FFB: Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith

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I was sure I had written this up before but I searched for it and didn’t find it. This Sphere edition is so much nicer than the bland corporate packaging of the St Martin’s Griffin edition I did end up buying. When you’re on a Highsmith kick and buying everything, the covers are less important (though still proud to own the kickass edition of This Sweet Sickness).

There are two kinds of writers: those who are articulate about the process and those who are not (ditto most arts and artists). Highsmith is not one. If you want a handbook on the topic, this is not the one to teach you. Of course if your publisher offers to pay you to write one, most writers will accept the challenge. But this is not the Highsmith School of Suspense Fiction School, which she recognises. So she turns to the tortured history of her novel The Glass Cell (a good Film for a Friday) in hopes that it will clarify how she does what she does. The case study is so singular that it could hardly be useful in inspiring a budding writer.

Highsmith outlines the evolution of the novel, which ‘was not inspired by any specific story idea but evolved simply out of the desire to write such a book–which is perhaps no bad reason for writing a book’ (chapter 10). She traces the idea from a prisoner’s fan letter (‘I don’t think my books should be in prison libraries’), to reading a book about convicts, to developing intellectual rather than emotional’ threads ‘none of them spectacular’. After that she tries to add some motivation for the characters. A key turns into a dog. What ifs multiply. A wife becomes unfaithful. The first two versions were rejected by her publisher.

‘I thought my story was not bad, but perhaps it could be better. When one thinks this, even faintly, it is best to write it over.’

The interesting part of this book is of course her voice, the anecdotes and the little insights that she may not even realise she’s offering. Speaking of her admiration for Graham Greene Highsmith makes plain her pleasure in reading him. ‘There is no doubt that a study of the whole field of “the best” in suspense writing, whatever that is, can be of benefit professionally to a suspense writer, but I would just as soon not pursue this study.’

Highsmith, in all her ambivalence there — and it’s entertaining.

See all the overlooked gems at Patti Abbott’s blog.

Songfor a Saturday: Poppycock – Magical Mothers

December will be magic again! A stone groove from Poppycock.

#Noirvember Song for a Saturday: Ida Lupino – One for My Baby

Yeah, it’s all Ida this week. Impressing on my students the genius that she was. They watched this clip as an introduction. We discussed what they assumed to be going on in the scene based on their knowledge of noir now. They did pretty well. If you haven’t seen the film, it can be found in its entirety on the ‘tube.

‘She does more without a voice than anybody I’ve ever heard!’

How’s your #Noirvember going? Got a favourite noir tune?

Song for a Saturday: Witches’ Multiplication Table – Holger Czukay

It’s not an abacus. #RIP

Song for a Saturday: A Wren in the Cathedral – Sarah Angliss

Learn more about the video here. Check out Angliss’ latest album Ealing Feeder.

Rogue: Ryan Bracha

The very artsy Ryan Bracha, who came up with all the promo for this anthology and its trailer, too, shares a few facts with us today.

Who’s your rogue?

He’s an unnamed dad, estranged from the kid’s mum, taking his son out for his birthday. What starts out as a bitter reminiscence turns into something altogether more sinister.

What crime would you really want to get away with?

Big time hustler stuff, like, in a team of grifters, pulling huge cheeky scores over any one of the crooked scumbag millionaires we’re overrun with. I’d be known as The Wizard’s Sleeve.

What author can’t you do without?

Irvine Welsh. No question. His inventiveness with bringing a tale to life knows no bounds. If we’re talking crime fiction, I think Elmore Leonard takes some beating.

What movie best captures the criminal life?

Requiem for a Dream, or Trainspotting. The extreme lengths that people will go to, to feed addiction. That’s crime for me. The highs and lows of resorting to petty crime for a short term buzz.

Criminal mastermind or mild mannered dreamer?

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Www.Facebook.com/ryanbrachaauthor

@ryanbracha

Www.ryanbracha.webs.com

Buy it at Amazon US or UK.

Biscuits: A Little Noir Treat

A little video of my very brief noir tale featured in Extricate/Throw the Bones available of course from Fox Spirit Books. Enjoy.

You can also watch the book trailer for Extricate here.

Trailer for EXTRICATE

Here it is — the trailer for the new noir novella from Fox Spirit Books, EXTRICATE. It gives you the gist of the story along with some moody music.

Give it a like and feel free to share.