Murder, Mayhem, Birthdays

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An unusually high number of my relatives have thoughtlessly arranged to have their birthdays fall during the winter holiday season, where they're apt to get forgotten, overlooked, or underfunded:  two aunts, a niece, a half-brother, and my very dear mother-in-law, Ingrid, whose birthday today is.  If calculations are correct, she's 84.

Now, while the attainment of 84 would seem to demand diamonds, rubies, a yacht, etc., Ingrid wanted nothing of the sort, and because she's a voracious fan of mystery novels--and because she so enjoyed Elizabeth George's excellent craft text Write Away a couple of years ago--we sent her P.D. James's new book, Talking About Detective Fiction

If you like mystery novels at all, then you know who P.D. James is--the current leading lady, the grande dame, all that.  When asked why the human desire for murder mysteries is "seemingly unending," she replied,

The human race has had an appetite for mysteries from the earliest writings and no doubt tales of mystery and murder were recounted by our remote ancestors round the camp fires by the tribal storyteller. Murder is the unique crime, the only one for which we can make no reparation, and has always been greeted with a mixture of repugnance, horror, fear, and fascination. We are particularly intrigued by the motives which cause a man or woman to step across the invisible line which separates a murderer from the rest of humanity. Human beings also love a puzzle and a strong story, and mysteries have both.
I'm not sure it's true that murder is the only crime "for which we can make no reparation," but I look forward to reading the book.  Marilyn Stasio calls it "incisive," and its "style . . .  clean, thoughtful, and full of grace." 

If you've got an aspiring mystery writer in your circle, Talking About Detective Fiction might be just the ticket.  And the proceeds go to the Bodleian.

(P.D. James, not my mother-in-law)


Faye said:

I just had to tell you that when I got to the bottom of this post and read the caption of the photo, "(P.D. James, not my mother-in-law)" I laughed out loud. I am sitting in a coffee shop, so I don't know if anyone around me wondered why I suddenly did that.

December 16, 2009 3:42 PM

fayepoet said:


Today is my son's birthday-- so I know the feeling!
I've been thinking about you and eager for news about your move and how the space feels once you've settled in. I do hope your writing space works well and brings you all that you've hoped for.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.

December 20, 2009 6:15 PM

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