Miss Marple Crossword Puzzle

In the last couple of blogs, we have learned about Miss Marple and her book and story titles. Let’s put all of our Miss Marple knowledge together and see how we do with completing her crossword puzzle. Solution will be posted at a later date.


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Miss Marple- Still Going Strong

I recently took a course on Agatha Christie. At the first class the teacher asked—what makes Agatha Christie’s mysteries as popular today as when they were first published? I found this question of interest, because I have some personal experience with the popularity of one of her characters — Miss Marple. Christie 2

Back in October of 2012, I wrote a blog entitled the Quotable Miss Marple. To this day, this blog remains one of my most popular. Christie wrote less Marple mysteries than those about her other famous detective— Hercule Poirot. However, the Miss Marple stories were just as popular. So like my teacher I will ask a similar question. What is it about this detective that continues to attract readers, fans and admirers?

Miss Marple is not your typical detective. She is elderly, she knits and she’s nosy. She lives in the tiny village of St. Mary Mead where her knowledge of village life and human behavior allows her to make comparisons with the current crime. No crime occurs without reminding her of an event or a person from St. Mary Mead.

However, don’t be fooled by her age, her knitting or her apparently muddled thoughts and questions. Miss Marple fully understands the evil that men—and women do and the behavior that exposes their criminality. Miss Marple is like a laser that zeros in on the motive and the person with the motive.Miss_Marple_First_Image

Miss Marple has a razor sharp mind. Like the best detectives she has an understanding of the depravity of the criminal mind along with knowing why people act and react the way they do. To quote Miss Marple, “it is almost always the obvious person.”

The police of course are skeptical of the advice from Miss. Marple. They, along with the reader can’t imagine how this elderly spinster can possibly help with the solution of the case. Yet, if we pay close attention, Miss Marple always points us in the right direction to uncover the villain. If we don’t follow her process, we can easily be misdirected by the red herrings and the dark horses that Christie so cleverly places in her stories.

While the police may discount Miss Marple’s ability, she relies on them for information and clues. She always requests that the police share their findings with her and often asks for help from her friend, retired Scotland Yard Chief Sir Henry Clithering. He is also a participant in the Tuesday Night Club where members share a story and asks the other members to solve the puzzle. Need I mention that Miss Marple holds the record for correctly solving the cases.

She’s not afraid to view and examine a dead body as we discover in The Body in the Library. Nor is she afraid to face the villain in a final confrontation as seen in A Caribbean Mystery. She is most capable of organizing the forces that will protect her from harm when this confrontation occurs.

I’ve described Miss Marple’s detecting skills, but why do readers continue to enjoy her mystery stories? Here are some possible answers. Her books are easy to read. We are comfortable with Miss Marple because she is not threatening, demanding or egotistical. Her stories are full of good humor with interesting characters. And the mysteries are fair—the reader has the same opportunity as Miss Marple to solve the case based on the clues.

We also enjoy the sojourn into Miss Marple’s world of English gardens, and the civility of life in an English village as revealed in The Murder at the Vicarage. There’s always a murder, but the blood and gore found in so many modern novels are missing from a Miss Marple story.

I also think one of the most powerful reasons readers enjoy Miss Marple is there’s always a resolution of the crime. This resolution does not come with a judgment from her. Instead she discovers the facts and presents them to the reader so we can understand her solution and the reason for the murder.

We also feel that when Miss Marple is on the case justice will be served. This justice may not always be through the court system, but we know the villain will Image Mirror Crack'dreceive punishment. We see examples of this alternative punishment in the household of actress Marina Gregg, in The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side or with Carrie Louise and her husband Lewis Serrocold in They Do It with Mirrors. This sense of finality, justice and closure provides comfort for the reader.

And finally, I’m sure Miss Marple reminds us of an elderly person we know? And perhaps we discount them because of the assumption they have lost a few gray cells and aren’t fully engaged with modern times. Miss Marple continues to demonstrate as she sits and quietly knits that her little gray cells are still working quite well. She is just as capable as the very best detective to solve a complicated mystery. So don’t overlook reading a Miss Marple mystery novel or short story. You see, she’s still going strong!

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Miss Marple – Word Search Solution

This was fun. I enjoyed finding the titles and remembering the various plots and characters from the mysteries.

I hope you enjoyed it too!


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Miss Marple-Word Search

For our next series of blogs we’re going to take another look at Miss Marple. More specifically, what makes Miss Marple as popular with today’s readers as when she first appeared in a short story in 1927?

Below is a word search puzzle that will help us start to think about the various Miss Marple stories and novels. Find the words listed in capital letters.


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Film Noir Crossword Solution

Calling all Film Noir experts! How did you do with the crossword puzzle? I thought so. I was pretty sure you knew all about the subject. However, just in case you want to double check your answers. Here is the solution.


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Film Noir – Crossword Puzzle

I’m rounding out our Film Noir segment with a Crossword Puzzle to check your knowledge. Most of the answers can be discovered by checking the previous two blogs on Film Noir. I’ll get back to you shortly with the solution just so you can see if you captured all the answers.


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Film Noir

Film Noir is French for Black Film. Classic Film Noir generally refers to a period of Hollywood film making between 1940 through the 1950’s. It’s believed its cinematic style was influenced by German Expressionism which featured bold artistic styling including unusual camera angles and experiments with lighting. Prior to the Film Noir classification this type of movie was referred to as melodrama. And there are also many movies after the classic period of Film Noir that continue to follow the style and techniques developed.  Let’s take a closer look at Film Noir.

Some critics believe Film Noir is its own genre. Other critics strongly disagree stating that Film Noir encompasses several genres. Film topics might include crime solving, police procedures, gangsters, social or political commentary, westerns or even a Gothic romance. While it appears these films can’t be categorized into a single genre they do share some common characteristics.

Most films classified as Film Noir were produced with limited set designs. The films were shot in black and white with gloomy grays on dark streets. filmnoirThey featured an event that often brought strangers together to find the solution. Film Noir’s bleak, dark outcomes are often pessimistic compared to the typical Hollywood happy ending films.

Film Noir’s Leading Men and Women

The leading men of these films were all different. The hero might be a hardboiled detective, but the hero could just as easily be an ordinary citizen unwittingly trapped in circumstances beyond his control. We might find a star crossed lover, a boxer, a cowboy, a policeman, a drifter or even a writer (William Holden in Sunset Boulevard) as the leading man pulled into the darkness of the drama.

