Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Learn How to Write a Classic Murder Mystery

My guest today is English mystery writer Dolores Gordon-Smith. Dolores writes wonderfully detailed mysteries set in the 1920s and is the creator of one of my all-time favorite sleuths Jack Haldean. Today, however, I have asked her to tell us about her non-fiction book How to Write a Classic Murder Mystery.

Over to you, Dolores:

"How To Write a Classic Murder Mystery was an absolute labour of love.  It was also born out of a sense of frustration. 

"I imagine we’ve all been there; you decide one day that you’d like to write.  Why not?  We all have different reasons – maybe you love a certain sort of story and want to try writing one yourself.  Maybe you are really concerned about a particular issue that you feel you simply have to say something about.  Maybe a fantastic idea has just popped into your head – perhaps from a dream.  For whatever reason, we’ve all had to begin somewhere.

"And that’s the problem, isn’t it?  Because, if you’re anything like me, one of the first things you go looking for is some sort of professional help.  Maybe you can enroll in a college class or, at least as likely, you’ll pick up a book which promises to tell you how to write.  I bought shelf-loads of these books.  Some were very good and, to be fair, it was a rare “How To” book that I didn’t take something away from.  However… this is where the sense of frustration kicks in. 

"Very rarely (aka never) did any of the books tell you how to take an initial idea and expand it into a full length MS.  Many books spoke pearls of wisdom about developing a character, Show not Tell, how to do dialogue etc, etc, but I honestly can’t remember reading any that dealt with the overall narrative.

"That’s not to say there aren’t any, of course; just that I never came across them. 

"That’s the book I wanted to write.  I wanted to give clear guidelines about how to develop your own unique story into a full length book, using the experience I’ve gained over eleven published books with examples from authors I’ve loved.  Although it’s focused on the classic murder mystery, I’ve learned a lot from authors such as JK Rowling, and Tolkien as well as giants of the murder mystery such as Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie. "

One reviewer said: "Reading this book is like sitting down with Dolores in person. She explains all the points of writing a murder mystery in a down-to-earth approachable way that gives you the confidence to write or finish the book you always wanted to author. Well researched - she really knows this material, both from an author's perspective and as a true lover of the genre. Her experience and incredible personality show through in every chapter. Yes, I've written portions of my book and with this guidance from Dolores I know I can now finish the best book I can write. Thank you Dolores for sharing your incredible experience and love of these books with us to make us better writers. Just what we needed."

Dolores Gordon-Smith is the author of the Jack Haldean murder mystery series set in 1920’s England, the latest of which is The Chessman, published by Severn House, a WW1 spy thriller, Frankie’s Letter, and the introduction to the classic crime novel, The Ponson Case, for HarperCollins.  She hosts the How I Got Published column in the Warner Bros. Writing Magazine where she invites debut authors to share their journey to publication.
For the last three years, Dolores has been a popular speaker at Bodies from the Library, a day devoted to the Golden Age of crime fiction in the British Library.
Her latest book, The Price of Silence, a sequel to Frankie’s Letter will be published on 10th July. 

Her guide to writing a Golden Age novel, How To Write a Classic Murder Mystery is available on

Married with five daughters and various dogs and cats, Dolores has been a teacher, a civil servant and the front end of a cow in a pantomine.

Posted by Donna Fletcher Crow.


  1. Welcome back to ICFW, Dolores! I hope lots of readeers will take a look at your super book--it's full of good advice and fun reading!

  2. Sounds like a fabulous reference book!

  3. It is, Eva Marie, she uses lots of examples from classic and current writers, which I think are especially helpful.