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

HOW TO WRITE A MYSTERY

A HANDBOOK FROM MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA

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.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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