Sunday 27 April 2014

Who Would Murder a Baby?

It seems like an outlandish question, but that's the title of a very old crime novel written by Australia's first Queen of Crime and mother of six, June Wright. And here's her crisp reply when one (no doubt male) reporter dared to criticise the title:
Pic of Melbourne crime writer June Wright
"Obviously you know nothing of the homicidal instincts sometimes aroused in a mother by her children. After a particularly exasperating day, it is a relief to murder a few characters in your book instead."

I just read this in a Sun-Herald book review and I had to laugh. I'd written a very similar comment a few blogs ago (see: Writing With Kids is Murder, March, 2014) and I can certainly empathise.

Our long-lost Agatha

June Wright (pictured above) is the (now) little-known author of six crime novels set in Melbourne's 1940s, the era in which she was writing. Once a telephonist, she turned her hand to writing when she became a housewife and only gave it up when her husband took ill and she needed to start earning regular income.

Still, she had a degree of popularity, apparently, and was only forgotten over time because, as one recent interviewer, Lucy Sussex, says: "Australia is a very sexist country and we tend to forget women's achievments ... There's always been a tradition of good women's writing but we privilege males. This is a country that's still coming to terms with women's writing, just as it was in her time."

My, how things have changed. Not.

Wright's books are being resurrected by a US publisher (of course!), called Verse Chorus Press. The first is titled Murder in the Telephone Exchange and its protagonist is a fiery telephonist who lives in a South Yarra boarding house. The last three have, of all things, a nun-detective! (I wonder if Amazon have a category to fit that one?!)

I can't wait to get hold of them, if only to see how a woman with six kids (including one with a severe intellectual disability), writing in a time when you still had to get up at dawn and light the copper (whatever the hell that is), managed it!

I won't complain about my lot, quite so much again. (And damn, there go all my excuses.)

Happy reading everyone.

xo Christina

Thursday 10 April 2014

Can you pick it?

I just got paid the biggest compliment a mystery writer could ever receive. The words were like finding the cold spot in a hot pool on a boiling day. Like discovering a lone chocolate TimTam sitting in the back of the fridge, forgotten by your greedy husband and just waiting for you to pick it up and dip it into that steamy cup of Darjeeling. Luscious. Rewarding. The kind of stuff that keeps you going, even when you feel like you're failing at it and wonder why you bother.

"I couldn't pick the killer."

Yes, yeeees, YEEEEEEES!

My sister just read Words Can Kill, the fifth Ghostwriter Mystery, and my mother before her, and both said the same thing. They had a few ideas, a vague inkling, but the murderer came as a wonderful and very satisfying surprise. And that's all you can ask for in a murder mystery. Well, that and a good ride along the way.

I think I can, I think I can ...

Before I started writing crime fiction, I was a voracious reader of the stuff. Still am, of course. (How can you not love crime fiction if you write it?) I can never seem to get enough but I always veer towards books and authors where I have a good chance of picking the killer. I don't necessarily want to succeed at it, and it's always so much more thrilling if I don't, but I need to be able to have a red hot go.

I don't read crime because I love murder and mayhem. I read to solve a puzzle.

Product DetailsFor that reason, I can't stand books where most of the vital information is deliberately withheld, where there's no chance in hell you'll ever pick whodunit. (And don't even start me on books that end with, 'And then I woke up ...' No, really?!)

In my novels I always enable my readers to work it out. I don't want them to, please understand that, but I need them to know they can. If they're extra vigilant and super smart, they absolutely can.

I think that's crucial, and it's only fair. I don't hide any important truths (not forever, anyway) and I always embed the text with subtle clues. I might dazzle and distract as I plant those clues, and I might throw in a couple of stinky red herrings to put them off, but the point is they CAN solve my mystery if they want to.

Because of that, however, there is always the grave risk that readers will solve it long before it's over, and some of my readers get quite cranky with me when they do. It's as though I've robbed them of a rare gem, evacuated the gourmet restaurant just before dessert arrived. I feel their pain, really I do, but walking that tightrope between hiding the clues and making the book solveable is a tricky one. And apparently I've got the balance right this time (or at least that's what Michelle and Mum tell me, and believe me, very little gets past those two!).

How about you?

So how did you go? Have you read Words Can Kill yet and did you pick the culprit? I'd love to hear if you did solve the mystery and at what stage along the way.

And if you didn't solve it, I'd love to hear from you, too. Oh who am I kidding, I especially want to hear from you! Please get in touch; your comments are always welcome, below or straight to email.

In the meantime, happy guessing, everyone, and may the red herrings nip at your heels ...
xo Christina

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Black (a poem)

by Nimo Pyle, aged 12

Black is the place where depression is swept between people.
Black is the sound of darkness.
Black is the smell when loved ones have died.
Black is the taste of strange disappearances in mid-air.
Black is the feeling of foreverness.
Black is the rich dark colour in which people fear.
Black is the sound of corpses crunching beneath your feet.
Black is the smell of toxic fumes, pollution.
Black is the taste of burning possessions.
Black is the feeling of unexplained figures in the dark.

I love the brazen creativity of youth. If ONLY I could still write with such unabashed freedom and colour. My son wrote this poem some months ago in an English class. They were asked to describe a colour in a variety of senses. It's beautiful as it is, but that fourth line is especially prescient and not a little eerie in the light of recent events. And still the darkness continues ...

xo Christina

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Killer Kindle sale

I'm about to make all my books, including the Ghostwriter Mystery series and The Agatha Christie Book Club, available in paperback, thanks to the wonders of CreateSpace. Before I do, however, I want to offer my readers the chance to purchase the ebooks at a greatly discounted rate.

Less than a buck!

For one week only ALL my ebooks will be available for just 99 cents on Kindle. This includes my very latest ghostwriter mystery, WORDS CAN KILL in which Roxy Parker packs her designer luggage and heads to Europe in a quest to find her missing boyfriend, Max. He's vanished from the face of the earth and his flatmate has shown up murdered. The cops suspect Max, but Roxy knows better ...

Now you can enjoy your copy of Words Can Kill for just 99 cents on Kindle. But you do need to be quick! This sale only lasts for seven days and then the book will revert to its original price of $3.69 on Amazon.

I do hope you log in, download and enjoy. And listen out for the upcoming launch of three new paperbacks!

Happy reading everyone.

xo Christina