Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why I Write Mysteries

Everyone has different reasons for writing mysteries, but my interest probably began way back when I was a kid. At the time, my family subscribed to three newspapers, The L.A. Times, The Herald, and The Daily News. My mom was an avid reader and read them all--don't think my dad did anymore than glance at the front pages.

The Daily News resembled some of the lurid newspapers of today--all the scandalous doing made the front page. When Lana Turner's daughter killed her mom's boy friend, Johnny Stampanato, the news was filled with gruesome photos and graphic details. I read the all.

My sis and I had a Philco radio that picked up police calls. We were forbidden to listen to them but after we went to bed we listened anyway. The night the Black Dahlia was killed we heard the police after they made the horrifying discover of the cut-up body.

My fascination with real-life murders continued into my adult years. I never subscribed to three newspapers at once, but I always got the local newspaper and read it thoroughly just as my mother did. When we lived in Oxnard, the first murder that happened in years in Ventura county was a mother who paid someone to kill her daughter-in-law. The details intrigued me. Of course as the years passed, the murders increased.

It doesn't come as any surprise that my next fascination was for men in law enforcement who solved the cases. We had many of them living in our neighborhood and we partied with them, I visited with the wives, and our kids played together.

It wasn't too long before I decided I wanted to write a series about a small police department and the men and women who worked in it as well as their families--and of course each book would have to have at least one murder.

The book due to come out in the next few days is An Axe to Grind which has mainly the same cast of characters as the previous books in the series. Though I write each one as a stand-alone, there are things that progress for each character, like the on-going romance between Officer Stacey Wilbur and Detective Doug Milligan. The romance is not the most important aspect of the plot, but it is affected by what is going on.

The idea for the murder itself came from a gruesome slide of a decapitated corpse that a coroner once showed at a Sisters in Crime meeting several years ago. (The coroner spoke right before lunch and gleefully showed us lots of slides of gory murders and I think he thought he would make all of women sick. He was wrong.)

In real life, murderers sometimes get away with their crimes, or they aren't even discovered. One thing about writing a fiction story about murder, I'm in control, and you can be assured the murderer will always be found out.

I'm sure there are many other motivations behind my desire to make-up stories about murders and murderers and how they are found out, but looking back, I think those are the main ones.




Ann Elle Altman said...

I think that's a great reason to write mysteries. I loves writing them too. I'm always shocked by my own endings.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Your article was like deja vu, Marilyn. I also grew up in Los Angeles reading newspapers, intriqued by all the gory crimes. I later served as a police reporter in San Diego and the San Joaquin Valley, so writing mysteries came as almost second nature.

Helen Ginger said...

It's interesting to read why authors choose to write the genre they write. Your story was interesting and fun, although I hesitate to say that since you found your calling by reading horrific stories. ;-0

Straight From Hel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Looking back I'm surprised my mild-mannered, church-going mom let me read those papers--or even that she read them herself.