What I Don’t Know


I’m the sort of person who knows a little bit about a lot of things – except when it comes to authors.

Especially the author who suddenly appears, like fog, (hey!  that wasn’t there five minutes ago!) and they are quite successful to boot.  Actually, what if they’ve been around  more than fifty years? That’s when I can’t understand how I could have been reading as much as I have all this time, and not been aware of them or their work.  I feel like I’ve missed out somehow.  Missed out on following their career and getting to know them, like I have others.

Here’s a perfect example.  P. D. James.  She’s written a lot of mystery books, about nineteen, plus three non-fiction, as well as other works.  She’s received year after year of praise since her first publication back in 1962 for COVER HER FACE.  She kept publishing until 2009, acquiring numerous awards throughout the decades.  She died three days ago, and because of that, she’s suddenly on my radar.

Should I even admit that? 

I realize it’s impossible to know every single writer, yet I’m always flummoxed when someone of this literary stature with their decades old career – is/was unknown to me.  So, I’m left standing in front of my TV open mouthed and dumbfounded, finally hearing about them and/or their work post mortem.  Granted, she’s British, and maybe I could say that’s why, but come on, that’s weak, isn’t it?  It’s a doubtful excuse since many of her books were turned into either a TV series or a show here in the U.S.

Maybe I have heard of her and just forgot.  It was mentioned her style of writing could be called “cozy,” or as they spelled it, “cosy.”  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters most, at least at this point is, I also found out she wrote a book called Talking About Detective Fiction. (2009)

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Why the happy?  Because, anyone intent on writing mysteries – or even suspense, as I’m attempting, should buy this book and here’s why.  The synopsis on Amazon says:

“P. D. James, the undisputed queen of mystery, gives us an intriguing, inspiring and idiosyncratic look at the genre she has spent her life perfecting.
 
Examining mystery from top to bottom, beginning with such classics as Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, and then looking at such contemporary masters as Colin Dexter and Henning Mankell, P. D. James goes right to the heart of the genre. Along the way she traces the lives and writing styles of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and many more. Here is P.D. James discussing detective fiction as social history, explaining its stylistic components, revealing her own writing process, and commenting on the recent resurgence of detective fiction in modern culture. It is a must have for the mystery connoisseur and casual fan alike.”  (Amazon, 2014)

Much like Stephen King’s books ON WRITING and his other, “SECRET WINDOWS: ESSAYS AND FICTION ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING (which I’m currently waiting to arrive on my doorstep), I feel her book about “detective fiction” or the mystery genre, would be like peeking over her shoulder and getting an insider’s glimpse into how she produced her work.  What her techniques and/or secrets might have been. I’ve bolded areas I personally thought made it a must have, as well as the blurb…, “must have for the mystery connoisseur.”

Therefore.  Must have it.  Onto the Christmas wish list it goes.

Who have you discovered lately?

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15 Comments

I did know of P. D. James, but I have yet to read anything of hers. That’s a somewhat sad confession. Somewhat because there are a lot of books I ought to have read that I haven’t. One of the depressing aspects of the Stephen King book I see you have managed to procure is the way he talks about novels he’s read. And he really knows a lot about a lot of books. Everything from Hemingway to Austen to Dickens to Lovecraft to Bradbury to… you get the picture. Talk about knowing your genre!

TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION sounds interesting. Maybe that’ll be my first PDJ. Thanks for the tip, Donna! 🙂

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    This would be a tit for tat moment. 🙂 You gave me the title of King’s other writing book – and yes, it should arrive sometime this week! Yay! The only problem I’ll have is – do I read King’s REVIVAL first, or this other? This is a good problem, however, right?

    Maybe I’ll read them both. A little REVIVAL at night, and a little of the SECRET WINDOWS during the day. As to King’s knowledge, I thought that very same thing. He can spew book titles left and right, and he’s not just doing THAT, he’s also remembering in detail the reason for the book’s impact on his writing and specific details of what worked, etc. Impressive, to say the least.

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Your writing is delicious, like I’d like to read more. I just hopped onto your blog from your commet on one of Janet Reid’s blogs. When is your book (s) going to be on the shelves?

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    Angie! I’m so glad you dropped in!

    And…, I think I love you! (didn’t David Cassidy sing that?) Either way, you just made me swoon. 🙂

    As to publication, I wish I could tell you tomorrow.

    I just finished a manuscript a few weeks ago and am actually waiting to see what le agent thinks.

    I hope he hurries up b/c I ate like a pig over Thanksgiving since I’m all worked up over it.

    I love that you popped over from JR’s site.
    (funny thing, a while back I clicked on your name and saw that you’re an artist. You have done such lovely work…, those postcards… all of it is amazing. And…, JR would have a thing or two to say about my ellipses here – oh well)

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I just finished Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD. This one will stay with me a long time, until I forget, who wrote it. I am terrible with remembering names of everybody.

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    I have Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and read it a few years back. And saw the movie. Yeah, I know. You almost need anti-depressants after reading it. Of course I’ve been on a McCarthy kick for several months now. I’ve gone through CHILD OF GOD, SUTTREE, and am currently reading OUTER DARK. I have BLOOD MERIDIAN in the TBR pile, and I’m contemplating getting ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, but I’m about to be saturated with McCarthy and possibly need a break.

    I usually don’t have too hard a time remembering names – as long as no one gives me a pop quiz.

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    That book creeped me out to no end. I had to leave it at work to read during the day because I didn’t want to see it in my house at night.

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The only PD James book I’ve read is one of her outliers, THE CHILDREN OF MEN, which I liked a good deal. I’m not much of a mystery reader, so I hadn’t dipped my toes into that water.

KJ Parker is an apparently mysterious author I read once in awhile. I read a low/no magic fantasy trilogy by him (her?) a few years back (The Engineer Trilogy) and am chewing through a short story collection now which is titled ACADEMIC EXERCISES and is a lot of very fine work.

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    Yes, I think she wrote three standalone books aside from her series which evidently included a police commander (and poet) called Adam Dagliesh. I was thinking about getting one of her books not in the series. If you liked that one, maybe I ought to also add that to the wish list. I like reading authors who’ve won awards, and had long careers. To see how they wrote, and what worked for publishing. It sounds so clinical, but that’s what I’ve found helps me the most with my own writing.

    KJ Parker – I’ve not heard of him/her. Funny, when the news started talking about PD James – I didn’t know the author was female until they showed photos and interviews. (Sidebar, I heard this is why J.K. Rowling went with initials. No one thought a woman could write about a boy protagonist. Hmph!)

    The title of the short story collection in of itself sounds interesting.

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Same discovery for me. I saw the announcement of her passing and was like, oh, ummm…I don’t know who that is. I felt bad too.

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Well, you’re a step ahead of me, because I hadn’t even heard that she’d passed away! I’m glad you’ve “discovered” her now, and I hope that you enjoy Talking About Detective Fiction.

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    They did a segment on her on CBS Sunday morning. First they scrolled through all her works and then they showed an interview with her from a while back. When they said she died “at 94 years of age,” I was like WHAT? (that was the open mouthed moment in front of my TV). How can someone be around that long and get all these awards and I’m clueless?

    Anyway, yes, I’ve underlined, asterisked, and bolded the book on the Wish List. 🙂

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