It’s a mystery

Here’s a great article that talks about how to write ‘as’ a thing: detective, coroner, attorney, eulogist. I love it: “Murder! (Rhetorically Speaking)” by Janet Boyd. I’ve used this in several classes before when the students and I had to “solve” a murder (if the link fails, copy and paste this:–murder-rhetorically-speaking).

In your groups, you’ll be dealing with a real mystery and real information–an unsolved mystery–but you’ll be solving the crime with additional and made-up facts which you’ll include in your solution. Each member of a group does his or her own thing. Be a coroner, a professional sleuth, private investigator, copper, or an attorney. But you can all share research. You can even all come up with different solutions if you like. This is a creative and fun project–with research because you have to KNOW the crime, but you get to be creative, too. Because the real crime is unsolved, you can decide what’s been missing that is needed to “solve” the crime.

You could stumble upon evidence of some kind that you unearth in a forgotten case file, archive, closet. You could re-interview the suspects and one could break and confess to you. You could find a new witness that no one knew about before. You decide how you want to play it depending on your role. Apply what you’ve learned about detecting and how folks “play” the game from what we’ve read so far. Nothing fancy. Play and have fun. This is a case of “you’ve read the genre, now write something in it.” This doesn’t need to be perfect nor does it need to be aligned with anyone in your group other than in content.

So. For. Instance. You could write something hard boiled and another person in your group could write something ala Mrs. Pollifax (although, technically, the Mrs. Pollifax book are spy fiction, it’s a good example of the silliness possible in the telling of thrilling stories).

You could write a police report, a coroner’s report, an attorney’s summation notes, a eulogy, a diary from the perspective of the murder victim. What matters most is that your group produces a variety of perspectives about the same crime. And has fun doing it.

What I want you to get at, in a casual and unplanned way, is something akin to the film Vantage Point. It’s about one event but told from a variety of points of view.  Or it’s predecessor in theory: Rashomon.

There will be three blog posts required (these are already listed in the reading/writing schedule):

July 14, Week 8, Long blog post #33

This is where you start to speculate, share research, talk about what you’ve learned and share what “role” or perspective you intend to write from. Please feel free to quote from the Boyd article to clarify your point. You might also want to share the details of the crime–perhaps in bullet point fashion (this could be the same bullet points for all group members).

July 21, Week 9, Long blog post #38

You write your story, share your perspective, solve the crime. And share with us YOUR solution. Voila. Do list your sources. (Any consistent fashion for listing references is fine–if you use MLA, though, please include links to any online material. Thanks!)

July 28, Week 10, Long blog post #43

Tell us about how you did it, why you picked the role you did, how your group worked together, how you managed the research–this is a meta thing, a reflection on the project: what worked, what didn’t what was fun, what was scary, what you enjoyed, what you learned, how did you love it, how you dreaded it, how it turned out great… (fingers crossed for that last).

And that’s about it. I’ve heard from some groups about size and topics. Please be sure you FB message me or email about what you want to do. You may, of course, use FB to organize yourselves–just let me know if you have any questions or need any help.



“Research Things” makes its debut

There’s a new blog roll, “Research Things.” It’s a small collection of podcasts and links to libraries and articles or sites about writing/research. Some are about crime fiction/detective fiction/mysteries. (The genre is not entirely and perfectly defined, so there’s a variety of resources.) Some are directly about writing issues (for the big mystery project) and some about research (about the same project)–you’ll need a methodology in order to do that work, some sense of what to do and how to do it.

In the links, you’ll find LOADS of sites to explore that will lead you directly to places like the British National Archives where you can find criminals of the past (see the gallery to the right for a collection of mugshots). Aside from the podcasts (which are very interesting), you’ll find some of the links may help you with your mystery/solution project. Please share with the group if you find other places worthy of exploration.

Do check out the podcast with P.D. James and Colin Dexter. Super cute and lovely and wonderful to hear the authors talking about detective stories and their respective creations, Adam Dalgliesh and Inspector Morse. It’s a about 15 minutes. Fun talk that connects directly with her book that we’re reading. Nice perspective on detective fiction now vs. detective fiction then–the Golden Age.

There are loads of these kinds of gems out there. Just scratch under the surface on the web, and you’ll find a goldmine of information. For instance, there’s a great review of the book, Detective Fiction and the Rise of the Forensic Science by Ronald R. Thomas in the Wilkie Collins Journal. This review made me want to own this book. Nice job, reviewer.

Also, you may want to just Google “detective fiction history” and see what you get. Another for instance: a regional library has a lovely little bit on the history of detective fiction. And here’s another intriguing and short piece: “From Sherlock to SVU.” I like this one from Indiana University: “The First Hundred Years of Detective Fiction, 1841-1941.” This last site lists over 100 authors you can peruse and choose to explore in the future (with some great but short plot summaries–some are spoiler alerts).

