The Writers Handbook Guide to Crime Writing
Editor: Barry Turner
Length: 176 pages
I went to the library for a writing group meeting and to take a couple of books back, and accidentally emerged with a stack 6 high. This slender tome was in the middle, and as the easiest one to fit into my handbag I picked it up first.
With contributors like Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, this was a promising start to my voyage of discovery, and the cheerful yellow didn’t hurt either. Rather than a start to finish guide, this is a collection of essays and interviews on almost everything about crime writing, and actually an excellent place to start for someone who, it turns out, doesn’t know nearly as much about the genre as she thinks. It jumps from some excellent essays on craft, to a full history of the genre, to an insider’s eye on the industry, without seeming bitty or fragmented. It never flags, either, partly because it benefits from a fascinating subject and partly because it never lingers for too long on one particular area.
I judge a non-fiction work, whatever it is, on the length of the to-do list it leaves me, and my list by the time I reached the end was impressive. As well as plenty of ideas for writing crime fiction, a novice is likely to find an even larger stack of library books waiting for them to widen their reading. For the experienced writer or reader of the genre it’s probably not helpful, and may just cover old familiar ground. For those new to it, though, it’s an excellent place to start.