The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction

condemned cover

“Condemned to Repeat” now in stores

Leading up to June 30th’s Writers’ Corner on Mystery writing, I asked one of two panelists, Janice MacDonald (author of the Randy Craig Mysteries) for a list of common genre cliches.

Turns out, someone consecrated this list almost a hundred years ago during the Golden Age of detective fiction.

Ronald Knox, known to admirers like MacDonald as “Father Knox,” was a humorist literary critic and, of course, detective fiction author. He formed The Detective Fiction Decalogue in the preface of the anthology Best Detective Stories of 1928-1929.

“Father” Ronald Knox / Wikipedia

“While a lot of Father Knox’s ‘Decalogue of Detective Fiction’ have been challenged by very good writers,” says MacDonald, “there are good reasons behind every one of these.”

Join Janice MacDonald, Wayne Arthurson and me at the Stanley Milner library Sunday, June 30th at 1:30pm for a fun and insightful discussion on what makes good mystery writing. In the meantime, study the words of the Father.

Here are his 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction:

  1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
  9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Books in 2013

Looking for a local author book list? Wondering who were some of the authors that came through the Edmonton & GEA area? Look no further! Here’s a small sampling of some of the amazing books that hit the shelves in 2013–bookmark this link as I’ll be updating titles!

Where there is no life, there’s HOPE
Hope has always been a bit of a freak. She sees beyond the veil to where the dead walk amongst the living, their semi-corporeal forms appearing like creepy flashes from a never-ending macabre dream. But when her mother crawls from the grave and her zombified corpse goes MIA, Hope’s last thread of normal snaps.
Enrolling in a militia-style school for monster hunters seems her best bet for tracking down Mommy-dearest and putting what’s left of her to rest. But the stakes are raised when she’s partnered with three unique male recruits – each with their own personal demons to slay if they want to survive basic training.
But does Hope have a true killer’s instinct? If she finds her mother, will she have the guts to do what must be done to save her soul? In a place like Le Manoir, all bets are off.


Blood cover Aug 02 13

In this year’s CBC Massey Lectures, Lawrence Hill, bestselling author of The Book of Negroes, offers a provocative examination of the scientific and social history of blood, and on the ways that it unites and divides us today.

Blood runs red through every person’s arteries and fulfills the same functions in every human being. The study of blood has advanced our understanding of biology and improved medical treatments, but its cultural and social representations have divided us perennially. Blood pulses through religion, literature, and the visual arts. Every time it pools or spills, we learn a little more about what brings human beings together and what pulls us apart. For centuries, perceptions of difference in our blood have separated people on the basis of gender, race, class and nation. Ideas about blood purity have spawned rules about who gets to belong to a family or cultural group, who enjoys the rights of citizenship and nationality, what privileges one can expect to be granted or denied, whether you inherit poverty or the right to rule over the masses, what constitutes fair play in sport, and what defines a person’s identity.

Blood: The Stuff of Life is a bold meditation on blood as an historical and contemporary marker of identity, belonging, gender, race, class, citizenship, athletic superiority, and nationhood.

3rd book in the SKINNED series by Judith Graves

• draw a card from the deck
• kill or be killed
• and if you’re lucky, repeat…
Hidden agendas, deep, dark secrets, and monsters lurking around every locker. It’s business as usual at Redgrave High for Eryn and her crew of paranorm hunters – they plan to capture and cure Brit’s brother from his tormented existence, Eryn is reunited with her father’s beta, and Redgrave’s origins are revealed.
Although the two guys vying for Eryn’s heart just might have to up their game. Enter hot, wolven guy stage left. Is he the one Alec’s blood magic foretold? He is, if Eryn’s knocking pulse has anything to say about it. The tale-tell sound is driving Wade mad. But it’s Eryn’s move, and everyone is holding their breath.
A little healthy competition soon becomes all-out survival of the fittest as the crew are pitted against a pack of demons trading souls – for keeps. The student population is enamored with a new card game, Boroughs Quest. Kids are desperate to get their hands on gilded cards from a mysterious expansion deck, but when they do…
It’s all fun and games ’til somebody dies.


Toby-Buddy Cover- FinalWhen Toby steps into the path of a dog who bullies him and shreds his beloved stuffed teddy-bear toy, we see the hurt feelings it creates. This beautifully illustrated book, Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, Says be a Buddy NOT a Bully, uses Toby, a therapy dog, to teach children about the importance of kindness, respect, acceptance, and being considerate of others, including pets. A wonderful story to start discussions in ages to 3 to 10.




