A chorus of encouraging voices that mix do-this instruction with companionable inspiration.



Everything you wanted to know about how to plan, draft, write, revise, publish, and market a mystery, courtesy of the cheerleaders from the Mystery Writers of America.

In a marketplace crowded with how-to-write titles, the big selling point of this one is the variety of voices behind more than 30 full-length chapters covering everything from mystery subgenres (Neil Nyren) to publishing law (Daniel Stevens), punctuated with a variety of shorter interpolations. A few of them are more pointed than the longer chapters—e.g., when Rob Hart advises, “Allow yourself the space to forget things,” Tim Maleeny says, “Love your characters, but treat them like dirt,” or C.M. Surrisi notes, “If you’re writing a mystery for kids, remember that your protagonist can’t drive and has a curfew, and no one will believe them or let them be involved.” The contributors vary in their approaches, from businesslike (Dale W. Berry and Gary Phillips on the process of creating graphic novels, Liliana Hart on self-publishing, Maddee James on cultivating an online presence) to personal (Frankie Y. Bailey on creating diverse characters, Chris Grabenstein on writing for middle schoolers, Catriona McPherson on deploying humor) to autobiographical (Rachel Howzell Hall on creating a Black female detective, Louise Penny on building a community of followers) to frankly self-promoting (T. Jefferson Parker on creating villains, Max Allan Collins on continuing someone else’s franchise). Although many familiar bromides are recycled—“All stories are character-driven,” writes Allison Brennan, and Jacqueline Winspear, Gayle Lynds, and Daniel Stashower all urge the paramount importance of research—the most entertaining moments are the inevitable disagreements that crop up, especially between Jeffery Deaver (“Always Outline!”) and editor Child (“Never Outline!”), with Deaver getting the better of the argument. Other contributors include Alex Segura, William Kent Krueger, Tess Gerritsen, and Hallie Ephron.

A chorus of encouraging voices that mix do-this instruction with companionable inspiration.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982149-43-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.


Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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