Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tim's Ten Reasons Why...

I'm so very excited about my guest blogger today. Tim Hallinan truly ranks among my all-time favorite crime fiction writers. And you all know that because I've gushed about both THE FOURTH WATCHER and most recently BREATHING WATER. His voice, his style, his characters...themes, plot, just the whole package. The lesson I learned when reading a book by Tim is that I can NOT open the cover until I'm ready to read the whole book. If I get curious and read page one, I'm not going to be able to stop. It's like the Sirens just pull you in. Tim is an extremely talented writer, and he humbles me when he asks me to read his work. And it is my great honor that he made time to hang out here on my blog today. So, let me hand the reigns over Mr. Timothy Hallinan:



When I told my writer friends I was going to be doing guest blogs and asked for advice on topics, I got one suggestion over and over again: do lists. Everybody loves lists, my friends said. So here's a list, and if you don't like it, tell my friends, whose e-mail addresses I will happily pass along.

Okay, to qualify: I've been reading mysteries and thrillers since I discovered The Hardy Boys when I was six, and I've been writing them for more years than I care to share with you. (A friend of mine recently said to me, “I can't remember whether you're my oldest friend or just my oldest-looking friend.”) At any rate, BREATHING WATER, which Morrow will loose on an innocent world on August 18, is the ninth mystery published under my own name, and maybe my twelfth under a variety of shady aliases.

So I've thought about mysteries (and thrillers) a lot, and here's my list, in approximate reverse order, of reasons they rock.

10. There's a sub-genre for every taste, from ultimate cozies with cognitive cats and English country houses shrouded in fog, to serial killers who aspire to be the Julia Child of body parts. And everything in between. Do you like your murder raw or

9. Murder local, think global. Great mysteries have been written in practically every language and in and/or about practically every country on earth. All fifty states, all major continents, both hemispheres, the stratosphere, and the bottom of the sea. Fly a mystery to Bangor or Bangkok. The phrase, “magical mystery tour” has a whole new meaning.

8. Mysteries are classless. I realize that's a straight line, but what I mean is that the mystery genre (and, for that matter, the detective) can engage with all classes of society, from highest to lowest and back again. The action of BREATHING
WATER involves everyone from beggars and stolen babies to the cream of the Thai
elite. Works for me.

7. They're not passive reading. Mysteries and thrillers require the reader (well,
most readers) to try to stay ahead of either story developments or the detective's deductive processes, while the writer is trying desperately to prevent it. It's like a chess match in which White is a game played by a master in the past and which is revealed only one move at a time.

6. There are a zillion of them. I know, this sounds like it should be down at number nine or ten, but I'm an addict. I currently have more than 250 books on my TBR shelf. They're mostly mysteries or thrillers. I get, um, nervous when the
number drops below a hundred. The mystery reader's great comfort is that he/she is addicted to something that's all over the place, while others are gnawing their nails and waiting six years between Thomas Pynchons. Oh, and then Pynchon writes a mystery.

5. The form is perfect. A universe is introduced, with people in it. It's broken or out of balance somehow. The book's progress is the restoration of order. This was Shakespeare's great theme. It's a theme we instinctively buy into. It lends itself to a natural, and potentially perfect, story structure.

4. The form is perfect (2). Whodunnit? How do you get out of this? Those are the questions posed in, respectively, mysteries and thrillers. Ask the question, answer the question. Make sure it all happens to plausible characters. It works.

3. Whofindsout whodunnit, Holmes and Watson, Philip Marlow, Kurt Wallender, Linda Wallender, Sam Spade, Bernie Gunther, Kinsey Millhone, Jack Reacher, Miss
Marple, Spenser, John Ray Horn, Lucas Davenport, Lisbeth Salander, Lew Archer, John Rain, Sano Ichiro and Reiko, Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodman, Valentin St. Cyr, Harry Bosch, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, Jack Taylor, Dr. Siri Paboun, Harpur and Iles, Charlie Resnick, Jane Whitefield – oh, this could go on forever and I'd still leave out hundreds I love. Great characters, great companions.

