A New Year, an Old Friend, and Ravens (New and Old)

January 15, 2010

My literary world-view has been formed by authors like Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, M.C. Beaton (Marion Chesney), and P.D. James. And I readily admit being a bit of an anglophile. Nonetheless, I’ve spent the last year reading the works of my fellow American mystery writers. And loving it! (My stack of to-be-reads, however, is still high). The latest from Marilyn Meredith, Sunny Frazier, Sheila Lowe, Alice Zogg, Betty Webb, and many others still beckon. I plan to read them all in 2010!

But something strange happened a few weeks back—I actually finished the first draft of my latest mystery, “Reticence of Raven.” My original working title was “An Unkindness of Ravens” which I decided upon while doing raven-research. There are both crows and ravens in my part of the Mojave, and a “Murder of Crows,” was a contender. In the end, my ravens won-out. But then with further research, I found out Ruth Rendell had written a Chief Inspector Wexford mystery, “An Unkindness of Ravens.” A Ruth Rendell I hadn’t read!

Result—I renamed by humble offering; and then ordered “An Unkindness of Ravens.”

And what a wonderful way to start the new year!

For me, Ruth Rendell weaves a tapestry of words so competently, so seamlessly, so enjoyably—it almost takes my literary breath away(a lot of adverbs, I know). All the while you think you’re just reading a cozy little mystery about a likable English inspector, his partner, his family, and a murder most complicated. But it’s so much more.

Through her characters and their life events and conflicts, this wonderful author gives a very deft picture of British life and mores at the time of her novel. When I finished, I was for sure satisfied with the mystery puzzle, but also, I was left with deeper considerations that are still tumbling around in my brain. About writing, about story-telling, about life.

“An Unkindness of Ravens” was a wonderful way for me to start the new year. Not only did I enjoy reading the novel, but it took me back to my writing-roots, and what I like to read and wished I could write. And I think revisiting “my British friends” on a regular basis will help me better cut out my own literary path. Thank you, Ruth!

I’ve had P.D. James’s “The Private Patient” since it came out. Now might be just the time to read it…

2 Responses to “A New Year, an Old Friend, and Ravens (New and Old)”

  1. Jackie Vick said

    I re-read my Agatha Christie’s whenever I’m in a writing slump, or if I “can’t find anything to read”. You’re right, though. Giving new authors and American authors a try has opened my eyes to some great writers–M.M. Gornell included!

  2. Madeline, I enjoy reading the works of people I know, too, and am always thrilled that their books are both entertaining and just plain good. They might be in different sub-genres of the mystery field, but each has something that sets it apart. Enjoy your adventure.

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