Breaking the rules
In 1928 an article appeared in American Magazine entitled “Twenty rules for writing detective stories”. I had a quick scan to see how many I had broken or corrupted when writing Tarot’s Touch. Of course this book is not just a detective story. It is a murder mystery and the two central characters are detectives, but this book is really a romance (with a hint of kink!). I hope readers will forgive me for not living up totally to the rules of the murder-mystery genre.
Rule 3 states: “There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.”
Oops. Combining romance and detection is clearly a no-no, though I doubt in 1928 the author of this article gave much consideration to the possibilities of gay bdsm *grins*. Personally, I prefer my kink with a plot and I’ve never been known for sticking to the rules. On to rule 9:
“There must be but one detective–that is, but one protagonist of deduction–one deus ex machine. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader, who, at the outset, pits his mind against that of the detective and proceeds to do mental battle. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn’t know who his co-deductor is. It’s like making the reader run a race with a relay team.”
Well the author doesn’t specifically criticise two detectives. I’m grabbing at straws here because I have a wider team involved as well. But in my defence Alex and Conor would not work nearly as well without each other and they both need the irascible Sergeant Higgs to keep them in check.
Rule 16: “A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no “atmospheric” preoccupations. Such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action, and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion.”
This rule goes on a lot longer but this is one I’m happy to flout. Bringing readers in to a scene is a pleasure for me and good description adds to a story providing it gives the reader enough scope to fill in the details with their imagination.
Of the twenty rules, I’ve only broken three. I think that’s quite good going for a romance writer. The author of the rules finishes with a list of devices “which no self-respecting detective-story writer will now avail himself of. To use them is a confession of the author’s ineptitude and lack of originality.” I was a little apprehensive when I read this list, I’d hate to be branded as inept and unoriginal!
- Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect.
- The bogus spiritualistic séance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away.
- Forged finger-prints.
- The dummy-figure alibi.
- The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar.
- The final pinning of the crime on a twin
- The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops.
- The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in.
I think I’ve read stories at one time or another that use all of these devices, but thankfully they don’t appear in mine. It would be an interesting exercise to rewrite this list now, almost ninety years later. It seems to have stood the test of time, but maybe there are a few more that could be added. There may be a few romantic tropes in Tarot’s Touch, but at least the rule book is (almost) preserved.
Blurb for Tarot’s Touch:
This is book three in the Investigating Love series, see the full series listing here
Can truth be found in the cards?
DI Alex Courtney and his lover, DC Conor Trethuan are under enormous pressure as their team investigates an arson case and a murder.
It soon becomes apparent that the two cases are linked and the race is on to find a vicious killer. A tarot card is placed with the first victim and the detectives are left to interpret the clues it provides. When Conor receives a note from the killer making reference to another card, the whole team is shaken. Their worst fears are realized when a second body is discovered, along with another tarot card.
Conor suspects he has been followed then a hit and run leaves him injured. Alex wants nothing more than to wrap his lover up in cotton wool and protect him from the world. But is Conor the killer’s target or just a pawn in a much more sinister game? As the clues come together, it seems that the motive for murder might be revenge.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of genital bondage.
About LM Somerton:
Lucinda lives in a small village in the English countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, cows and sheep. She started writing to fill time between jobs and is now firmly and unashamedly addicted.
She loves the English weather, especially the rain, and adores a thunderstorm. She loves good food, warm company and a crackling fire. She’s fascinated by the psychology of relationships, especially between men, and her stories contain some subtle (and some not so subtle) leanings towards BDSM.