2. They're an antidote to life. Mysteries and Shakespeare, in that order, have gotten me through more long dark nights of the soul than booze, Prozac, therapy, and chocolate combined. Buy a dozen of them and you've got an instant twelve-step

1. They're fun to write. What would I do with my life if I didn't write these things? Read them, clearly, but that wouldn't be enough. How much fun it is to
write them (when they're going well, of course) is a secret we should keep from
our publishers, unless we want advances to disappear entirely.

So, there it is: a list. Add a point or ten of your own.
O.k., so let's go. What other reasons can we add to Tim's list? My personal favorite is number seven. You know; on the books I like the most, I almost always say, "it made me think." That's a touchstone of a great book for me.

My many thanks to Tim for this fun and enlightening post. He agreed to come even though I'm always pestering about when the next book is coming! And I want to mention again for my friends in the area that Tim is going to be at Foul Play bookstore in Westerville (which is right outside Columbus) on September 23rd - YES!! I already have my plans to go, and I hope to see some other friends there as well. If you aren't in the Ohio area, check and see if Tim will be at a bookstore near you. Here's the link to the beginning of his tour. He also mentions some additional events later in the tour down in the comments section.


Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 3:18 PM  

Has Tim ever written as F.W. Dixon?

♥Jen♥ August 20, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

I don't know the answer to that. Maybe Tim will pop by and let us know. I do know Tim has an event tonight and another one tomorrow, so not sure if he'll have time today or not. If not, I'll check on it and answer here.

rhapsodyinbooks August 20, 2009 at 3:55 PM  

I like #9 best. It's so fun to read a mystery in which the characters go to many places I know.

I have another reason, that's kind of not a "good" reason, but anyway: I like them because you can finish them fast, and then you have put another notch in your book belt!

le0pard13 August 20, 2009 at 4:24 PM  

You're killing me, Jen. Perhaps, I can catch him on Sunday in Pasadena. I have tickets for the free Avatar Movie preview on Friday so I can't catch him at our fav, The Mystery Bookstore. And, I just found out that Sophie Littlefield is touring in L.A. this weekend, too. With Inglorious Basterds opening this Friday, and the Indiana Jones marathon also this weekend, SWMBO is going to do me in!

Thanks, Jen (I think...)

p.s., nice touch with ♥'s

♥Jen♥ August 20, 2009 at 6:03 PM  

Michael, I know! I know! I'm going to be watching on Twitter Friday in hopes that Linda can Tweet Tim's event and then on Saturday in hopes that she can tweet Sophie's event. If you can catch Tim on Sunday, definitely try to.

I added the ♥s because people kept calling me Jen Lorain. I'm hoping they realize my name is Jen and my city of residence is Lorain! Ha!!

Lesa August 20, 2009 at 6:37 PM  

My favorite is #6. It's comforting that there are so many mysteries out there, and it's just as comforting to know that Tim's TBR pile is so large. Now, I don't feel so guilty, and I don't feel so bad that I can't get to everything as fast as I'd like.
Thank you, Tim, for the whole list, but, particularly #6.

Lesa -

♥Jen♥ August 20, 2009 at 6:42 PM  

I hear ya, Lesa! But I have to admit...I still feel guilty; must be that Catholic upbringing! But just being surrounded by my books makes me calm. And luckily, they surround me in all the rooms of my house! :)

Tim Hallinan August 21, 2009 at 2:04 AM  

Hey, y'all (getting ready for the southern leg of the tour --So Cal, Arizona, Denver, Texas and into the deeeeeeeep South:N'awlins, Oxford MI, Nashville, Memphis, etc. So I'm working on learning to like chitlins and drawling, preferably at the same time.

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. These things are not as easy to write as I thought they'd be. And the presentation, with the photos of Bangkok and the music and everything, worked really well in Venice tonight. PLEASE come to Pasadena if you can. I don't want to be lonely.

Thanks to you, Jen -- you're a generous and good-hearted hostess.


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