Write about what you know

An alert from Phil Rubin about this Tom Gauld cartoon:


Gauld — who has a Page on this blog — does a lot of strips on genre writing of various kinds, including a series on mystery fiction (two more below). This one plays on the advice given to writers to write about what you know, so that if you want to write about some subculture, you’ll need to immerse yourself in it — to become, insofar as this is possible, an insider.

Somewhat problematic if you want to write about murders. On the other hand, murder mysteries are devices for taking readers into little worlds they might know nothing of — quaint English country villages, or change-ringing, or medieval monasteries, or thoroughbred racing, or Australian aboriginal life, whatever. Or several themes at once, as Edith Maxwell has done with murder mysteries set in 19th-century New England, among Quaker midwives. (Edith is herself a Friend in Amesbury MA, so she has first-hand knowledge of some of this; the historical setting and the midwifery, however, are acts of imagination, fostered by research.)

Two more mystery-fiction Gaulds. Gauld on  village murders through the years:


Edith provides eccentric amateur detectives (notably the unconventional Quaker midwife Rose Carroll), but women, rather than fez-wearing, pipe-smoking, cane-wielding men. On the milieu, from the Edith Maxwell Mystery Author site:

Edith Maxwell writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries. … Dressed as a 1880s Quaker, Edith launched the series [in 2016, with Delivering the Truth,] with a historic walking tour of Amesbury, Massachusetts. … The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier is a character in the series.


And the locale:

(#4) A bit of ME in the upper right corner, then a chunk of NH, and further down, all of northeastern MA

Amesbury is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, located on the left bank of the Merrimack River near its mouth, upstream from Salisbury and across the river from Newburyport and West Newbury. The population was 16,283 at the 2010 census. A former farming and mill town, Amesbury is today largely residential. It is one of the two northernmost towns in Massachusetts (the other being neighboring Salisbury). (Wikipedia link)

Then one more Gauld, on the craft of murder-mystery writing:

(#5) So many mysteries have perished from a surfeit of butlers! (I believe Edith’s books are butler-free, but then she writes quite a few, in a number of different series, and some are foodie mysteries, so I might have missed a butler here and there)

The creators.

(#6) Artist Tom Gauld in Harvard Yard (Virginia Prescott photo)

(#7) Writer Edith Maxwell in Amesbury (photo from her site)

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