Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction, a film by Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald
Published: June 20, 2002
|Editor's pick: Sleuthing sisters|
Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction, a film by Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald. New Days Films, 22-D Hollywood Ave., Hohokus, NJ 07423.
Three mystery divas reveal the secrets of their craft in Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction, a fascinating documentary by Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald. The filmmakers interview Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton about their groundbreaking female detectives--street-smart, tough-minded loners with less-than-perfect personal lives. Sharon McCone, V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone live and work on the edge.
It's a straightforward documentary that focuses on the creative process as each author talks about her connection to her fictional heroine, the fine points of shaping mystery stories and her motivations
We first see Muller peering into a miniature replica of All Souls Kitchen, the legal cooperative where McCone works. The author says that creating the setting helped her understand more about McCone, who has been her constant companion for 17 years, her alter ego and best friend. "You could say she is like me with important differences. She's taller, can eat anything she wants and is a lot braver."
One question drives her work: "How do I step back from crossing that line of violence?" Writing "is a way of controlling my fears," says Muller who started crime writing after two violent incidents in her life--one of her teachers was murdered and a roommate committed suicide.
It's a "way of bringing order, a way of living more than one life. I sit in a loft by myself, but I have fabulous adventures," she says.
In Chicago, Sara Paretsky takes us on a tour of the city's South Side landfills, deserted factories and polluted industrial sites where V.I. Warshawski hangs out. V.I. speaks for people who don't have a voice, says Paretsky, who has dealt with issues such as homelessness, abuse and toxic waste in her books, always with the overriding theme of how power corrupts. "V.I. says things I'm not strong enough to say," Paretsky admits.
For Sue Grafton, mystery writing is a way to look at her dark side. She came upon this realization while working on J Is for Judgment. "The writing was flat. ... I had gotten into the ego of writing. I was good, turned in so many pages a day, but the joy had gone out of the process. In order to write well, I needed to try to keep my ego out of it. It's not only about looking good, it's about telling the truth, the truth that comes out of the darkest [parts] of us."
In your writing, she says, you have to face your demons, put "yourself absolutely out on the edge of your humanity and fear."
These are only a few snippets from this visual exploration of creativity and the writing process. The filmmakers interview the authors in their homes and on the streets where their characters live. They intersperse the authors reading descriptive passages from their books with moody images--a rundown boathouse, ramshackle neighborhoods--creating an atmosphere of danger and suspense.
Watching Women of Mystery, you'll see that it's no mystery why these three intelligent, talented authors are at the top of their game.
This entertaining film would make a perfect program for a group of writers or mystery lovers.