One of the better how-to-write books that I've come across, despite some (personal) annoyances (see below). Frey takes the fledgling writer from the b...moreOne of the better how-to-write books that I've come across, despite some (personal) annoyances (see below). Frey takes the fledgling writer from the beginning of why to write a mystery (quite an interesting chapter) through the acutal process of writing (including character creation and development) right up to how to find an agent and work with an editor. I especially liked how he took you step-by-step through the writing process, with an actual example (personally, I learn better that way).
That being said...
His "hook" (how to write a damn good blah blah blah or to write a damn good blah blah blah) was repeated every few pages and after the first chapter, I was getting just a titch annoyed. I think I finally trained my eyes to skip over any reference to "damn" and "good" by the middle of the book, but still!
He also referenced his other non-fiction works at least once (if not more) each chapter. It usually went "In my book "[Title]", I showed you how to do this, but I'll repeat it here anyway." Just repeat it already! Don't tell me you've already wrote it somewhere else! If you have something worthwhile to say, I'll look up your other books. I don't need to be hit over the head (repeatidly) with them. It also drives me nuts when authors reference their entire backlist in the bibliography. I mean, really? You referenced everything you've ever wrote, even the ones that had nothing to do with the current subject at hand?! Grrr. As you can tell, this is a personal pet peeve of mine and it usually turns me off an author faster than onions (which I also hate! ;)
He also did quite a bit of name dropping, especially in the "Ideas to get you started" chapter. While I enjoy references (how else do you find the other good books?! ;) his was a slight too excessive. He would quote an example of another writer's character or hook or idea and then proceed to list all the books in the series. I don't need to know all the titles. I'm not simple. I think I can look them up all by myself (especially considering he also placed them all in the bibiliography!).
Anyway, brushing aside my "issues"...
Frey's book was packed with lots of good advice and I would recommended it (albeit with a caveat or two). Personally, his style is very Sam Spadeish (the anti-hero PI type of book, as well as his writing voice), and I only found little bits concerning other sub-categories of the mystery genre (such as cozies). Regardless, his method is something to keep in mind and I will be seeking out his other non-fiction books on writing.(less)
The great pretenders details the cases of 6 historical mysteries, aka cases of historical impersonation. Each chapter, which presented a case, include...moreThe great pretenders details the cases of 6 historical mysteries, aka cases of historical impersonation. Each chapter, which presented a case, included the known (and claimed) information, opposing viewpoints, as well as the author's opinion. Easily a book to pick up and read a chapter at a time, though I could have done without the inclusion of the author's opinion. Give me the facts and then let me make up my mind. The writing was a bit sloggy at times, but I would definitely look up the author's other works at some later date.(less)
I preferred John Emsley's "History of Poison". While I did enjoy Blum's book, it felt disjointed, perhaps since each chapter juggled several different...moreI preferred John Emsley's "History of Poison". While I did enjoy Blum's book, it felt disjointed, perhaps since each chapter juggled several different "plotlines" (i.e. the personal histories of Gettler and Norris, the history of the chapter poison with a case study, the wood alcohol ongoing investigation, prohibition, secondary case studies, etc.).(less)