Whether all these sites are perfectly reputable or dicey sources, lengthy/in-depth or skimming the surface, you may decide as you search, but there is definitely no scarcity of materials for research on the novels, the genre(s), research methods, or writing processes.

Enjoy your explorations!


Launching “British Detective Novels”: whenever or 28 May 2014

British Detective Novels, Summer 2014: we officially launch… whenever. Or 28 May 2014.

Some of you have already begun. Some are working on it. I think most everyone has been added to our FB group page and some of you have already introduced yourselves. Welcome everyone! (Confession: I’m already having a great time. Your diverse interests and experiences will make this a wonderful learning opportunity for all of us.)

Things to check out as you prepare for your launch:

  • Meetups page: here you’ll find potential days/dates/times to gather together in person. (I’m not sure “meetups” is a real word, but I like it better than “meetings”–see what I mean at the end of this post. A friend gave me this poster years ago and I can’t get it out of my head. Thus: meetups.)
  • Reading & Writing Schedule: this is the narrative version of what we’re doing. This page has most of the details of what we’re reading, in what order, suggests foci or requires foci for certain blog posts or FB posts. As we need more details, they will be forthcoming and probably negotiated on FB.
  • Policies & Procedures: this page is the “official” syllabus or the rules by which we’ll function as a learning group. It includes details about letter grades, percentages for grades, policies of AUM, and so on. There’s one for the undergrad version, P&P: 4870; and one for the graduate version, P&P: 6870.
  • Checklist: here you’ll find a list of all the assignments for the blogs and FB. It’s a terrific way to be sure you’re doing what you need to be doing. It’s a “quantity” checklist to help you stay on track. We’ll work on quality issues as a group in FB (in a file).
  • About: see this page if you’re wondering about me. I sort of share some info about me on this page. But if you want to read more, I have a personal/professional blog, E.D. Woodworth Writes, that I wrote on for a number of years that I have moved to a hiatus position for the time being. I loved it though. I’ve also started a faculty blog for AUM. It’s about being a professor of English at AUM: An AUM Professor’s Blogapalooza. I’m not sure how it will evolve or if it will migrate to the AUM web site. For now, this is a bit about who I am.
  • Contact Information: how you can get in touch with me.
  • Ramblings: this started out with the doc I posted in FB about the class–books, how we’d work, and possible assignments–but I removed that and decided this page would best be served by actually posting my ramblings that may or may not have much to do with the class. You never know. Pirates and detectives–could be the next big genre mash-up.
Why I prefer "meetups" as a way to describe getting together.
Why I prefer “meetups” as a way to describe getting together. This tainted me. What else can I say? I learned to love demotivational posters after 15 years working on the sidelines and the grid iron of educational publishing. [Image source: Despair, Inc.]

Welcome to British Detective Novels, Summer 2014!

Welcome ENGL 4870 and ENGL 6870, British Detective Novels, Summer 2014!

I’m starting to get this site together. It’s going to be another week or so, but it will be super-uber-detailed since this will be a hybrid class. If you’ve taken a class with me before, sometimes, we go forward in a collaborative, organic movement. For this class, all deadlines will be clear and all work will be laid out ahead of time by date/criteria. It’s the only way we can do it with folks hither and yon all over the world.

For part of this class I’ll be in China and then in England. So I’ll be sharing my thinking (mini-written lectures and thoughts) via email, this blog, and FB. I’m not great at capturing myself on video because I hate to look at the finished product. Perhaps I’ll quash my petty vanity and do some of that, too. :-) (Don’t hold your breath, but stranger things have happened.)

AND that’s why we need clarity right from the beginning–I won’t be around in person every week to make things clear through conversation with elaborate physical gestures. I’ll include a checklist on one page that will help you keep track of the work you’re supposed to be doing, but it will also be listed on the reading & writing schedule page. Some of your readings will be chosen by you–that’s right, you’ll still get some say over what you do!

Just before class begins, you’ll be put in quad-blogs–groups of four or so in which you’ll very closely pay attention to each group member’s writing on your blogs. Everyone will work in FB throughout the course because that tool facilitates great conversation–and part way through the blog groups will change–of course, you can comment on and read anyone’s blog in the class.

Details, details, details. They’re coming soon!

So delighted to have you in this class. I cannot wait to get going.

Tips before we begin:

  1. Pick a television series with a detective or criminal investigation theme you’ll want to dig deep into–post your pick on FB. You don’t need to follow a series or watch an entire series. You can watch a film, or watch a few episodes of a series (British, please, or if American–be sure to note the contrasts).
  2. Start reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It’s long. It’s good but it’s long.



British Detective Novels, ENGL 4870 and 6870, Summer 2014