“i’M a wRitEr, aCtuaLly!”

From a By the Book interview with Scottish crime writer Denise Mina in the New York Times Book Review:

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Three Patricia Highsmiths and a fire extinguisher.

The older I get the less I enjoy dinner parties. It’s a stiff kind of theater, the gathering, the exclamations of delight over the food, the relentless self-presentation: “i’M a wRitEr, aCtuaLly!” In fairness, I have been to a lot of them and may have blown out my taste buds with cigarettes. It feels like I’m eating dust for three hours while wearing tight pants.

In Andrew Wilson’s wonderful biography of Highsmith there’s a story about her girlfriend trying to introduce a socially isolated Highsmith to a group of interesting new friends over a dinner. During a conversational lull Highsmith stood up, leaned forward to a candle and set fire to her own hair to get out of it….

What makes for a good mystery?

Graham Greene said the writer has to be aware of the question in the reader’s mind, the pending question. The best mysteries play with that, answering, deflecting, teasing, taking the reader off on a tangent that ends up answering the question and posing another, bigger one. If it starts on the first page and does this, it makes for an incredibly satisfying read. A lot of books don’t start on the first page and I find that annoying. In my own writing I’ve culled killer pages because they weren’t the start of the story, and I’m jealous of writers who don’t.

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