Sunday, August 02, 2009

Guest Blogger Charlotte Hinger






I am very pleased to host Charlotte Hinger today. Charlotte is a real live historian who applies her skills to writing both academic works and historical mysteries.  Her latest mystery novel, Deadly Descent, will be published by Poisoned Pen Press this month.

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Why I Fight


I’m asking for it, of course. Anyone who combines mystery writing with history writing is already a half a bubble off  plumb. Historians are a notoriously savage lot, and only the brave enter the academic arena.


 I’m quarrelsome and disagreeable by nature. My Daddy told me so. Although he sweetly pointed out that it wasn’t necessarily an unpleasant trait, it was simply a fact: I was born arguing. 

While defending an idea not only makes sense, and is expected with academic writing, why duke it out with fans over details in novels?


Because they are so often right, that’s why. Because I learn when they challenge information. Because it’s fun when a wicked bad fan bent on ruining my daily writing production sends me off on a trivial pursuit of a petty truth that will be of interest only to me. Because it’s good for me. Their questions remind me that someone, somewhere, is reading every single word and I’d better take care. Because I think it’s wonderful that someone is paying attention. God bless them, every one. And because I simply can’t help myself. 


So. Like, this has what to do with mysteries?  Elementary, my dear Watson. Historical investigation and the diabolical curiosity that drives us to write mysteries spring from the same region of the brain. Those of us who write mysteries simply can’t let unsolved thingys go. Historians can’t either. Whether it’s discovering a document that doesn’t make sense, or a object out of place, or a look in someone’s eye that seems “off,” the “who, what, when, where and why” soon drives us crazy.


Our readers have the same genetic deviation. The mysterious, a passion for puzzles, a love of intrigue, drives our beloved fans to buy our books. We wouldn’t have it any other way. However, then mystery novelists are disproportionately enticed into polite mini-brawls. On-line usually, attracting comments from fans who have their own opinions about accuracy.


Historians, on the other hand, are more likely to murder, attract murderers, or incite others to murder. There’s a lot at stake (besides tenure) in historical interpretation. Did the Holocaust happen? Was the destruction of the Antebellum South a tragedy? Did Canada just love all Vietnam draft evaders? Although we are cousins to investigative journalists, a historian’s ability to tell the truth is limited because we have to document every blessed thing under the sun.


 History is about people and novelists can best capture the glory and despair of human beings. I knew far more about the Taliban after reading A Thousand Splendid Suns than I learned from news articles. Greg Iles Black Cross taught about the terror of the Death Camps. Gone With The Wind, captures the agony of white Southerners forced to abandon their way of life, just as Beloved is a searing condemnation of the same experience. Who knew that Canadian’s were so divided over Vietnam? Vicki Delany’s In the Shadow of the Glacier wades right into this controversy.


Mysteries make history go down with a teaspoon of sugar. When I read a non-fiction article, I understand. When I read a great mystery based on facts, I know, with all my heart. 


The first book in my new mystery series, Deadly Descent, published by Poisoned Pen Press, will be released in September. It’s based on a historian who edits the county history books. I was in charge of just such a project in real life.


When my book comes out, I plan to fight with great authority. I think. 

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childhood listening to natural born liars inspired Charlotte Hinger to write Deadly Descent. Simon and Schuster published her historical novel, Come Spring.  Convinced that mystery writing and historical investigation go hand in hand, she applies her MA in history to academic articles and her depraved imagination to wicked short stories.    

 Charlotte's web address is http://www.charlottehinger.com


3 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

I'm looking forward to discussing this with you, Charlotte, at Bouchercon. I have had e-mails accusing me of using 'cleaned-up' records of the North West Mounted Police in the Klondike in my book Gold Digger. The record says there were no murders in Dawson in 1898, and if some people want to insist that there were unreported murders, what can I say? Perhaps there were unreported alien invasions as well. Hum, that would be an interesting plot line.

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Irene Bennett Brown said...

Charlotte, your remark, "History is about people and novelists can best capture the glory and despair of human beings" is so right. Give me characters who come to life in an expertly recorded time and place and I'm in heaven.Looking forward to reading Deadly Descent.