Many have asked me what it takes to be a writer. My answer is… be a reader. Read voraciously, especially in your genre of choice. I set down the first words of Change of Address, the first book in my Spencer Manning Mystery series, in the early 80s. But my first exposure to mystery novels was before I knew how to read. My dad was an avid mystery fan, and he read Hammett and Chandler to me when I was five or six.
The true geniuses in any art form were the first ones to create something new, and they were usually treated with disdain and even hatred. Jazz was considered by many to be the music of the devil, and the early jazz musicians led hard lives as they developed a new genre. The early mystery writers invented a new genre that grew and branched into the many sub-species that exist today. Those who write today stand on the shoulders of the giants who started it all. But who were they? I’ll explore that question in this and the next blog.
There are differing opinions as to what was the first mystery novel. It all started in the mid-1880s, and even then there was already a branching in the genre. There were earlier short stories, but the first work of detective fiction is considered by most to be Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in 1841. Some think the first mystery novel is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Others disagree because it is much more than a mystery novel. [Read more…]