Writing Tip — Favorite Stories

bookw-1076196_1280For some reason, mysteries and Christmas seem like a natural fit. Perhaps it’s because Christmas celebrates one of histories greatest mysteries, God becoming fully human.

Christmas mysteries have a long tradition. Christmas Eve, before TV and radio, was the time to tell ghost stories. In 1892, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote “The Blue Carbuncle”, in which Sherlock Holmes solves a mystery just a few days after Christmas, all due to an acquaintance finding a stolen jewel in the crop of his Christmas goose. The ending works in very naturally a demonstration of the Christmas spirit

619tzntvatl-_sx380_bo1204203200_If you are in the mood to mix mysteries with your holiday cheer, check out The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler. This wonderful book has mystery short stories for any taste — funny, supernatural, hard-boiled, or classic. Here are some of my favorites.

“The Blue Carbuncle” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A clever mystery and a lot of fun.

“The Flying Stars” by G.K. Chesterton. Father Brown confronts a jewel thief.

“Christmas Party” by Rex Stout. Archie Goodwin witnesses a murder at a party, and his boss, genius Nero Wolfe, must avoid becoming a suspect. This is one of my favorite Nero Wolfe stories because, in his peculiar way, Wolfe shows how much he values Archie.

“A Scandal in Winter” by Gillian Linscott. A young girl involves herself in an investigation conducted by an elderly Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I don’t like romance, but the romantic reason Sherlock Holmes is trying to clear a recent widow of suspicion of murder hooked me.

“The Killer Christian” by Andrew Klavan. A hit man finds salvation in a very moving and funny story with an ending that always makes me smile. I mentioned this story in my post about the author.

“Dancing Dan’s Christmas” by Damon Runyon. How Dancing Dan unloads some hot gems and avoids a nasty fate in 1930’s New York.

Bonus Stories

“Three Wise Guys” in Guys and Dolls by Damon Runyon Some crooks travel to rural Pennsylvania to recover stolen money. In another post, I wrote how much I love Damon Runyon’s Broadway short stories and to appreciate his writing style, you need to imagine the story being told with a thick New Yawk accent.

51s7yianu4l-_sx328_bo1204203200_Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha ChristieFormerly entitled Murder for Christmas and A Holiday for Murder. I wrote in my post about Agatha Christie that this is one of my favorites among her novels. It captures my idea of a holiday family reunion going as badly as you can imagine.

What are your favorite Christmas reads, mysterious or not?

 

 

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — Andrew Klavan

51gk8tm5wilSince I have only read two stories by Andrew Klavan, I can’t call him a favorite author, but I have enjoyed  his YA Christian fiction novel If We Survive and the short story “The Killer Christian”.

If We Survive is told from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Will who, with two other teenagers, a college student, and their pastor, is on a mission trip in a South American country. Right before they are scheduled to leave, a communist coup takes place. In the small village where they were staying, the rebels target them because they are Americans. Their only hope of escape is the ex-Marine who is their pilot.

I like If We Survive for several reasons. It’s one of the few YA Christian fiction novels I have found that has a realistic setting – no fantasy or science fiction elements. It also has a male protagonist. If a YA novel has a contemporary setting, it is usually a romance told from a girl’s point of view. The action sequences held my attention and are very appealing for a teen audience.

Will is written in a way teens can relate to, but I wish the supporting characters were more distinct. I do like the change Nikki goes through. The other female character seems to good to be true, but Will is describing her and he has a crush on her.

To learn more, check out If We Survive on Goodreads.

8487876I was introduced to Mr. Klavan in the short story collection Christmas at the Mysterious BookshopThe title of Mr. Klavan’s story “The Killer Christian” caught my attention. Then I read the first paragraph:

“A certain portion of my misspent youth was misspent in the profession of journalism. I’m not proud of it, but a man has to make a living and there it is. Most importantly, I learned how to be painstakingly honest and lie at the same time. That’s how the news business works. It’s not that anyone goes around making up facts or anything – not on a regular basis anyway. No, most of them time, newspeople simply learn how to pick and choose which facts to tell, which will heighten your sense that their gormless opinions are reality or at least delay your discovery that everything they believe is provably false. If ever you see a man put his fingers in his ears and whistle Dixie to keep from hearing the truth, you may assume he’s a fool, but if he put his fingers in your ears and starts whistling, then you know you are dealing with a journalist.”

With an opening like that, I had to read more. I won’t tell you any more about the story but if you like to read Christmas stories at Christmas, save this one as a present for yourself. The ending, in keeping with Christian beliefs, is great and always moves me. It’s one of my favorite Christmas stories.

 

 

 

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