Tag Archives: mysteries

Ian Rankin’s play opens in Edinburgh – win tickets!

Ian Rankin Giveaway

Why not give it a try? What a wonderful reason to visit Edinburgh…though, truth be told, there are always reasons to visit that charming city.
The giveaway is just for tickets to the play and a signed script. Travel is on your own, alas…

The Love of Puns, or punishment denied…

HK8861I knew a man once who was a pro at puns. Well, that’s not true – I’ve known three men who were pros at puns. My dad, my older brother, and another fellow, lets call him Paul. Not his real name of course, except, yeah, it is. Oh, and Mark. So four, at least.

Men all, and I can’t help but think there’s something in that. I never feel safe with them. They may burst into puns at any moment.

Each one of them is capable of stringing off puns, one after another, until I lie, writhing, on the ground, laughing and groaning and wincing with pain all at once. I remember one gruesome car trip where my brother and father riffed on puns about fish for an hour or more. I was trapped in the back seat, trying to block out the endless “I have a haddock!” “Perhaps it’s a cod coming on”, until my ears were about to rupture.

It takes brains to rig a pun. You’ve got to see parallel universes and be able to link them, you’ve got to adore word play, you’ve got to be literate and silly and not afraid of shunning.

Because shunned you will be.

Like dirty limericks or sleazy romance novels or lurid poetry, a little punning goes a long way. Remember, punning and shunning rhyme, and could probably be used in a limerick or lurid poem as such. To wit (as it were):


Click on the photo for more…

For whom life was one terrible pun

He gathered no wife

Nor friends all his life

When they saw him a-coming, they’d run.

Now, I hasten to add that I like a good pun now and again. They can add spice, lighten up an otherwise turgid conversation, and when done well, can impress others with your wit. In writing, they don’t scan, really, except on a t-shirt. It’s sort of a “you had to be there” kind of thing. However, as book titles, they are fabulous. More than once I’ve grabbed a book based on the pun in its title. This author, I rationalize, must have a wicked sense of humour. I’m rarely disappointed.

Some of the titles I’ve seen:

The Long Quiche Goodbye (CHEESE SHOP MYSTERY) by Avery Ames

Affairs of Steak (A White House Chef Mystery) by Julie Hyzy

The Gingerbread Bump-Off: A Fresh-Baked Mystery by Livia J. Washburn

Liver Let Die (A Clueless Cook Mystery) by Liz Lipperman

One Foot In The Gravy: A Nashville Katz Mystery (D… by Delia Rosen

Due or Die (A Library Lover’s Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay

The More the Terrier (A Pet Rescue Mystery) by Linda O. Johnston

Shoe Done It (An Accessories Mystery) by Grace Carroll

You Better Knot Die (A Crochet Mystery) by Betty Hechtman

Ghoul Interrupted: A Ghost Hunter Mystery by Victoria Laurie

See? Dontcha want to read these? As for me, I’ve just ordered up a huge helping of Mary Jane Maffini books from the library. I feel the need for a well-written cozy as the snowflakes continue to fall, and she’s the queen of those. (Some of the others – well – a cute title still needs some good credible writing behind it!)

A good cozy is a welcome break from the very grim (but also wonderful) more realistic mysteries, like those by the inimitable Giles Blunt, or Mark Billingham. Like meringue after steak, they are a treat on the tongue, light and frothy and totally enjoyable and you don’t feel the need to check in your closets before turning out the light.

But use those puns sparingly, please. As one gardener pointed out to another, while looking at the beans sprouting from his compost pile, “The mung is the lowest form of humus”…



Talking about Detective Fiction: PD James

Talking About Detective FictionTalking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love PD James’ very wordy detective stories. I can wallow in them as well-written novels with a mystery plot, or race through them as a regular mystery. She is a favourite and I only wish there were more of her novels about.

This book of James’ thoughts about detective fiction is also very well written. I never felt the urge to put it down, but neither did I feel that I was getting much other than an afternoon’s enjoyment out of it. I suppose it is difficult for most writers to explain how they do what they do – I’ve been to enough writer’s conferences to know this. James does not instruct in this book. She does “talk about detective fiction.”

James takes us on a lovely trot through primarily British writers of mysteries, primarily from the “golden age”, which seems to have plunged into tin about 1959. She spares no bile when talking about Agatha Christie, returning to diss her several times, and it’s obvious she has little time for the American tough guy writers Marlowe and Chandler. She adores Chesterton, and has some tolerant things to say about Dorothy L Sayers. Even poor Conan Doyle gets treated like a hack, with comments about the unlikeliness of his hero, the stupidity of Watson, the unreality of his plots.

She is entitled to her opinions, of course, but entire swaths of writers are cast off as being unworthy. Writers post-1950 apparently have written nothing worth discussing, though Henning Mankell comes in for a mention in a sentence or so, and a couple of British writers get a whisper, if they’ve managed to score a series on the Beeb. In amongst the gossip and such, she tries to find some truths about detective fiction. They aren’t very helpful.

I’m sorry in a way that I read this book. It reads as if she was asked to write it and really really didn’t want to, dug through some old notes from when she was beginning to write, and tossed it together with more than a bit of miffiness. She comes across as snotty, bored, and as if she would rather be doing almost anything else than writing for people who might think themselves writers.

That said, it IS written well. Of course. I think I’ll retreat to her mysteries and give this book away. I like it better when I don’t see behind the screen.

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