Ask any female mystery writer about her influences and you’re sure to consistently hear one name. Well, ask any female mystery writer except for maybe one…
So I have another confession to make. At the risk of being permanently banned from all mystery conferences, groups, blogs and possibly even reading any mystery novels, I don’t count Nancy Drew among my major childhood influences when it comes to writing.
I know. Eek!
There was actually another whip-smart young detective who was a driving force of my love of all things mystery. And his name was Encyclopedia Brown!!
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed Nancy and her escapades. I came of age in the “Nancy Drew Files” era where she had a cool Mustang, there was always boyfriend drama, and she was always going on some really cool vacation.
Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown may not have driven a cool car. He may not have had a college-age love interest. He may not have been allowed to go around the corner, much less on a ski trip. But what he did have was my heart.
He was a business owner. (Brown Detective Agency! No case too small! 25 cents per day plus expenses.) He wasn’t afraid of bullies like Bugs Meany and the rest of the Tigers. And he could do more crime solving over dinner than McNulty and Herc could do over an entire season of The Wire.
You could see why a girl might be just a tad in love.
And that’s just as a reader. The books are chock-full of great advice that I (try to) use when writing my own books—short scenes that jump right into the action, the need to share information without it feeling like an info dump, and, perhaps best of all, how to subtly plant clues in a way that makes the reader go “Aha!”
In fact, my only complaint is that his hometown of Idaville seemed to have way too much crime for such a small town…
What about you? Any detectives close to your heart who aren’t named Nancy? Comment below!