Unlike our leading men, the female stars all shared a common characteristic.  The female lead might be the innocent housewife from suburbia or the gangster’s girlfriend living on the edge of the criminal world. Their background didn’t matter because the women all had a certain sexual overtone in common. It might be the way she sat on the edge of a desk, the arch of her eyebrow, the outfits she wore, the emotion she displayed, or the way she lit her cigarette─ regardless the sexual attraction was there. This attraction might be the main story or a subplot but her presence complicated the hero’s life. Two of the female actresses who displayed these characteristics and were considered icons of Film Noir are Jane Greer (Out of the Past, The Big Steal) and Lizabeth Scott (Dead Reckoning, Pitfall). Between them they made films opposite most of the leading men of Film Noir.


Most of Hollywood’s classic Film Noir falls into the “B” movie category. This means they were shot with very low budgets. Several major studios set up separate “low budget” divisions or they might contract a lesser known studio to create a B-movie to run at the bottom of a double feature.

Generally B-movies were shot with a budget of around $100,000 compared to a Hollywood A-movie having a budget around $600,000. However, the budget did not limit the acting talent. Some well known movie stars made appearances in Film Noir. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake were first teamed in This Gun for Hire and two of the most prolific Film Noir stars were Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster.

Film Noir Stories

The Film Noir era also gets credit for using stories from some of our best mystery writers. In a previous blog we discussed Pulp Fiction and the writers who created stories for magazines like the Black Mask. Many Pulp Fiction stories and mystery novels were the foundation for Film Noir movie scripts.

Raymond Chandler

In the October, 1934 issue of Black Mask Magazine, Chandler introduced his type of hard-boiled detective that later developed into Phillip Marlowe. Then in 1939 Chandler’s The Big Sleep was published and this was the first of his books made into a Film Noir. His book Farewell My Lovely provided material for the film Murder My Sweet. Then his Lady in the Lake was also turned into a film. But Chandler was also known as a screen writer and provided scripts for Double Indemnity, Strangers on the Train and the Oscar nominated The Blue Dahlia.

Dashiell Hammett

In 1928 Hammett published The Red Harvest which many critics considered his best work. While this book was the basis for the characteristics of the hardboiled detective The Red Harvest was never made into a Hollywood film. However, Hammett’s other books The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key made it to the Big Screen. Even his novel The Dain Curse was a television series in 1978. And of course his most famous book The Thin Man provided the opener for a series of movies featuring Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) Charles.

In 1931 one of Hammett’s short stories was behind the gangster melodrama City Streets. Although this film was before the official start of the period, some film historians insist this is the first Film Noir.

James M. Cain

James Cain’s novels provided the stories for such Film Noir classics as Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Slightly Scarlet based on his story Love’s Lovely Counterfeit. Aside from his stories Cain is credited for creating the template that Film Noir scripts followed. His lurid, action packed tales take place in low rent districts with cigarette smoking anti-heroes pulled into the action by a femme fatale.  While his characters are basically losers we still feel for them. He helps us to see that the situation they’re in was through no fault of their own.

Cornell Woolrich and W.R. Burnett

Two of the lesser known ─although two of the most prolific writers of film noir─ are Cornell Woolrich and W.R. Burnett.

Cornell Woolrich wrote two dozen novels and over two hundred stories. He has been called the fourth greatest hard boiled fiction writer after Hammett, Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner. He has also been called the “Father of Film Noir” for works including Street of Chance, The Mark of the Whistler, Phantom Lady, Deadline at Dawn, Black Angel, Fear in the Night, and Night Has a Thousand Eyes to name a few. His most famous work was Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but few people would know his name as the author.

Woolrich lived almost like a character from one of his stories. After a short period in Hollywood, he returned to New York where he lived as a recluse. He spent twenty-five years living with his mother (a love-hate relationship) in a seedy Harlem hotel.

W.R. (William Riley) Burnett wrote thirty-nine novels and was involved with another forty motion pictures. Burnett’s stint as a night clerk in a sleazy motel exposed him to many of the character types found in his stories like hoodlums, prize fighters, indigents, and gangsters. He tended to portray characters pulled into a life of crime who then found it impossible to find their way out. However, the characters are not pure evil. Their humanity and sense of morality to do the right thing leads to their undoing.

Burnett’s novel Little Caesar provided the story for Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of the gangster, Rico. This classic film is considered the first of the gangster movies. His writing credits also include High Sierra, This Gun for Hire, Nobody Lives Forever, The Asphalt Jungle, and I Died a Thousand Times.

Orson Welles

And of course we can’t forget Orson Welles and his contribution to Film Noir movies starting with his classic entry of Citizen Kane. The Third Man is considered an iconic Film Noir, although Welles didn’t receive a writing credit. He did write the screenplays for Lady from Shanghai and Mr. Arkadin. Most critics agree that Welles 1958 film Touch of Evil is the last entry for the classic Film Noir period. Touchofevil

Film Noir Techniques

Film Noir is known for introducing some cinematic techniques that separate this category from others films. These techniques add to the intrigue of the story line. For instance in Lady in the Lake the entire film is shot from the point of view of Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) and the audience only sees his face when he looks in a mirror. For the movies D.O.A. and Sunset Boulevard the story is told by dead men through a series of flashbacks. Flashbacks help the viewer to understand how the story reached its current point in time.

Another technique is voiceover narration. Here a film character or an unknown narrator explains the scene which appears in the background. This method moves the story along without every scene being shown in detail to the audience.

Morality and Justice

Film Noir portrays a sense of good and evil and right versus wrong. Justice usually wins, although it may not be dealt through the normal channels like a court of law. A character may be both judge and jury when dealing out punishment. Also justice may not come easily for our hero. In the Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade is in love with Brigid, but by the end of the film he turns her in for the murder of his partner. Dealing justice, maintaining a sense of morality and choosing right over wrong is what separates our Film Noir hero from the other dark characters in the story. It allows the viewer to deal with the pessimism of the film knowing the hero stands for something good.

Modern Day Film Noir                                                                                        

Purists will insist that the Film Noir period ended with the 1950s. Yet there is no denying that the film techniques developed, the character types created and the dark story lines continued well beyond this period. It’s hard to see many differences in Cape Fear, Manchurian Candidate and Shock Corridor all from 1962 when compared to classic Film Noir. But it doesn’t stop with films in the 60’s. Is there any doubt that Chinatown from the 70’s with Jack Nicholson portraying Jack Gittes is much different from the hardboiled detectives of the past? Or is the tale told in Taxi Driver by Robert De Niro any different from the stories related by other troubled anti-heroes.

And the movies still adapt stories from writers like Ray MacDonald for The Drowning Pool and Chandler’s Farwell My Lovely or the Oscar winning L.A. Confidential from James Ellroy’s novel.

Femme fatale’s have not changed much either. Sharon Stone from Basic Instincts certainly matches her counterparts from the 40’s.