Glittering ChaosThe adage about “what happens in Vegas” is funny precisely because we know it”s wishful thinking. A Glittering Chaos is about what happens when “what happens in Vegas” comes home to haunt you. Melusine is a German librarian whose ho-hum world wobbles after she tags along when her husband Hans attends a Las Vegas optometry conference. A newly empty nester who speaks no English, Melusine”s voyage of self-discovery is punctuated by the poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann, nude photos in the desert, a black dildo named Kurt, autoerotic asphyxia, and the unravelling of her husband”s sanity because of a secret from his youth. A smart, funny and incredibly wise novel about marriage, secrets and lies, and unusual sexual proclivities.


Slow FixIn the tradition of his internationally bestselling In Praise of Slow, and drawing on examples from the most progressive and successful leaders in business, politics, science and society, Carl Honoré brilliantly illuminates why the best way to face our problems might just be to take our time.

If the high-flying fighter pilots of the RAF can own up to their mistakes, why can”t the rest of us? Toyota was fantastically good at exposing its failings and correcting them, until it stopped, setting the company up for one of the most spectacular falls from grace in the history of the auto industry. BP couldn”t bring itself to apologize for its catastrophic oil spill until the entire Gulf Coast of the United States was bearing the brunt of its technological shortcomings.

Addicted as we might be to the quick fix–pills, crash diets or just diverting attention from things about to go wrong–the quick fix never really works. Trying to solve problems in a hurry, sticking on a plaster when surgery is needed, might deliver temporary relief, but only at the price of storing up worse trouble for later. For those looking for a fix that sticks, The Slow Fix will help us produce solutions in life and work that endure.

burnDear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book. Last June, I received an astonishing email from a man in The Netherlands who began with “Dear Sir Lawrence Hill” but who went on to say that he did not accept the title The Book of Negroes and would therefore burn my novel in a public park in Amsterdam. The astonishing array of events that led him to live up to his promise while Dutch TV cameras rolled made me think more broadly about all the different ways that books have elicited paranoid and violent responses over the years. The 17th century Italian scientist Galileo was jailed for the rest of his life and saw his writings banned because he dared to suggest that the Earth was not the centre of the universe. Perhaps it is tempting to assume that it was only in other lands and centuries that arguments were shut down, books banned, and authors imprisoned or executed for publishing their ideas. But the fear of ideas, and of the free expression of imagination and argument, continues to define modern approaches to literature. In recent years, I have seen Three Wishes by the award-winning Canadian author Deborah Ellis pulled from school shelves because it allowed Israeli and Palestinian children to speak about what it was like to live in a war zone, and the American writer Joyce Carol Oates novel Foxfire yanked from study in an Ontario school because it contained profanities. Who is leading the charge to ban, censor, or control the distribution of books? Is it working? What price do we pay for these efforts? And where do we go from here?

seldom-seen-smallSeldom Seen Road is a collection of sharply observed and understated poems about the land and its people, specifically those who have made it grow. Bare bones, full of wit, insight, and fine imagery, they make up a book carefully constructed around a striking vision of the Prairies and its slowly disappearing history. Butler illuminates an oft-hidden world of strong women spanning two centuries, focusing the most powerful sequence of the book, “Lepidopterists”, on them. These poems find their place in a tradition of prairie poetry that owes much to the work of such poets as John Newlove, Robert Kroetsch, and others. Combining an exacting attention to detail with organic sensibilities, Seldom Seen Road will grow on you.

Money TalkIf you’re like most Canadians, divorce, blended families, market meltdowns, children who don’t leave home (or who come back with babies in tow), health challenges, real estate mistakes, golden handshakes — just to name a few — have left you wondering just what exactly you’re supposed to do next, this book is for you. In my 12 years of advising Canadians on the straightest path to prosperity, I’ve discovered that most books about money are about just that — money. And that there isn’t really a book about life and how money fits into it. That’s why I decided to write one. I’ve organized the book by what might be happening in your life and how you can handle the money decisions that impact it. Therefore, if you’ve not experienced divorce, there’s probably no need to read that chapter. Feel free to graze for the topics that mean the most to you. But don’t miss the chapters “One Tick Box Can Change your Life” and “The Bucket system for Retirement.” They are truly universal.

