I well remember the trepidation with which I put up my first post. Back in those days, I didn't have a traffic counter, so have no clue whether anyone came to read, or not — probably not.
My first post was about writing and just for old time's sake I'm republishing it here today. If you write a blog, be encouraged and stay the course. Six years will pass before you know it. If you enjoy writing and are thinking of creating a blog — dive in. It's a lot of fun!
Jim Coggins and murder mystery
I attended the monthly meeting of the Fraser Valley Christian Writer's Group last night. Jim Coggins, writer of Who's Grace and newly released Desolation Highway - both published by Moody Press - was the main feature.
Coggins was right at home. After all, he lives in Abbotsford and edited the M. B. Herald from there for years. His quips re: what's a good Mennonite boy doing writing about murder, went over well. Most of us there were either of Mennonite stock or knew well their anti-killing, peacenik proclivities - as Abbotsford is a Mennonite retirement Mecca.
Two angles of his talk fascinated me:
1. How he got into writing murder mysteries:
He's an academic, a historian and was (when he started his fiction writing jag) the editor of a very straight-laced periodical. But long before he tried his hand at writing murder mysteries, he and his wife Jackie read them regularly (out loud, to each other, till one or the other fell asleep) before bed. They went through a variety of writers - good, bad, and indifferent. After one particularly bad beginning, Jim tossed the book aside and declared, "I could do better than that?"
"Then why don't you," said Jackie.
Another catalyst was a garrulous bus driver (more interested in talking to people than driving the bus, Jim was sure) on whose bus Jim often rode to work. When she found out he was a writer, she said, "What do you write? I'd like to read one of your books sometime."
Yikes, Jim thought, there's my thesis - not exactly something she'd be interested in, and the magazine - too much christianese. He determined, then, he'd like to try his hand at writing something he could hand to a person like her - unchurched, non-religious, a good read but something that would get her thinking along Christian lines as well.
2. Why murder mystery is a good genre for a Christian writer:
Now I don't like reading mysteries all that much - although I'm addicted to my weekly Saturday afternoon helping of warmed over "Cold Case Files" and "City Confidential." But Coggins pointed out some inherently Christian worldview aspects of the traditional murder mystery that I'd never thought of before:
- The world is portrayed as black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. There are good people and the bad guy who dunnit.
- Murder mysteries model in microcosm what happened to humanity in Eden. Everything's going along fine. Then someone is found dead. Chaos! From then on the book is dedicated to restoring order to its world.
- The murder mystery projects values.
- MM's uphold the value of justice - we feel unsatisfied if the crime doesn't get solved and the bad guy doesn't get caught.
- MM's uphold the value of human life. As Coggins pointed out, you can have a mystery about anything - about, say, lost socks. But who cares? However, when someone is murdered, we care. Why? Because human life matters.
I bought Desolation Highway and Coggins signed it for me. So I'll read another murder mystery. Who knows, maybe hubby and I will start reading them as bedtime stories. And maybe one of us will start writing them. I'm pretty sure, though, it won't be me.
Copyright © 2004 by Violet Nesdoly
(First published on promptings - October 19, 2004)