We still have black and white adaptations like Scorese’s Raging Bull film in the 80’s and the Coen brothers The Man Who Wasn’t There in 2010. And even with the addition of color there are other techniques that capture the feeling of Film Noir. For instant the constant rain and the smoky blue scenes from Blade Runner where Harrison Ford plays futuristic detective creates the same feeling as the gloomy gray scenes from earlier films. And these are only a few examples of later  films that use the techniques from the Film Noir period.

Film Noir was a unique period providing great film classics, but let’s not forget it is alive and well today. Whether enjoying a movie from the classic period or a movie from a more recent time Film Noir continues to entertain a new generation of audiences and mystery fans.

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Film Noir Movie Titles-Word Search Solution

answer32Here are the answers to the Film Noir Movie Word Search. I know you found all the words. However, just in case you want to double check your solution I’ve provided the key.



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Film Noir Movie Titles–Word Search

For the next couple of blogs I’ll be discussing movies categorized as Film Noir. I thought a great way to start the discussion is with a word search puzzle in order to become familiar with some Film Noir movie titles. The movies listed in the word search have all been classified as representative of the classic Film Noir period from the 40s to the late 1950s. The exception is The Petrified Forest from the 30s but this film is considered an early example of a typical Film Noir. Good luck finding the words that are capitalized.


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Father Brown-Crossword Puzzle Answer

Here’s your answer to the Father Brown Crossword Puzzle. Although I know you knew all the answers, I’ve included it just as a reference.





Amazon Links to Millie’s Books

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Chesterton & Father Brown -Crossword Puzzle

Here’s your opportunity to check your knowledge of the writer G.K. Chesterton and the Father Brown Mystery Series on PBS. If you get stuck, be sure and check the previous blog on Chesterton and Father Brown. Many of the answers will be found within that blog. Solution will be posted next week.


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GK Chesterton and Father Brown

Who Is G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, art critic, biographer and last but not least mystery writer. For the American mystery fan he is best known as the author of the Father Brown Mysteries.

Chesterton was a very prolific writer having produced 80 books, several hundred poems, 4,000 essays and five plays. In 1931, Chesterton was invited to give a series of radio talks. After his initial hesitation, Chesterton went on to deliver 40 talks per year from 1932 until his death. He also penned over 200 short stories which included the Father Brown series. Father Brown was never presented as a full length book but always as a series of short stories.

Early in his life Chesterton showed a talent for art. He studied art and had planned on becoming an artist. When this career did not work out, Chesterton became an art critic for the Daily News. He wrote a weekly column for thirteen years. He then moved on to a weekly column in the Illustrated London News which he continued to write for thirty years. And he wrote for his own paper G.K.’s Weekly, plus articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Chesterton was able to talk and write about most subjects. He maintained certain beliefs and was able to clearly express them. Chesterton often enjoyed a good debate and spared with thinkers of the day like Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Clarence Darrow and H.G. Wells. He often had opposite viewpoints from his friends but he defended them with knowledge and passion.

The Personality of Chesterton

GK Chesterton 1His physical characteristics stood out as much as his writing. Chesterton was a large man at 6’4” and weighing between 285 and 300 pounds. He usually wore a cape and crumpled hat set off by a swordstick. His small glasses sat on the end of his nose with a cigar hanging from his mouth.  On one occasion Chesterton remarked to his friend George Bernard Shaw, “To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.” Shaw responded by saying “To look at you, anyone would think you had caused it.”

Chesterton also had a habit of getting lost. He often had to call his wife to see where he was supposed to be. As a result, it is said that he did much of his writing in train stations while waiting for the train he was supposed to be riding. This huge man was the first to laugh at his own jokes and entertained children by catching buns in his mouth.

However, let’s not forget Chesterton is considered one of the deepest thinkers who ever lived. And this is the man who gave us the Father Brown Mysteries.

Chesterton’s Father Brown Mysteries

Father Brown is a devout clergyman performing all of the functions of that role. He is quiet and humble. He applies his knowledge of people and his religious beliefs to solving crimes. He often looks for a ‘sign’ to guide him in the right direction, although he does not discount science and fact. He is educated, has a razor sharp intellect and possesses great wit. It is believed that the Father Brown character is very close to Chesterton’s own view of the world.

Father Brown’s Detecting Methods

In the first Father Brown story The Blue Cross, we discovery his methods for detecting. He is more intuitive than deductive. This is in direct contrast to another well known detective of the time— Sherlock Holmes. Holmes relies on pure deductive reasoning to solve his cases.

Father Brown reminds me in some ways of another detective—Miss Jane Marple. Miss Marple solves her crimes by comparing people and events to what occurs in her small village of St. Mary’s Mead. Father Brown understands the psychology of human behavior based on what he has learned from hours of listening to parishioner’s confessions.

Father Brown and the Criminal’s Soul

Unlike other detectives Father Brown is more concerned about the criminal’s soul and not his crime. The criminal’s spirituality is more important than bringing him to justice. When faced with punishment through the criminal justice system or natural law he allows events to take their course.

Several stories concern the characters weakness for assuming an unusual occurrence has been caused by some super natural force. However, Father Brown always assumes this is not the case and searches for the rational explanation.

Chesterton’s writings displayed great wit and this trait is also apparent in Father Brown’s character. Like Chesterton Father Brown is a bit crumpled in his appearance, and while he does not carry a swordstick he is rarely seen without his trusty umbrella.

Father Brown on PBS

And now once again we are being treated to Chesterton’s stories in a new PBS series featuring Father Brown.

Father Brown is played by Mark Williams who brings a jovial kindness, along with religious authenticity to his portrayal of the Catholic priest for St Mary’s church. He rarely appears in anything other than his black cassock and of course is seen with the trademark umbrella. He doesn’t drive and his favorite mode of transportation is a bicycle.

Father Brown PBS

While most of Chesterton’s stories take place in London, the PBS series is filmed in the Cotswold section of England in the fictional village of Kembleford. In this small village Father Brown is available to help his parishioners, non- parishioners and even non-believers who find themselves in trouble. He is educated, religious and skilled at solving crimes.

Women in Father’s Brown Life

Father Brown is supported by a team of ladies. Mrs. McCarthy, played by Sorcha Cusack, is the parish secretary and tries to keep the Father on the straight and narrow. While she is loyal to Father Brown, she feels it is her duty to make sure the strict rules of the church are followed. Mrs. McCarthy also feels by serving tea along with her award winning strawberry scones she can solve many problems.

The second woman on Father Brown’s team is a Lady. In fact she’s a countess. Lady Felicia Montague, played by Nancy Carroll, is a free spirit socialite with a roving eye. She has the money, the social contacts and the charm to assist the Father with any investigation. She is equally loyal to Father Brown and often finds herself in conflict with Mrs. McCarthy as to who can best serve him.

