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Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers Paperback – November 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0962580499 ISBN-10: 096258049X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crum Creek Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 096258049X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962580499
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,406,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


What inspires a mystery writer?

We asked 100 published writers: “Did a mystery set you on your path to being a writer? Is there a classic mystery that remains important to you today?” This book, a follow-up to our two previous collections of essays, 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century (2000) and They Died in Vain: Overlooked, Underappreciated and Forgotten Mystery Novels (2002), is the result.

The writers we contacted represent the entire spectrum of the mystery genre, from cozy to hardboiled, from acclaimed veterans to some of the field’s most intriguing newcomers. Young or old, each of these writers reminds us of a basic truism: great writers are great readers first. Their essays reveal the extent to which the discovery of these seminal texts was not just literary inspiration but a life-altering event.

We found it especially endearing to see how often contributors referred not just to a book’s text but to its literal form as well: a particular copy of a particular edition. We are reminded that the power of the printed word derives in part from the fact that it is printed and bound, fixed in both time and place.

In these essays, we’re also reminded of the power of the genre itself. For many writers, their classics represent more than just a bar against which to measure their own work, they inspired a new way to look at the landscape of literature.

These writers represent several generations of mystery lovers, and the classics they cite represent every era of the mystery story, from the 1840s to the 1990s. We’ve arranged these essays in the order of the publication of the classics they cover, from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of the Amontillado” to Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone. This chronological arrangement offers something of a history of the genre, and reveals that the virtues of early crime stories are not necessarily the same as what we admire in more recent work.

It’s striking how many of the classics covered are newer. Fifty essays cover books published in 1952 and earlier. Fifty essays cover books published since 1954. Can a book that’s just 25 years old be considered a classic? Just 10 years old? Our position is simple: just because a book was published recently doesn’t mean it didn’t influence someone. The power of a story doesn’t derive from its age; it’s in the story itself, and its reader.

If genre truly is “a conversation among texts,” as science fiction editor David Hartwell has written, we hope that Mystery Muses will become part of the conversation. These essays are not just about 100 beloved books. They are just as much about 100 of the genre’s finest current practitioners, writers who respect the past and who continue to be inspired by classics as they define the future of the mystery story.

-- Jim Huang & Austin Lugar

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mcHaiku on February 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Jim Huang and Austin Lugar compiled many answers to that question in their book about mystery classics. One hundred present-day writers tell about a book that had something to do with pushing them toward writing in this genre.

Many cite books that stood out as "life-altering" - - and some even have favorite editions; I know that allegiance. Will one of your favorite authors be your starting point? We naturally judge a reviewer by our personal estimate of a title. But these are essays with a difference - - the judges have themselves struggled to make plots 'work' and they are also experienced at taking criticism,
and learning from it.

It is a delight to browse through these selections - from Nancy Drew to Dick Francis to Stephen King! It is like conversing with very articulate friends who can help you understand better your own enthusiasms. Valid points are made, preferences weighed and - beware! - some endings revealed. [...]

You and I will remember ways in which these & other authors were influential in our own lives, and we doubtless envy Huang & Lugar the fun of putting together this collection. What a lovely, absorbing distraction for a winter's day.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PJ Coldren VINE VOICE on March 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
What book sticks in the mind of your favorite author? What book made that writer decide to write a mystery? MYSTERY MUSES sets out to answer that question, and does a pretty good job of it. It will come as no surprise that Christie, Sayers, Doyle, and Allingham are frequently mentioned, as are Hammett, Chandler, Chesterton and Stout. There is someone who credits Freddie the Pig as an inspiration, and gives cogent reasons for that credit. MYSTERY MUSES will send many of us back to favorites unread for a while, and will no doubt add to some To Be Read stacks; there are some surprising entries.
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