, and to my native Wales. The sequel to A Place to Die will soon appear, and it is set in Vienna, Berlin and New York.
To find out more about “A Place to Die,” you can follow the blogtour , organized February, 2012, by Tribute Books. Guest posts, interviews and reviews.
Dorothy, this is a lovely blog! I’m glad we met and look forward to future book exchanges, etc. Have a wonderful time in Berlin. I’ll be in Dusseldorf from June 12th to June 23rd – maybe I’ll run into you on one of the flights home. ;o)
I thoroughly enjoyed your ” A Place to Die,” as it allowed me to return to Vienna via its pages and re-connect with the place through the lives/descriptions of the characters. As a fellow Germanist, I could appreciate the literary allusions and irony related to 19th century German literature. As a mystery-reader, I also wanted to deduce the murderer–alas, I was wrong. Now, your blog has wetted my appetite for a visit to the Kriminaltheater later this week, but to see “Der Name der Rose,” not “Mäusefalle.” Maybe, I will have to return.
I am looking forward to the sequel to “A Place to Die.” When will it be out?
Thanks, Beverly! Fun that you are going to the Kriminaltheater. They put on some good plays and have a good restaurant too! The sequel to “A Place to Die?” Thanks for asking. I hope soon! It’s called “A Place to Live” — maybe that’s a good sign. Enjoy Berlin!
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Hi from Wales how are you Anthea x