The Men in the Father Brown Series

The men in the series are from opposite sides of the street. Lady Felicia’s chauffeur, Sid Carter, when not driving her Roll Royce dabbles in the Black Market. Sid possesses some additional skills like lock picking, horse betting, fighting, and pick pocketing often enlisted by Father Brown to help solve his cases.

The other male leads in the series are the two police inspectors—Inspector Valetine (series one) and Inspector Sullivan (series two and three). Initially neither inspector appreciates Father Brown’s interference in their cases, but each comes to respect his talents for solving crime.

In between the shenanigans of Sid, the flirtations and social responsibilities of Lady Felicia and the parish duties of Mrs. McCarty there are crimes to be solved. And under the ecclesiastical guidance of Father Brown a solution is always found.

Check your local listings for PBS stations airing this delightful series.


Books Available from Millie Mack

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Take a Dive for Murder: http://amzn.com/B00GPD9PJI

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Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries–Crossword Solution

I know you’re a Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries expert and got all the answers correct. Just in case you want to check to be sure–here’s the solution.


Amazon Links to Millie’s Book Pages

Take Stock in Murder:  http://amzn.com/B00RNIK3LI

Take a Dive for Murder: http://amzn.com/B00GPD9PJI

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Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries Crossword Puzzle

Miss Fisher is great fun as well as a good detective. If you have been enjoying the PBS series, here’s your chance to test your knowledge. Keep in mind that the answers for this puzzle are based on the TV show and could vary slightly from the books.


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Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

For those of us who enjoy the mystery programs presented on PBS they have added another great series to their repertoire—Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

This show is an Australian production that provides a glimpse into high society life after World War I. The time period when we reached a “lasting peace” and the population was ready for and embraced the freedom of the roaring twenties.

Many things have changed as a result of the war, including the financial circumstances for Miss Fisher’s family. While her family during her youth struggled to exist, they now have unlimited wealth. The members of her family with title and fortune did not survive the war years.

Now the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher exemplifies the new found freedom women are Phryne w gunexperiencing after the war they helped to win. She is wealthy, worldly and just happens to be a lady detective.

In the first television series Miss Fisher returns to Melbourne to keep the man who is believed to have killed her sister confined to jail. This criminal’s presence weaves in and out of several episodes until the final dramatic confrontation. In the last episode of season one we finally learn what happened to her sister.

The episodes are savvy, spirited, and face paced. The crimes are solved by a woman whose knows no boundaries whether financial, sexual or pure danger. Episode topics are edgy and plots include rape, abortion, incest, homosexuality, drugs, slave trading and always murder.

Phryne is very unique and takes full advantage of her new lifestyle. She drives a Hispana- Suiza car. She carries a gold plated pistol. She attends society’s social events and the theater but can also be seen at the docks of Melbourne and on the dark streets of Chinatown. And regardless of the event she wears the right outfit—the perfect gown for dancing the tango, the right business dress for following clues and of course multiple outfits with trousers for chasing criminals. It’s worth watching the shows just to see the outfits.

This delightful series is based on the books written by Kerry Greenwood. As a reader of mysteries I was curious to see if the books were as entertaining as the series.

I won’t keep you waiting for the answer—they are. The story plots and characters are not an exact match for the TV series. However, all of the elements are there. The stylish behavior, the devil-may-care attitude, the sexual exploits and of course crime solving is part of every story.

When the books were first published there were some readers who felt the works were scandalous. Phryne’s propensity to bed any male companion whenever the mood struck regardless of social, ethnic or financial background offended some. Miss Fisher Book Cover

However, Greenwood defends the behavior by pointing out that Phryne is no different than her male counterparts like James Bond or The Saint. Readers don’t have objections to this same behavior when it is displayed by male spies and detectives.

She also points to the historical times. Phryne like many women served in World War I. She was in the ambulance brigade in France and was decorated for her courage. She also saw a great deal of sorrow and pain. She emerges from the war into the Roaring Twenties where pleasure was the new cause of the day.

Greenwood has written twenty books featuring her detective and filming of Season 3 for the PBS series is complete. If you haven’t seen or read a Miss Fisher murder mystery take the plunge into one of these delightful faced paced mysteries.

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Millie Mack’s Faraday Murder Series Returns!

My two amateur sleuths, Carrie and Charles Faraday return in my latest cozy mystery Take Stock in Murder. However, there are changes for our detectives since they first appeared in Take a Dive for Murder. In addition to joining together to solve crimes, they have joined together as man and wife.

They are thoroughly enjoying married life except for one small detail—Carrie has been charged with the murder of Todd Barrington, the son of a prominent member of the community and the Tri-County Country Club. Carrie is innocent but the evidence keeps mounting –and it all points to her as the murderer.  FrontCover_1_5x2_5

There is no shortage of suspects, but which one actually committed the murder? More importantly, will the Faradays find the clues to uncover the real killer before time runs out for Carrie?

(Hopefully this quick summary entices you to grab a copy and read the next installment in the Faraday Murder Series.)

After writing a new book I always look forward to chatting with my readers. In addition to questions about the current book they always want to know about my writing process. Do I  write at the same time each day? Do I outline my stories? Where do I get my ideas for plots and characters, etc., etc.? In this blog I’m going to spend a few moments answering questions about characters ─ specifically some of the characters from Take Stock in Murder.


Let me first introduce a new character that comes to live with Carrie and Charles Faraday in their home. Although he is not human, he is a very special addition to the family. They have adopted a stray cat they name Baxter. Baxter is an orange Maine Coon cat and yes he’s based on a similar cat that was part of my family. While Baxter is just a kitten in this book, he will be back for additional appearances in future books. And he might just help with solving mysteries.

Christopher is Back

This is an example of listening to my readers about characters. The second book was almost complete when several readers asked if Christopher would return. I originally did not have him scheduled to make an appearance in the second offering. However, by popular request Christopher was written into the plot and does make a brief appearance. However, I assure his fan club that in future books he will be back. In fact in the planned fourth book he joins his aunt and uncle to help solve a murder at a haunted inn.

Naming Characters

The other question I’m often asked by the readers is how I pick a character’s name. My first rule is that I never use the name of anyone I know for one of the main characters and absolutely never for the villain.

My characters are purely fiction. I draw upon personality traits of many people I have met. I wouldn’t want any one individual to think that a character was based entirely on them. So I deliberately choose names not associated with people I know. However, just for fun I do occasionally use names of family members for minor characters.

Selecting First Names

Names go through generational or popularity periods. The names I use for my characters in their fifties are different from the names I pick for my thirty year old characters. For instance, a couple of new characters introduced in Take Stock in Murder are Madge Luther and Marge Millford. These two sisters own the local book store and are in their fifties. Somehow names like Courtney, Ashley, or Shelby don’t seem to fit their age bracket or their personalities. On the other hand Madge and Marge seem just right for these older ladies.

