Sunday, May 10, 2020
Private Investigations edited by Victoria Zackheim
I have to give credit to Sulari Gentill first. Gentill is the award-winning author of the Rowland Sinclair mysteries, and a Ned Kelly Award winner. Sulari read a snippet of her essay for this book on Facebook. Authors, don't let anyone tell you people don't pay attention. Her reading was so captivating that I bought this anthology to learn the ending of Gentill's story. Her essay is about a family secret, a secret hidden away in a box.
Twenty authors wrote essays for the book, including Jacqueline Winspear, Jeffery Deaver, and Rhys Bowen. Several of the authors have painful essays, ones that will break your heart. However, if you've read Connie May Fowler's books, you'll remember the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. Her essay, "Lydia and Jack", talks about that, and how that abuse affected her emotionally and physically. In "The Clay That We Shape", William Kent Krueger looks back at his mother's mental problems, with the realization that his novel, Ordinary Grace, helped him understand his mother and himself. Steph Cha, in "The Beams Keep Falling", says a woman's behavior may seem unnatural to some, but not to women who have experienced fear.
Not all of the essays are quite so painful. Charles Todd, writing "Remembering the Past", looks at the importance of the on the ground research he and his mother, Caroline Todd, have done, talking to survivors and families about The Great War, and visiting places that were changed forever by the war. Robert Dugoni searches for the reason his books didn't have the power that a seventh grade speech did. The essay is "Nuns, Magic, and Stephen King". Cara Black's essay about Maigret and Paris is painful only for those of us who wish we could be there right now. It's moody and evocative.
While I'm not a writer looking for inspiration, it's fascinating to peer into the motivation and background of favorite mystery writers. As they discover their own past, readers can make discoveries as well in Private Investigations.
Private Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives, edited by Victoria Zackheim. Seal Press, 2020. ISBN 9781580059213 (hardcover), 312p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.