I have a lot of reading to do!

Sometimes when other mystery writers are talking trade, I’m a little “at sea”.  Now I read a lot and watch a lot of movies, but apparently my informal education hasn’t been on the same track as others.

So I asked my friends (many are writers and editors) for a list of “must read” writers and books.

These are books recommended by my friends.

 1.Megan Abbott – Dare Me

2. Eric Ambler – A Coffin for Dimitrios

3. Lilian Jackson Braun

4. James Lee Burke

5. Raymond Chandler

6. Agatha Christie –  All of her books including:

   And Then There Were None

7. James Church – Inspector O Novels including:

        A Corpse in the Koryo

8.  Harlan Coben

9. Reed Farrell Coleman – Moe Prager mysteries including:

    The James Deans

10. Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone

11.  Michael Connelly – “Harry Bosch” mysteries

12. Robert Crais

11. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – All Sherlock Holmes mysteries

12. James Ellroy – L.A. Quartet

       L. A. Confidential

13. Federick Forsyth – Day of the Jackal

14. Dick Francis

15. Robert Goldsborough – Nero Wolfe books

16.Graham Greene – Third Man

    Our Man in Havana

17. Dashiel Hammett

18. Richard Harris – Silence of the Lambs

19. Carl Hiaasen

20. George V. Higgins – Friends of Eddie Coyle

21. Patricia Highsmith – Ripley mysteries

22. Reginald Hill – Diologues of the Dead

23. Tony Hillerman -Coyote Waits

24. P.D. James

25. Craig Johnson

26. Laurie King

27. Natsuo Kirino – Out

28. Robert Parker -Looking for Rachel Wallace

29.. Ridley Pearson

30. Margaret Maron

31. Ross MacDonald

32. John D. MacDonald

33. Mickey Spillane

34. Robert Parker

35. Donna Tartt – The Secret History

       The Goldfinch

36. Rex Stout

37. Dana Stabenow

 38. T. Jefferson Parker

 39. Charles McCarry

 40. Edgar Allan Poe – Dupin Mystery series

 41. Stieg Larsson – The Girl series

 42. Elmore Leonard – Rum Punch

      Out of Sight

43. John le Carre- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

       The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

44. Pierre le Maitre – Alex

45. John Mortimer – Rumpole of the Bailey series

46. Richard Stark Parker (who is also Westlake)

47. Ian Rankin

48. Dorothy Sayers – All of her books including:

    Whose Body

49. Martin Cruz Smith – Gorky Park

        Polar Star

50. Tom Rob Smith – Child 44

51. Jim Thompson – Killer Inside Me

52. Mary Willis Walker – Under the Beetle’s Cellar

53. Minette Walters

54. Donald Westlake – God Save the Mark

       Hot Spot

55. Stuart Woods

Do you agree with their choices? Anything crucial we left off the list?

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Successful Workshop at Book People!

This will be a short article, but I wanted to say a little something about our first writers’ workshop for Austin Mystery Writers.

First of all, I’d like to thank Book People and Mystery People for allowing us to use their space. And  huge thanks to the writers Reavis Z. Wortham, Karen MacInerney, and Janice Hamrick for giving of their time to share their knowledge with us.

Lessons I learned:

1. Mysteries come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but good writing is good writing.

2. Take out as many of the dialogue tags as you can. (he said, she said, he yelled, etc.) Try to change your description and action so you don’t have to use them. Reavis called it “trimming the fat”. Actually, I think he said, “It’s trimming the fat, y’all. You don’t need it.”

Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom from Reavis

3. Your story will drive the pace of your writing. Slower action will probably have longer chapters, faster action will have shorter chapters. The shorter chapters will make it move quickly.

4. It’s good to have a little humor to break up the heaviness of the drama. But don’t force the humor, some people just aren’t funny. (Surely I don’t have that problem. Right?)

5. Most writers probably write to work out something from their past. (I can see that.)

6. Karen said, “Read, read, read your genre!” You should know what is expected of your writing. A cozy mystery will have a different form and elements from a hard boiled mystery.


Karen MacInerney

Karen MacInerney

7. Your MC (Main Character) has to have a reason for solving the mystery. They can’t just “be there”. They have to have a stake in the outcome. (I knew this, but for some reason I’ve had trouble applying this to my current WIP, until Saturday. I had an “aha!” moment and fixed the problem.)

8. Janice talked about creating great characters. She had the audience do a simple, yet effective, writing exercise. She asked us to write down a description of a dotty old woman. The descriptions varied widely. She gave a scenario and told us to write the woman’s reaction. Boy! Even more variety than the first descriptions! She said that it goes to show that no two people write exactly the same way.

Jancie Hamrick teaching about how to make great characters.

Jancie Hamrick teaching about how to make great characters.

9. The one thing Janice said that really stuck with me was about adding depth to a character. You can start with a stereotype, but add an unexpected twist to the character. For some reason that really stuck with me. So many of my favorite characters are flawed heroes. It works.

10. Janice also recommended you Google a character’s name before using it.  Make sure you don’t accidentally give your hero the name of a famous killer.

There was so much more to the lectures, but these were the things that struck a chord with me. We had such a good time laughing and learning and giving away prizes! We are already talking of doing another on in the Spring.

P.S. I think my cookies helped make it fun too. 😉



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