Prominent science fiction-fantasy writer Craig Shaw Gardner responded to a letter I wrote about Gregory McDonald on The Big Adios:
"About 30 years ago, I took a mystery writing course in Cambridge MA. that had guest lecturers. A very large number of mystery writers live in the Boston/Cambridge area, and a lot of these folks were quite famous (Lawrence Block, for example) But the guest I remembered best was Gregory McDonald, becauses of his thoughts on character. McDonald said that he first came up with the bare bones of his plot, but he would not feel comfortable writing the book until he understood each of his characters inside out. He would then take an object or piece of clothing that he believed would fit each character, and then keep it by his desk -- or wear it while he was writing -- as a sort of talisman (although he didn't use that word) the get inside his characters. Once he had done that, and figured out how his characters spoke and thought, the actual writing was relatively easy."
Strong December issues from both Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock:
EQ is packed with some of my favorite suspense writers including Clark Howard, Melodie Johnson Howe, Tom Tolnay. A special treat is a short story from Kevin Wignall who, to me, is one of the finest new crime writers in the world. With Jon L. Breen on books and Bill Crider on websites. A bargain as always.
AH The lead story "Guilt" by Gilbert M. Stack is one of the strongest stories I've read this year. And the other pieces, especially "Grave Trouble" by R.T. Lawton remind us are why we read mystery and crime fiction in the first place. There's even an Agatha Christie short story that holds up very well and reminds us that she was high concept long before that term came into fashion.