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Murder ink: The mystery reader's companion (1977)

af Dilys Winn

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444957,398 (4.04)11
A host of crime buffs including Interpol consultants, forensic anthropologists, psychiatrists, and novelists contribute articles on the many faces, factors, and techniques of crime in fact and fiction.
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This is one of the strangest books I have read in a long time! This was a secondhand-store find which I bought only because a friend asked me to read several crime fiction novels this coming year, and it seemed apt.

I have learned that Dilys Winn was the founder of a hugely popular book store in the USA, Mystery Ink. This sizeable tome (500 oversized pages, densely packed) contains contributions from scores of mystery writers, detectives, and aficionados of all flavours. The pieces have a decided 'quirk' factor, with the stated aim of being a key source for both readers and writers of crime fiction. Selections include hierarchies of the police on both sides of the pond, notes on the clergy in crime fiction, a 'translation' of hard-boiled detective lit into regular English, pieces on the butler, disguises, a walking tour of country England and key New York sites, notes on editing, important texts from throughout history, room plans, explorations of amusing detectives, guidelines for dressing like Miss Marple, thoughts on the physiology of reading, musings on cracking codes, narratives of the evolution of certain tropes, and much more. Scattered throughout are quizzes, pocket mysteries, and even an essay on gardening! The pages are also littered with quotes from celebrities and notable notables, and such novelty items as a list of "don'ts" should one wish to survive a murder mystery novel. Sections range from a single text box to 5 or 6 pages.

The volume was apparently updated in the 1980s (this is the original text from 1977) but, regardless, after all this time the text is outdated in several ways. Yet it's still a rich read for those of us who grew up with crime fiction. The book is also a neat 'jumping off point', introducing us throughout its pages to countless authors and detectives. It serves as a useful bibliography of crime lit from the 18th century to the 1970s. (Check also if your copy contains a sealed 'answer booklet' stuck on the last page! Mine did - and still unopened - which I suspect is a minor miracle!

For interest's sake, a few of the essay titles below:
"Tempest in a Teapot: the Care and Brewing of Tea"
"An Eyewitness Account of Holmes"
"Marxism and the Mystery"
"Wiretapping: A Session with a Debugger"
"Waylaid in Lonely Places"
"Verses for Hearses, by Isaac Asimov"
"The Busiest Morgue in the World"
"Creating a Mystery Game"


Murder Ink is not the definitive text on crime fiction; its deliberately 'messy' vibe means that you'll want to seek out more structured guides if you like lists that aim for completion. But it's a book like no other, the kind of work devised by a particular mind, and probably something that no mind would commit to in 2020, when a blog would suit their purpose just as much (but with less style). It's no surprise to me that Goodreads reviews suggest this book is cherished by those who discovered it - whether 45 years ago or last week. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
This is one of the strangest books I have read in a long time! This was a secondhand-store find which I bought only because a friend asked me to read several crime fiction novels this coming year, and it seemed apt.

I have learned that Dilys Winn was the founder of a hugely popular book store in the USA, Mystery Ink. This sizeable tome (500 oversized pages, densely packed) contains contributions from scores of mystery writers, detectives, and aficionados of all flavours. The pieces have a decided 'quirk' factor, with the stated aim of being a key source for both readers and writers of crime fiction. Selections include hierarchies of the police on both sides of the pond, notes on the clergy in crime fiction, a 'translation' of hard-boiled detective lit into regular English, pieces on the butler, disguises, a walking tour of country England and key New York sites, notes on editing, important texts from throughout history, room plans, explorations of amusing detectives, guidelines for dressing like Miss Marple, thoughts on the physiology of reading, musings on cracking codes, narratives of the evolution of certain tropes, and much more. Scattered throughout are quizzes, pocket mysteries, and even an essay on gardening! The pages are also littered with quotes from celebrities and notable notables, and such novelty items as a list of "don'ts" should one wish to survive a murder mystery novel. Sections range from a single text box to 5 or 6 pages.

The volume was apparently updated in the 1980s (this is the original text from 1977) but, regardless, after all this time the text is outdated in several ways. Yet it's still a rich read for those of us who grew up with crime fiction. The book is also a neat 'jumping off point', introducing us throughout its pages to countless authors and detectives. It serves as a useful bibliography of crime lit from the 18th century to the 1970s. (Check also if your copy contains a sealed 'answer booklet' stuck on the last page! Mine did - and still unopened - which I suspect is a minor miracle!

For interest's sake, a few of the essay titles below:
"Tempest in a Teapot: the Care and Brewing of Tea"
"An Eyewitness Account of Holmes"
"Marxism and the Mystery"
"Wiretapping: A Session with a Debugger"
"Waylaid in Lonely Places"
"Verses for Hearses, by Isaac Asimov"
"The Busiest Morgue in the World"
"Creating a Mystery Game"


Murder Ink is not the definitive text on crime fiction; its deliberately 'messy' vibe means that you'll want to seek out more structured guides if you like lists that aim for completion. But it's a book like no other, the kind of work devised by a particular mind, and probably something that no mind would commit to in 2020, when a blog would suit their purpose just as much (but with less style). It's no surprise to me that Goodreads reviews suggest this book is cherished by those who discovered it - whether 45 years ago or last week. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
There was lots of information about the mystery genre in this big book. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 28, 2017 |
Alot of fun. Also with Murderess Ink. ( )
  afinch11 | Aug 10, 2013 |
A juicy collection of essays on just about every subject the aspiring mystery writing needs to know. After you've boned up on money laundering and wire tapping, treat yourself to "The Day I Ripped off Lizzie's House." It's a must for Borden aficionados. ( )
  Harmless_Dilettante | Apr 21, 2008 |
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