The Police Procedural in Crime Fiction

Like its first cousin, the mystery novel, the police procedural features a well-structured, fast-paced chronicle of crimes and punishments. Unlike the mystery, the police procedural stresses the step-by-step procedures followed by professional detectiv…

Like its first cousin, the mystery novel, the police procedural features a well-structured, fast-paced chronicle of crimes and punishments. Unlike the mystery, the police procedural stresses the step-by-step procedures followed by professional detectives in solving their cases: processing the crime scene to collect physical evidence; canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses or suspects; postmortem examination of the body to determine the cause and manner of death; identifying the victim; tracing the background of the victim; investigating associates of the victim; examining the method of operation of the perpetrator; and continuing with the follow-up investigation.

O'Neil DeNoux in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Sylvia K. Burack, 1994 

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Raymond Chandler on Ernest Hemingway

Raymond Chandler [a noted and literary twentieth century crime novelist] wrote a sentence true of [Ernest] Hemingway and himself: “I suppose the weakness, even the tragedy of writers like Hemingway is that their sort of stuff demands an immense vitalit…

Raymond Chandler [a noted and literary twentieth century crime novelist] wrote a sentence true of [Ernest] Hemingway and himself: "I suppose the weakness, even the tragedy of writers like Hemingway is that their sort of stuff demands an immense vitality; and a man outgrows his vitality without unfortunately outgrowing his furious concern with it."

Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 2014 

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Not Everyone is a Sherlock Holmes Fan

Reading ten Leslie Charteris novels in succession cruelly highlights his weaknesses. Likewise Agatha Christie and even Arthur Conan Doyle. “Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue,” wrote Raymond …

Reading ten Leslie Charteris novels in succession cruelly highlights his weaknesses. Likewise Agatha Christie and even Arthur Conan Doyle. "Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue," wrote Raymond Chandler. And once you'd grasped the attitude and heard the lines, why read on?

John Baxter, A Pound of Paper, 2003 

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Robert Barnard on Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction

We must cut off the modern detective story from the novel proper, put it in quite another category, one with its own traditions, conventions and demands, and thus develop a completely independent critical approach to it. I feel, in fact, that however w…

We must cut off the modern detective story from the novel proper, put it in quite another category, one with its own traditions, conventions and demands, and thus develop a completely independent critical approach to it. I feel, in fact, that however we react to novels of the American hard-boiled school, nothing but harm can be done by an attempt to see them as "realistic" or closer to the novel proper than other varieties of crime fiction.

Robert Barnard, A Talent to Deceive, 1990 

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Obeying the Rules of Grammar

There’s one thing to remember about the rules of grammar….They are not rigid; they change as our perceptions of our language change. What satisfied our eighth-grade teacher certainly won’t satisfy an editor, but then our eighth-grade teacher wasn’t trying to be an editor. The rules, however, were there to be learned, and once we learned them, we could believe they applied only when they made our work better.

William Noble, Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

There's one thing to remember about the rules of grammar….They are not rigid; they change as our perceptions of our language change. What satisfied our eighth-grade teacher certainly won't satisfy an editor, but then our eighth-grade teacher wasn't trying to be an editor. The rules, however, were there to be learned, and once we learned them, we could believe they applied only when they made our work better.

William Noble, Noble's Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

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Dark Humor

     A friend of mine once told me about a guy who murdered his first wife and put her in a freezer. He had her in a storage locker and his second wife stopped paying the bill for it, so the contents were auctioned off, and one lucky buy…

     A friend of mine once told me about a guy who murdered his first wife and put her in a freezer. He had her in a storage locker and his second wife stopped paying the bill for it, so the contents were auctioned off, and one lucky buyer purchased a freezer with a dead woman inside.

     Gruesome certainly, but I could easily imagine a darkly comic story about such a situation.

Robin Hemley in How to Write Funny edited by John B. Kachuba, 2001

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Benjamin Franklin’s Self-Help Book

My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin’s unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.Atul Gawande, The New York Times Book Review, October 26, 2014 

My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin's unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.

Atul Gawande, The New York Times Book Review, October 26, 2014 

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Is Writer’s Block Just An American Phenomenon?

     The phrase “writer’s block” was coined by an American, a psychiatrist named Edmund Bergler…In other ages and cultures, writers were not thought to be blocked but straightforwardly dried up. One literary critic pointed out that the concept of writer’s block is peculiarly American in its optimism that we all have creativity just waiting to be unlocked. By contrast, Milton, when he could not write, felt that he was empty, that there was no creativity left untapped.

     If writer’s block is more common in the United States, it would not be the first weakness that is peculiar to our culture. The modern American idea of the literary writer is so shaped by the towering images of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald struggling with every word, that there is a paradoxical sense in which suffering from writer’s block is necessary to be an American novelist. Without block once in a while, if a writer is too prolific, he or she is suspected by other novelists as being a hack.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

     The phrase "writer's block" was coined by an American, a psychiatrist named Edmund Bergler…In other ages and cultures, writers were not thought to be blocked but straightforwardly dried up. One literary critic pointed out that the concept of writer's block is peculiarly American in its optimism that we all have creativity just waiting to be unlocked. By contrast, Milton, when he could not write, felt that he was empty, that there was no creativity left untapped.

     If writer's block is more common in the United States, it would not be the first weakness that is peculiar to our culture. The modern American idea of the literary writer is so shaped by the towering images of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald struggling with every word, that there is a paradoxical sense in which suffering from writer's block is necessary to be an American novelist. Without block once in a while, if a writer is too prolific, he or she is suspected by other novelists as being a hack.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

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Pretentious Characters Make Readers Laugh

Pretense is a common trait of many humorous characters. An audience will laugh at any character that lacks self-knowledge–one who is a fraud and tries to publicly present himself as a authority figure deserving of respect. When exposed by other charac…

Pretense is a common trait of many humorous characters. An audience will laugh at any character that lacks self-knowledge--one who is a fraud and tries to publicly present himself as a authority figure deserving of respect. When exposed by other characters as a fraud, the audience will laugh. When these pretentious characters try to cover up and continue their pretensions, the reader will laugh again because these characters are not a threat to them.

Richard Michaels Stefanik, writersstore.com, 2000 

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The “Cozy” Mystery Novel Genre

A “cozy” is a mystery novel with a light tone and an element of fun; the setting is usually a small community and the protagonist is an amateur sleuth who’s a member of the community. Sex and violence occur, for the most part, offstage. Agatha Christie…

A "cozy" is a mystery novel with a light tone and an element of fun; the setting is usually a small community and the protagonist is an amateur sleuth who's a member of the community. Sex and violence occur, for the most part, offstage. Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple remains the quintessential cozy protagonist.

Hallie Ephron

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