Selecting Last Names

How do I pick last names? I keep a notebook of possible names. However, even with this rather large list I still get stumped.

In the current book, I needed a last name for the murder victim and his family. I wanted a name that implied wealth and social status. I didn’t want to be too obvious by using a name like Worth.

I struggled for several weeks and then while driving home I found my name. I was stopped at a red light and there was a house with a neon sign advertising psychic readings. The name of the psychic was Mrs. Barrington. Even though the professions of my financial family and the psychic couldn’t be farther apart— the name works.

So there you have it─a little bit of information about the book and some insight into my characters.

I hope you enjoy this latest book because Carrie and Charles will be back. Book three is underway and is called Take a Byte out of Murder. It involves murder at a software company owned by Carrie’s father.


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Poirot Crossword Puzzle Solution

I know you got all the answers correct! But just in case you want to double check–here’s the solution.


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Hercule Poirot–Crossword Puzzle

In the puzzle below are some of the most notable characteristics of Poirot along with his supporting characters and episode titles drawn from the last 25 years of the Poirot series. Here’s a chance to test your knowledge of Hercule Poirot.



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25 Years of Poirot

It’s amazing how quickly twenty-five years can pass by, especially when a good mystery is involved like Poirot. It’s hard to believe the last episodes featuring David Suchet as Hercule-Poirot-Image 2Hercule Poirot are complete and will air on PBS.

The star has filmed 70 episodes based on the 33 novels and dozens of short stories featuring Agatha Christie’s odd little detective. The first show premiered in 1989 with The Mysterious Affair at Styles and is ending with Christie’s final Poirot tale – Curtain.

Who Is Hercule Poirot

Christie drew inspiration for her detective from the Belgium refugees arriving after WW I, but she also admits that she followed the format established by Arthur Conan Doyle for his Sherlock Holmes stories. Like Holmes, Poirot is an eccentric and egotistical detective.

Hastings was introduced as the “Watson-like” story telling assistant, who is constantly amazed and confounded by the detective’s capabilities. And don’t forget the Scotland Yard Inspector, Japp, who relies on Poirot to spot the important clues that have slipped by him.

Christie may have initially followed the Doyle format; however, she developed an intriguing detective of her own. He had his own distinctive personality and unique methods for solving crime. Poirot believed that “the truth had a habit of revealing itself” and felt in his brain within “the little grey cells lies the soul of every mystery.”

The reader soon discovers Poirot’s characteristics and habits make him standout from all the other detectives. This is how Arthur Hastings first describes Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles;

…an extraordinary-looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. 

It has been said that the key to understanding Poirot’s character is in his moustaches.  He demonstrates a meticulous method for taking care of them and he applies this same meticulous method for solving crime.

Christie’s View of Poirot  Agatha Christie

Christie once commented that she wished she had created a younger Poirot and then they could have grown old together. Instead, while his specific age is never mentioned, it is obvious that Poirot is older and clearly set in his ways.

Christie was not a fan of her detective and called her him lots of names including bombastic, egocentric, detestable, tiresome and of course odd. However, regardless of her personal dislike, Christie felt that if her public enjoyed Poirot she would continue to feature him in her stories.

The Last Story

The final Poirot book, Curtain, was kept in a bank vault with the understanding that it would not be released until after Christie’s death.  However, the decision was made to release the book in 1975. In this story Poirot solves one last case before his death. Just prior to the publication of Curtain, The New York Times printed a front page obituary in memory of Hercule Poirot.

Hercule Poirot Is Dead: Famed Belgian Detective

Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who became internationally famous, has died in England. His age was unknown. Mr. Poirot achieved fame as a private investigator after he retired as a member of the Belgian police force in 1904. His career, as chronicled in the novels of Dame Agatha Christie, was one of the most illustrious in fiction.

At the end of his life, he was arthritic and had a bad heart. He was in a wheelchair often, and was carried from his bedroom to the public lounge at Styles Court, a nursing home in Essex, wearing a wig and false moustaches to mask the signs of age that offended his vanity. In his active days, he was always impeccably dressed.

The news of his death, given by Dame Agatha, was not unexpected. Word that he was near death reached here last May. Dame Agatha reports in “Curtain” that he managed, in one final gesture, to perform one more act of cerebration that saved an innocent bystander from disaster. “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it,” to quote Shakespeare, whom Poirot frequently misquoted. ” 

Poirot’s Portrayer

David Suchet is a fine actor and was approved by the family to take on the role. And the critics seem to agree that he is the consummate Poirot. When the audience looks at Suchet they find the Poirot they imagine when they read the books and stories.

Christie may have built a very specific personality for her odd little detective, but Suchet and the series have allowed subtle enhancements to expand his defined characteristics. For instance over the seventy episodes they allowed Poirot to age. His moustaches are thinner and graying and his walk has slowed with a noticeable stiffness. His gourmet diet and his fondness for Belgium chocolates have gradually added to his waistline.

We may not find much emotion in the written word, but Suchet has added little touches of sentiment to his portrayal. Christie always gives Poirot his big moment on stage when he gathers all the suspects for the reveal. In Suchet’s performance we can actually see the anger and disgust he expresses to the murderer for taking a life.

We witness other emotions with Suchet’s portrayal. There is decided twinkle in his eye when he puts one over on Hastings and a special smile in appreciation for Miss Lemon’s office skills. But even deeper emotions occasionally seep in.  We see the sadness of what might have been as Poirot says his farewell to the Countess Rossakoff in The Double Clue or the sincere pleasure in The Chocolate Box episode when Poirot discover one of his friend’s sons is named after him. And could that be a tear in Poirot’s eye as he stands next to Ariadne Oliver and realizes the power of love at the end of The Third Girl episode.

However, while we have these little additions to the character, make no mistake the series doesn’t waiver on Poirot basics. For example, even though they are completely out of fashion Poirot continues to wear spats and uses pince-nez for his reading glasses.  And of course throughout the series the ‘greatest detective’ continues to rely on his little gray cells to solve the crime.

Good News–There’s More to Come

Before we all go into Poirot withdrawal there is hope. The family has authorized a New Poirot Booknew Poirot book called The Monogram Murders written by Sophie Hannah. So there is yet another story for all of us devoted Poirot fans to read. And who knows perhaps another show to be filmed.

But for now Goodbye Poirot—thank you David Suchet—and of course thank you Agatha Christie.


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Women Detectives–Word Search Solution

Here is the solution for the Women Detectives word search. Did you find all of these great female sleuths? There are so many wonderful women detectives we have barely broken the ice. Watch for more puzzles featuring female detectives.


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Women Detectives-Word Search

Here’s a fun puzzle to see if you can spot some of the women super sleuths found in books and appearing on TV shows. Solution will be available next week.


