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Why I Write Mysteries
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Mark Terry recently mused on his blog about how he came to write mysteries, rather than something else. I co-write mysteries, of course, and in my case that takes some explaining.

Science fiction was what I read when I was growing up. I devoured every new Tom Swift Jr. book at a single sitting. I scoured the local library shelves for Andre Norton, Lester DelRey and Robert Heinlein. When I wrote fiction as a teenager, and later during my twenties and thirties (when I should've known better) it was always science fiction or fantasy.

I believe it was the science fiction critic Richard Geis who said that ten years of rejection slips is nature's way of telling you you're not a writer. Certainly twenty years-worth of those horrid little rectangles of printed humiliation proved to my own satisfaction that I wasn't the next Robert Silverburg, nor even the next Victor Appleton.

I had long since turned away from reading sf. What had attracted me to the genre were the wild, speculative yarns of the thirties, forties and fifties. The New Wave's concentration on style left me cold. Sf is supposed to be a literature of Ideas not a literature of...well...Literature.

My reading included a fair number of mysteries -- the Sherlock Holmes stories, lots of John D. MacDonald and Simenon, as well as some Agatha Christie. Perhaps I was attracted by the intellectual element, even if I never managed to solve the puzzles presented. I never considered writing in the genre, though. I was, after all, a born and bred fan of sf, albeit a disaffected one.

Mary, on the other hand, wrote mysteries. She even sold three to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

At the time I had turned to nonfiction and was selling occasional essays and articles. I also read a book about Mongolia, which was then still a mysterious place, locked out of sight behind the iron curtain. It gave me an idea for what I thought was an amusing twist on a locked room puzzle.

For a long time Mary tried to coax me to write the story but she couldn't convince me until after we were married. After she was able to employ her full powers of persuasion, I gave in and we co-authored The Obo Mystery. We co-wrote it because, although I had come up with an idea, I had no clue how to turn it into an actual story.

Once the story sold to EQMM I kept writing with Mary. It isn't any mystery why. Co-authoring publishable mysteries sure beats receiving rejection slips from science fiction rags.

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