How I Lost YouThere are a few things Grace Anderson knows for sure. One is that nothing will ever come between her and her best friend, Kya Kessler. They have a pact. Buds Before Studs. Sisters Before Misters. But in the summer before senior year, life throws out challenges they never expected. And suddenly the person who’s always been there starts to need the favor returned. Grace and Kya are forced to question how much a best friend can forgive. And the answer is not what they expected.  Janet Gurtler


And Not to YieldAugust 7, 2007 was definitely the day our whole world “turned on a dime”. The doctor slid the colour photographs from the colonoscopy across his desk and said three words that changed our lives forever “This is cancer”. The story takes the reader on a journey of parallel lives: My husband’s in heaven and ours’ on earth. As he meets loved ones we have lost, inspiring and sometimes humorous stories are shared, keeping the human spirit alive. The reader is taken along on a roller coaster ride to juxtapose the emotions we experienced while he was fighting the disease and after his death. This story is about faith and the miracles that carry us through difficult times. Marie Reed

Cat's TableIn the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly “Cat’s Table” with an eccentric and unforgettable group of grownups and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys find themselves immersed in the worlds and stories of the adults around them. At night they spy on a shackled prisoner — his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.


Untitled-2My name is Alex Lomax. I’m a P.I. working the mean streets of New Klondike, the domed Martian city that sprang to life in the wake of the booming fossil market. Roughly forty years ago, Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly discovered evidence of ancient life on Mars, and these fossils quickly became valuable sought-after antiquities for collectors on Earth. Then the wannabe treasure hunters swarmed here, suffering from fossil fever, to take part in “the Great Martian Fossil Rush,” hoping to strike it rich.

So I ply my trade among the failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and “transfers” — folks wealthy enough to upload their consciousness into near-immortal android bodies — trying to make an honest buck in a dishonest world. But now the motherlode of all cold cases has just landed in my lap: the decades-old murders of Weingarten and O’Reilly — and God only knows what I may dig up… 

loveliesbleeding-300dpi(1)When a hiker near Ithaca stumbles across an old skeleton buried with a rusty buttonhook and a locket full of pictures, Inspector Frank Conley knows he’s looking at a tough case. What he doesn’t expect is having to solve his own aunt’s murder.

In 1916, when high-society debutante Libbie Morgan decided to balance her time between Ithaca’s rich-but-dull golden boy and a heart-poundingly handsome farm boy, she unknowingly launched an ever-widening web of deception and jealousy.

Frank must peel away layers of history as he deals with his own demons and races against time to find the answer before his mother goes to the grave never knowing the truth about her sister. With the help of the town historian and an attractive aspiring writer, can he piece together a seventy-year- old mystery and discover how love ended up bleeding in a shallow grave?

RosinaHave you ever had to say goodbye? Travel to southern Italy with this author on her quest to come to know Rosina, the Calabrian midwife. Her family left in stages to start a new life in Edmonton, Alberta. Her families’ tickets for the SS Andrea Doria would arrive in brown envelopes stamped with Eskimo kayaks and blue and white whooping cranes, but her ticket would never come. In a small southern village known for its exits, the midwife would remain: arms cradled across her chest, eye narrowed under the too bright sunlight, black dress billowing from the winds coiling off the sea. Her world became smaller and smaller with every goodbye. She could only imagine Canada, a huge expanse as far-reaching as her loss. She would be the only one in the family to remain in the Old Country. Surrounding Rosina’s story are millions of other separation stories. Between 1870 and 1970, twenty-six million Italians left their homeland and travelled to places like Canada, Australia, and the United States, in search of work. Many of them never returned to Italy. Despite the separation of place and time and the uncertainty of memory, the author has created a poetic elsewhere story and a charming memoir that is at once a Canadian story and a Calabrian one.

VanishFourteen-year-old Simone is having trouble making friends at her new school when her leadership studies class is paired with kindergarten students to mentor throughout the school year. To her surprise, Simone enjoys the Kinderbuddy Project, and she develops a special friendship with her Kinderbuddy, Lily. But as the bond between Simone and her Kinderbuddy grows, she realizes that a crisis is looming in Lily’s family. Simone calls upon Aaron, the reluctant heartthrob of the class, for help, and they become key witnesses to events neither of them could have predicted.