At the Scene, November 2011 Solving the mystery of what to read next!
In this Issue
Anne Perry on Dante's Inferno
The Blond Leading the Blond Review
NEW2011 MS Sale
Anne Perry reflects on Dante's Inferno, Jayne Ormerod's Blond Leading the Blond web exclusive review, holiday gift ideas, and One for the Money at the movies!
November kid pick: When Alex Parakeet's secret pie recipe is stolen, he and fellow 11-year-old sleuth Yasmeen Popp race to find the thief, recover the recipe, and save the day.
As I write this, Holiday Issue #122 is just getting ready to go to print for late-November newsstands.
You can look forward to a conversation with Marcia Muller, creator of the groundbreaking female private eye Sharon McCone. Margaret Maron describes the fateful meeting of her two detectives, Sigrid Harald and Deborah Knott, and we consider the UK series Garrow's Law which was based on a real-life 18th-century barrister sometimes called the 'Robin Hood of the Old Bailey." Also Jon L. Breen rounds up the year's best legal thrillers, and Lawrence Block continues his informal memoirs in "The Murders in Memory Lane."
Plus, there's the next installment of our book collecting series, a whole slew of great new book, DVD, audiobook, and other reviews, and, of course, the annual Mystery Scene Gift Guide, a stockingful of fun ideas for your crime and mystery lover.
Anne Perry on Dante's Inferno
We are not punished for our sins, but by them
Dante Alighieri in a 14th century painting attributed to Giotto, in the chapel of the Bargello Palace in Florence.
The book whose philosophy has held me more than any other is Dante's Inferno, written around 1310. I read
it haltingly in Italian, and with speed and joy in English (preferably the Dorothy L. Sayers translation, with captions and fascinating footnotes). There is passion and music in it, wit, character, and imagination
to equal that of any sci-fi or horror story. And the plot carries you forward at a hectic pace, always wondering what next.
Why do I care? We spend our lives fascinated with mankind, and with the quest to understand good and evil. Dante encapsulates the soul of it in his vision showing how we are not punished for our sins, but by them. It is not an external thing visited upon us by God, or fate. It is an internal change we have wrought in ourselves. Each bad choice diminishes us in a particular way, just as each good one adds to us.
His classification of sins is most thought-provoking. Lightest are the sins of the Leopard - those of incontinence. In the middle are the sins of the Lion - those of violence. Deepest are the Sins of the Wolf - those of fraud, deceit and betrayal - a capacity peculiar to man.
Among these lowest are flatterers (debasing the means of communication between individuals): forgers (destroying the means of trade); propagandists (polluting all trust and belief between peoples). Pollution of the earth we now understand and condemn as damaging the very world we live in, and therefore all life. Who else grasped that in 1300?
For sheer enjoyment - and perhaps a touch of "schadenfreude," there are the grotesque punishments so exquisitely fitting the crimes - e.g., the lustful swept along by violent winds, never allowed to rest; thieves who now cannot possess even their own bodily forms and are forever changing. It gives the term "poetic justice" a whole new meaning.
And there is the beauty. In that terrible place you still see Christ "walking the waters of Styx with unwet feet."
Every time I return to it I am caught up in the power of Dante's imagination and made to think again "Am I turning myself into who I really want to be? If I saw my acts without the comfortable mask of self-delusion, would I still want them to be part of me?" Thank you, Dante Alighieri.
Anne Perry's latest book is A Christmas Homecoming (Ballantine, October 2011). www.anneperry.net
"Writers on Reading" is a special ongoing Mystery Scene series available as a first look exclusive to our newsletter subscribers.
The second part of my article, Writing the Killer Series, just hit the stands in this month's issue of Southern Writers Magazine.
The two-part article discusses eight major decisions that a writer needs to make before sitting down to begin the first book of what will become--fingers crossed--a series. In this second part, I cover things like:
Location: Fresh meat delivered to your door
Timing: Rip Van Winkle vs. Dorian Gray, your choice
Susan Reichert, editor of Southern Writers, calls the article "great" and says she got so much out of it that every writer needs to read it. High praise!
All the best,
Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including eight books in two different mystery series--one set in the High Country of North Carolina and the other outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A recent member of the National Board of Directors for the Mystery Writers of America, Sandy now splits her time between South Florida and North Carolina.