Last year, I discovered the writings of Athol Dickson, and I was immediately captivated by his writing style. Where many authors who write Christian works always wrap their stories up in neat little packages and “happily ever after” endings, Athol’s writings do not, because life isn’t always about happy endings. His stories are honest, often involving gut-wrenching story lines; and while we aren’t left hanging and turning empty pages wondering where the rest of the story is, we are left with an ending that is realistic. For me, this is extremely satisfying. It helps me identify with the main character honestly. I’ve never been dissatisfied with any of Athol’s story endings.
I am honored to be a part of a blog tour for Athol Dickson’s latest book, JANUARY JUSTICE. It is a bit of departure from his other writings, in that it is a murder mystery. As well, JANUARY JUSTICE is the first in a series of books whose main character is Malcolm Cutter—quite an interesting individual! Athol explains below why he decided to write a series of murder mysteries:
WHY I WRITE MURDER MYSTERIES (Athol Dickson)
Recently I read a fascinating article in The New York Times about what may well be the first true murder mystery novel ever written. Conventional wisdom holds that the honor belongs to Wilkie Collins, who published The Moonstone in 1868, but the author of the Times piece discovered a novel written six years earlier called The Notting Hill Mystery, which he claims has all the ingredients of a modern murder mystery, and deserves the credit as Whodunit Number One.
The novel was published in serial fashion in a periodical, as was common in those days, and the author used a pseudonym. But apparently there’s good reason to believe The Notting Hill Mystery was written by Charles Warren Adams, one of the publishers of the periodical. Hopefully, Adams will one day receive the full credit for his invention of my favorite genre. It was a monumental achievement.
But intriguing though this is to a mystery aficionado like myself, the real meat of the article for me came almost as an aside near the end, where the Times piece says, “Adams was also notably religious, which points to an unexpected characteristic of the first detective novel: it’s profoundly moral. It asks not just how evil exists, but what is to be done about it. Detective novels, like sermons, can offer gratifyingly simple answers to those questions, or thoughtful and troubling ones.”
I was delighted to read those words, because here I am, one hundred and fifty-one years later, writing murder mysteries for the same reason.
It seems to me we love a good murder mystery because in the end they’re the stories which touch most directly on death and justice.
Death is the ultimate mystery of real life. What is it, exactly? Why must it exist? What should we do about it? Even the best of murder mysteries can’t answer those questions completely, but the best murder mysteries all explore the possibilities.
And when we start exploring death, something in us cries out that it isn’t right. We all long for justice, don’t we? That’s the other thing a good murder mystery delivers: a little imitation justice. The bad guy gets his in the end, or else someone has the guts to stand and rage against the second greatest mystery of all, which is why injustice exists in the first place.
I love that about murder mysteries. It’s why I’ve read, oh, about a thousand of them. And it’s why I’m writing “The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs.”
I can identify with the sentiments expressed above, and this is exactly one of the reasons I love the writings of Athol Dickson.
Please be sure to check out his book. Like all his other works before, it’s a winner in every sense of the word, and you will be happy that you did.
I read JANUARY JUSTICE last year and wrote a review for it on Amazon. Feel free to read my thoughts on the book.