Saturday, 25 June 2011

Just Desserts

The closest my mother would get to science fiction was Star Trek. Most science fiction, in her opinion, was nihilistic and depressing. I tried to persuade her otherwise - with no success. There were no guarantees that she wouldn’t find the book too scary. Yet she surrounded herself with murder, mayhem and deceit - in a word, mysteries.

I grew up surrounded by my mother’s collection of mystery books. Some of the books by Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Ngaio Marsh had come with her from England before I was born. Other authors, like Ruth Rendell and Rex Stout she discovered since emigrating. I fed her addiction by introducing her to Sue Grafton and Charlotte Macleod, but I never really understood it until I had a few more years of life experience under my belt.

Unlike science fiction, you know a solution will be found in a mystery. No other genre of fiction guarantees that. Life sure as hell doesn’t!

Perhaps that is why, as much as I enjoyed reading them, I didn’t have the urge to write mysteries until after my mother died and I was dealing with the slow demise of my sister and poor health of my father.

There had always been an element of mystery in Under A Texas Star, but with my new-found enthusiasm for mystery-writing, I went over the manuscript making sure that it fulfilled the needs of a mystery. Were there enough clues? Enough red herrings? Was the investigation plausible? When the villains got their just desserts, was it satisfying?

That’s the true delight in a mystery - seeing the justice served in what often seems like an unjust world. And who doesn’t enjoy dessert?

Alison Bruce

What is your favourite example of "just desserts"?