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Charlie Chan Movie Titles–Word Search — Solution

Did you find all the words from the movie titles? Just a note–with the exception of the four lost films–these titles have been re-released and  are available for purchase if you want to add them to your mystery movie collection.

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Charlie Chan Movie Titles – Word Search

Earl Derr Biggers wrote only six Charlie Chan books before his untimely death at the age of 48. However from those six books there were numerous movies developed over many decades. Below are some of the early movies featuring the actors most associated with playing Chan–Oland, Toler and Winters. Can you find all the titles?

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Charlie Chan Movies

It’s generally accepted that Earl Derr Biggers enhanced the image of the Chinese race with his portrayal of Charlie Chan in his books. The character he developed was not the stereotypical evil China man from the underbelly of Chinatown. Instead Chan was a hard working middle class policeman with many children and a loyal wife who maintained his Honolulu home while he traveled the world solving crime. He was smart and smarter than his police counterparts and the villains he captured. He was humble, polite and patriotic often pointing out he was not Chinese.

Biggers’s books were made into movies without controversy and were very successful both in America and China. However, in more recent times, especially when Fox wanted to do a Charlie Chan Film Festival in 2003, controversy developed surrounding the casting and the roles of the actors.  What are the movie issues?

Movie Controversy

The first criticism is that an Asian actor did not play the part of Charlie Chan. This is not completely accurate since the first movies did feature Asian actors. However, these films were not box office successes. Additionally, the studio felt that just because an actor wasn’t Asian didn’t mean he couldn’t play a particular role. A good actor can play any role.

Second there is controversy surrounding the portrayal of African American characters in the films. They are placed in positions where they are often silly and sometimes appear stupid. However, others will defend these portrayals as simply part of the comic relief format always included in the films.

Comic Relief

In Charlie Chan in Honolulu on board the ship are a lion tamer and his wandering lion that provide the comedy for this film. In The Black Camel the assistant policeman, Kashimo, runs around like a fool finding ‘clues’ to impress Chan. This same format is used when one of Charlie Chan’s children appear in the film as “Pops” assistant. The kids are usually following the wrong clues and provide humor as they interfere with the older and wiser parent’s solution of the case. And when African American, Mantan Moreland, appears as Birmingham Brown he is usually frightened by the crime and spends his time running from the murder scene and the suspects. This portrayal is not complimentary but follows the same comic relief pattern. The portrayal of African American and Asian characters was influenced by the times and although the times are no excuse they do help to provide an explanation.

A Closer Look at the Films

There were three early film versions of Charlie Chan from 1925-1929 each played by a different Asian actor. Then 44 movies were produced from 1931-1949 with three different American actors.

The first two Chan novels were made into silent movies by Pathé Studios and Universal Pictures and then Fox film Corporation paid a handsome sum for the rights to the third Chan, Behind that Curtain. In this film version Charlie is played by E.L. Parks an Asian actor. However, the movie focus is on a Scotland Yard inspector and Chan only plays a minor role. In fact Chan doesn’t appear until the very end of the picture in time to nab the bad guy.

Warner OlandCharlie Chan Carries On poster

The fifth Chan novel Charlie Chan Carries On was also purchased by Fox and unlike their previous film they did not cast an Asian actor. Instead in 1931 Fox introduced Swedish born actor Warner Oland in the role of Charlie Chan. The film was an immediate success and Fox followed this success by purchasing the rights to The Black Camel. Oland claimed he had Mongolian heritage and perhaps this was the reason he needed very little make-up to achieve the Chan look. He also had experience playing Asian roles in his previous movie appearances, but these roles were the usual stereotypical evil Chinese villains.

Oland played Chan as a more gentle and self-effacing character downplaying the superior attitude of the Chinese detective in the books. Oland often starred with Keye Luke who played Charlie’s “number one son” Lee Chan.  Oland’s humor in the role of parent helped make the character and the films quite popular.

The Loss of Oland

Oland was working on the film Charlie Chan at the Ringside.  He is said to have told the crew he needed a drink of water and walked away never to appear on the film set again. He returned to his native Sweden for a rest and died there in 1938 after having appeared in 16 Charlie Chan films.  His last film was changed to Mr. Moto’s Gamble starring Peter Lorre. The film footage already shot with Keye Luke playing Lee Chan was kept and new footage was added with Peter Lorre.

Fox thought about doing a “Son of Chan” series featuring Keye Luke in the title role but then decided to look for another Chan. Key Luke’s contract was not renewed for the new Chan films, although he later reprised his role in the last two films with Roland Winters.  Sen Young replaced Luke and played number two son, Jimmy Chan.

Finding a New Chan—Sidney Toler Toler-color

Because of Oland’s popularity the studio knew it would be difficult to replace him and they tested thirty-five different actors for the role. Eventually Fox settled on Sidney Toler and produced 11 more Chan films with him through 1942.

Toler was originally a stage actor and knew all about the theatre and even managed several production companies. He had written numerous plays for summer stock theatres and made a good living from the royalties.

Toler’s Chan wasn’t as mild-mannered as Oland’s portrayal and Toler brought back some of the flavor of the detective from the books. The first film featuring Toler was Charlie Chan in Honolulu.  To help the audience accept Toler the setting for this film was Chan’s home state of Hawaii and featured his wife and children.

Fox Drops Out 

Fox decided not to produce any additional Chan films and their last film Castle in the Desert didn’t mention Charlie Chan in the title. Toler asked to purchase the film rights and Fox agreed although they maintained part ownership. Toler convinced Monogram Pictures to release the films and he continued to make Charlie Chan films until his death 1947. Toler appeared in 22 films between Fox and Monogram Studios.

Roland Winters

Roland Winters was the youngest actor to play Chan when he took over the role after Chan Sky DragonToler’s death. He was actually several years younger than Keye Luke who returned as number two son. Winters made six Chan films starting with The Chinese Ring and ending with Sky Dragon in 1949.


There were several screen writers for the Chan films but the two most famous were Robert Ellis and Helen Logan who began crafting scripts with Charlie Chan in Egypt. They were prolific writers and while writing the Charlie Chan series wrote for Shirley Temple, Jane Withers, Cisco Kid and also penned many Betty Grable musicals to name a few of their movie credits. They established the formula that each of the subsequent Chan movies followed.

The Lost Films

There are also four lost Chan films from this era of movies. Whether they deteriorated because of the quality of the film or poor storage we don’t know. There was also a lax studio policy at the time that allowed staff to borrow films for personal use. It is believed that some people didn’t return the films unaware they had the only available copy. Whatever the reason these films were lost: Charlie Chan Carries On (the first appearance by Warner Oland) Chan Chan’s Chance, Charlie Chan Greatest Case and Charlie Chan’s Courage.

