Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Kind of Stories I Write

Today on that excellent website,, Rob Lopresti raised the question of fair play in mysteries. In an Agatha Christie-style story, fair play is a vital necessity. You have to play fair with the reader. Red herrings are OK, but no missing or truly misleading clues allowed.
Being an average self-centered, egotistical person, I began thinking about the stories I write. They definitely are not Christie cozies where wealthy suspects gather at a country estate for a murderous weekend. Mine feature crude, coarse and often villainous people because I have spent a lifetime among such types. If I spent a weekend at a Rockefeller's estate I'd be one of the kitchen help, a guy never seen by the hoity-toity guests.
Politicians, cops, private eyes, reporters, armed robbers, murderers, those are the people I have associated with all my life. Crude, coarse, often villainous people, although each of those words would be redundant when preceded or followed by "politician." Or in many cases, cops.
In considering the kind of stories I write, let's examine one scheduled to appear in the June issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Two murders are committed by two different people for two different reasons. The narrator and others are aware of this, yet no one is arrested, charged and convicted. A private eye locates a man who has been missing for many years, but no explanation of how he did this is presented. The narrator takes liberties with his steady girlfriend that he has never taken before, yet what these liberties are is left to the imagination.
Or take a story scheduled for a later issue of AHMM. A murder is committed, but the chances of the man behind it ever being convicted are nil. A woman who helped stage the killing benefits to the tune of $25,ooo. The narrator arrives in town broke but leaves with close to a thousand bucks in his pocket.
Do either of these stories, both typical of the stuff I write, bear the slightest resemblance to a Christie cozy? Only to someone who believes a hamster resembles a gray wolf. Does either story fall under one of the accepted 13 sub-genres of mysteries? The second one is 1940s-style noir. The first falls under a category I invented myself earlier today in commenting on - "What the hell happened here?"
Does it really matter what type of story a person is writing? To some it does. Is it necessary to play fair? Absolutely. Does every little detail have to be explained in full? No, at least not in the stuff I write. What kind of writer am I? 1930s-40s pulp magazine writer. Proof of that can be found on the Thrilling Detective website where my stories are headed this way: WHO SAYS THEY DON'T WRITE THEM LIKE THEY USED TO. Some people wouldn't take that as a compliment. I do.
The moral of this piece, and this is the first time one has shown up, is simple: Don't Think, Just Write.


Blogger Robert Lopresti said...

"What the hell happened here?" is a pretty good subgenre. I tend to prefer "what the hell is going to happen here?"


10:22 PM  

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