Last November, I reviewed two books about writing crime fiction. While I was reading them, I discovered the information within them could be useful to both writers of crime fiction and aspiring writers in general. Excerpts from my reviews are below (the full reviews can be read in the December 2011 issue of Library Journal):
Budewitz, an attorney-at-law who has been published in mystery magazines, wrote this book to help crime writers wade through the time-consuming and often confusing process of legal research. The book covers 160 topics, including proper legal terminology, realistic courtroom behavior and dialog, proper procedure (both at the state and at the federal level), and the legal system as a whole. The frequently asked questions featured in each chapter are also arranged by topic within the table of contents, enabling readers to pick and choose the legal aspects most relevant to their writing.
Topics include how to plot thrillers, create realistic detectives and villains, and write suspenseful crime scenes. The chapters are divided by subject; each is written by a published mystery and/or crime author (some concepts, such as “setting as character,” are presented by multiple authors). Sections like Meg Gardiner’s “Ratcheting Up the Suspense” focus on thrillers, while others, like Jane K. Cleland’s “Avoiding Saggy Middles,” can be applied to general fiction. Each chapter offers writing exercises to help readers put knowledge into practice.
Though crime fiction isn’t my current genre, I found both these books useful to my writing. Books, Crooks, and Counselors provided much needed insight into a character of mine who was put into a juvenile facility, and Now Write! Mysteries offered a ton of writing exercises that I plan to use both in my current WIP and future stories.
So if you’re writing a crime or mystery novel (or even if you’re not), both these books are worth a read. Be sure to check them out.