The Chan films were one of Fox’s most successful series attracting major audiences and box office dollars on par with the “A” films of the day. The Chan films also helped to keep Fox afloat during the Great Depression.

While there were many adaptations of the Chan stories the films from this period are perhaps the best known. The good news is Fox has restored the films and they are available on DVD for today’s audiences to enjoy.

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Earl Derr Biggers

Charlie Chan the “Honorable” Detective  

House-without-key_coverEarl Derr Biggers was born in 1884 in Warren Ohio and was an American novelist and playwright. However he is primarily remembered for his books featuring the fictional Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan.

Biggers graduated from Harvard University in 1907 and by 1908 was hired at the Boston Traveler to write a daily humor column. It is said that this daily humor column helped him develop the witticisms that we later hear from detective Chan. This was also the place where he met his future wife, Elanor Ladd who would have a great influence on his writing.

Following the humor column Biggers became the paper’s drama critic. His reviews were incredibly blunt, too blunt and in 1912 he was fired. However, this job loss proved beneficial since it provided him with the time to work on his novel.

His first book Seven Keys to Baldpate was published in 1913.  George M. Cohan bought the dramatic rights and produced a stage play that enjoyed a lengthy run. This one book over the years was made into nine films (two under different names).  The 1917 film version featured a rare screen appearance by Cohan.  Then in 1935 Cohan wrote his own film version which is perhaps the most remembered of all the films produced. The popularity of this first novel lasted for over 30 years and the financial rewards allowed Biggers to earn his income as a writer but perhaps more importantly provided him with the financial stability to marry Elanor Ladd.

His next books Love Insurance 1914 and The Agony Column 1916 assured his success as a novelist. Love Insurance was also turned into the successful play See-Saw. Biggers threw himself into the role of the dramatist. He became more involved with the stage productions of his plays and the demands from this additional workload drained him physically.

In an attempt for a change in a more relaxing climate Biggers and his wife visited Hawaii in 1920. It was while he was on vacation in Honolulu that Biggers began to develop an idea for a new kind of hero.

However, it wasn’t until 1924 that Biggers decided to write a mystery novel with Hawaii as the location. He visited the library to do research and to help him recall the memories of his island visit. At the library Biggers read a newspaper story about the work of Sgt. Chang Apana of the Honolulu police and his unique approach to crime fighting. Charlie Chan is loosely based on this real-life Honolulu detective and he first appears in 1925 when The Saturday Evening Post carried the first installment of The House without a Key. The story was soon published by Bobbs-Merrill as a hardcover novel.

A Chinese detective portrayed in a positive light was a major departure from prevailing attitudes of the time towards the Chinese. Chinatown was always shown as a place that housed wicked Chinese villains like Fu Manchu, the Chinese Tongs and Opium dens where crimes went unpunished.

Chan in this first book was not the central character of the story and was not mentioned on the book cover. (See cover above) The main character of the book was a young Boston native John Quincy Winterslip. While Winterslip was the romantic interest in the book it was Chan that captured the reader’s attention.

Detective Charlie Chan is called upon to solve a murder committed at a beach house and ends up saving Winterslip’s life.  Chan is described as being very fat and walking with a light dainty feminine step. Clearly these are not the characteristics of the stereotypical chinese male.

Chan is accommodating and unthreatening and Biggers once commented, “It struck me that a Chinese hero trustworthy, benevolent and philosophical would come nearer to presenting a correct portrayal of the race.”  Chan like many Golden Age detectives was known for his powers of observation, logic, and personal humility which made him an “honorable” man.

Positive public reception led to the second book The Chinese Parrot. Then a third Chan story followed called Behind That Curtain. The Saturday Evening Post paid $25,000 for the serial rights to this third book which was a huge sum at that time. The first two stories had been made into silent films and Fox purchased the right to this third story.

While Biggers was happy with Charlie Chan’s success he was concerned that the public would only want books about the detective and limit his writing options. However in 1929 when the stock market crashed Biggers relied on a proven product and produced his fourth Chan story The Black Camel.

For Biggers fifth novel Charlie Chan Carries On Fox again purchased the film rights and unlike previous unsuccessful films featuring Asian actors this production would star an American actor, Warner Oland. The Keeper of the Keys in 1932 would be Biggers final Charlie Chan mystery. This book was made into a play and opened on October 18, 1933 closing only one month later.

Earl Derr Biggers died of a heart attack on April 5, 1933 at the age of 48. Biggers was a master of plot and characterization and incorporated humor and timing in his Chan character.  Biggers six Charlie Chan novels continue to hold their own among mystery fans.

Today Charlie Chan is perhaps less known for the books that featured him compared to the large number of movies that were produced with Chan as the lead detective. We’ll talk more about Charlie Chan movies in the next blog.


Biggers 6 Charlie Chan Books

The House Without a Key (1925)

The Chinese Parrot (1926)

Behind That Curtain (1928)

The Black Camel (1929)

Charlie Chan Carries On (1930)

Keeper of the Keys (1932)


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Pulp Magazine Writers-Word Search-Solution



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Pulp Magazine Writers-Word Search

Listed below are the names of writers who wrote stories for Pulp Magazines. Although not all mystery writers, see if you can find all the names in Capital letters to complete the word search puzzle.



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Black Mask Magazine

black_mask_192804In a previous blog we discussed pulp magazines as an important publishing outlet for many writers and especially writers of mystery and detective stories. In this blog let’s focus on one of the more popular of these magazines–Black Mask.

H.L. Mencken

The Black Mask was launched in 1920 by H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan with an investment of five hundred dollars. I’m fond of this magazine for two reasons:  first, I live near the city of Baltimore and one of the founders, H.L. Mencken, a writer with the Baltimore Sun, remains a journalistic idol. Second, it’s the magazine that published the stories of Daly, Hammett, Gardner and Chandler and was known for developing the hard-boiled detective.

The magazine was started by the founders to generate dollars to support their literary magazine Smart Set which did not make money. Originally, The Black Mask was not dedicated to crime fiction but actually five magazines in one. According to the publishers the magazine offered the best available of adventure stories, mystery and detective stories, romance stories, love stories and the best stories of the occult.

New Ownership Brings More Crime

After producing just eight issues, Mencken and Nathan sold the magazine for $12,500 to Eltinge “Pop” Warner and Eugene Crowe, the publisher’s of both The Black Mask and Smart Set magazines. They published the magazine for two decades and during their ownership they moved the focus to hard-boiled stories filled with action.  

Editor Joseph “Cap” Shaw

Joseph Shaw was appointed editor in 1926 and promptly dropped “The” changing the magazine’s name to Black Mask. Shaw was an excellent editor but he was also known for his ability as a great writing coach and for seeking out new writers for the publication.  Although the magazine continued to publish some adventures and westerns, Shaw began to feature less of these genres and more and more of mystery, crime and detective stories.

Additionally Shaw often wrote editorials for the magazine on crime related topics like the jury system and gun control. He believed crime fiction had a moral responsibility. He held that criminals were always caught and that villains always received just punishment.

The detective stories appearing in Black Mask were more violent than other magazines. The detectives were wise-cracking and hard-boiled who often imposed their own version of justice on the criminals.

By December 1933 the magazine was publishing only crime stories. Its circulation had risen from 66,000 to over 103,000 per issue with a cover price of twenty cents.

1935 – The Next Phase

The magazine now had lots of competitors and circulation by 1935 had dropped back to 63,000. The owners wanted to cut the writer’s pay to offset the loss of subscribers. Shaw objected to this move and when the feud escalated he was fired. Many of the writers he recruited went with him when he left.

The first issue of 1937, after Shaw’s departure, listed F. Ellsworth as editor. The “F” stood for Fanny. Unlike Shaw who favored the hard-boiled detective, she wanted a softer and more emotional detective. These were the depression years and the action detective was replaced by a crime fighter who was often powerless against forces beyond his control but persevered to search for the truth. Even with this new approach the magazine continued to lose circulation and was sold to its competitor Dime Detective in 1940.

The End of Black Mask

Another editor was brought in who tried to return the magazine to the hard-boiled detective days of the past. During World War II the owners featured stories on spies and sabotage, designed covers with more sex and violence, reduced the size, raised the price and lowered the numbers of issues published annually. But like all pulp magazines they were up against the change in the reader’s habits. Readers now listened to radio, went to movies, read comics and bought cheap paperbacks. The magazine struggled through the 40’s and eventually ceased publication in 1951.

In 1985 there was an attempt to revive the magazine under the name The New Black Mask and featured noted crime writers like James Ellroy, Michael Collins and Sara Paretsky. The magazine also reprinted the original stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. However, the magazine stopped publication in 1987 when they faced legal issues concerning the use of the name.

The First Crime Writers

One of the early contributors to the magazine was Carroll John Daly. Although Daly is best known for his character Race Williams, considered the first hard-boiled detective, Daly’s first “tough” detective story was Three Gun Terry featuring Terry Mack. Daly along with Dashiell Hammett is considered the writer of the original hard-boiled detective story. Hammett’s first published story in Black Mask in 1922 was The Road Home, although he published it using the pseudonym Peter Collinson.  Erle Stanley Gardner’s first story, The Shrieking Skeleton was also published under the pen name of Charles M. Green and Raymond Chandler’s first story Blackmailers Don’t Shoot was published in 1933. The magazine also featured complete novels serialized over several issues starting with the September issue of 1929 featuring the first installment of The Maltese Falcon.

The Importance of Black Mask

Black Mask had an important role in the history of detective stories. It was an incubator for the development of the detective genre but it was also an outlet for many of the best crime writers to get their stories before the reader. During its existence over 600 authors were published in Black Mask and readers were entertained with more than 2,500 stories.


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Pulp Fiction

Aside from the movie of the same name what was Pulp Fiction and more importantly what was its influence on the mystery genre?

Pulp Fiction

Pulp fiction refers to stories that were published in magazines from 1896 through the 1950’s.  The magazines were sized at 7 x 10 and contained over 100 pages of stories. They were named “Pulp” because the magazines were printed on cheap paper with ragged, untrimmed edges. The paper contained more wood pulp and these fiber flecks could be seen in the off-white sheets. This paper was not refined or polished like the type used in the more expensive magazines called “Slicks.”

The First Pulp Magazine

The first Pulp was Frank Munsey’s Argosy magazine published in 1896. Argosy represented the true pulp format with almost 200 pages on cheap paper with no illustrations inside and no art on the cover. It provided affordable entertainment for the working class. The stories included adventure, sports, crime, war, spicy, science fiction, westerns, romance and other themes not found in most Slicks but yet very attractive to this new readership.  Within six years Argosy’s circulation grew from a few thousand to a half million in subscriptions

The Popular Magazine

The next major Pulp magazine was from Street and Smith. They saw the success of Argosy and launched their own Pulp called The Popular Magazine in 1903. They also made some notable changes to Pulp magazines. The first change was the addition of color covers designed by distinguished artists and illustrations on the inside pages. They also offered stories that were serialized over several issues which kept the readers coming back. After the success of their first magazine they added individual magazines dedicated to specific genres like mystery, romance and science fiction.

Sensational Covers

Of course once these two magazines established the standards many more followed. Pulps became known for their edgy exploitative stories. Covers were now printed on slick paper while the inside text continued to be printed on cheap pulp paper. Covers were sensational and known for their half dressed damsels in distress. Sometimes covers were designed first and then the author was asked to write material to match the cover art.

Pulp Pricing

The first Pulp magazines sold for ten cents each. This price was much lower than the up-scale Slick magazines which generally sold for twenty-five cents. The lower prices made it affordable entertainment for the working class and were filled with stories they found interesting.

Pulps kept their cost down by paying the writers less than the going rate for stories. However, they paid the writer upon acceptance. This kept many starving writers from having to wait until their stories were published before they received money for their work.

The Writers

Pulps were a good outlet for new writers who wanted to get published because the Pulps needed lots of stories. In fact some new writers, liked Upton Sinclair before his novel fame, worked full time for the Pulps churning out story after story. Many writers used multiple pseudonyms in order to have more than one story appear in the same issue.

Well-known writers also benefitted from the Pulps which helped to keep their names before the public in between major works. At their peak in the 1920’s and 30’s the most successful pulp magazines were selling 1 million copies per issue providing great visibility for the writer.

The End of Pulp Fiction

World War II impacted the Pulps due to the rising cost of paper as a result of wartime shortages. Starting in 1941 because of paper shortages well known Pulps like Ellery Queen’s Mystery magazine switched to a smaller digest size. This new size with glossy covers and better inside paper were now considered slicks.

The Pulps continued to decline due to the publication of new men’s adventure magazines, television and comic books. In fact many of today’s comic books are the result of the Pulp magazine era.

Additionally many of the Pulp magazine companies became paperback publishers and began to offer “dime” novels.  Some of these novels were based on expanding stories previously published in their Pulp magazines.

The Importance of Pulps

Pulp magazines were important for writers because they were the largest single outlet for the publication of short stories and helped launched many writers’ careers. And for the mystery genre Pulp magazines established and fostered a place for the hard-boiled detective and many other mystery stories.

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Murderous Book Titles Word Search– Solution

Here’s your answer key. Did you find all the titles with the word “MURDER” in them?

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