That looks like a substantial piece of work. How long have you and your co-editor been working on it? What motivated the choice of subject for you?
And yes, I think you are really an academic now.
Big Al, I got the request from Bloomsbury in early 2019, although I guess I really started it in 2018, when I got a grant from the university to go to England to give a presentation on her work and to do some archival research. One of the archives was at her grandson's home, and he gave me access to some materials that haven't had much scholarly attention, so that really helped things along.
The proposal for a book like this requires you to develop a plan for the book and recruit a roster of contributors that suits it before you actually have a firm commitment from the publisher. You have to send the plan and a sample chapter, plus materials that support the idea that there's a market for the book. All of that has to go through peer review, so we submitted the proposal in early 2020 and got the go-ahead in mid-2020...the pandemic year.
Because of the pandemic, we lost some contributors who just couldn't deal with everything life was throwing at them, so we recruited substitutes and increased the portion of the book that we were writing ourselves, but we made the December 2021 deadline. Then came several rounds of edits, copyedits, proofs, cover approvals, and such, and the construction of the index. I think it finally left our hands in May 2022.
I'm tired just thinking about all that.
Oh, I forgot. You asked about how I chose the subject.
I've given talks for years about crime fiction--how we write it, why we read it, and why it's important. I've always referred to it as "The Literature of Justice," and even a casual read of any of my books will show that I've been chewing on the question of "What is justice?" for twenty years. I think we read crime fiction because it is an exploration of the boundaries between what is legal, what is moral, and what is just, and the best crime fiction shows that those boundaries are blurry indeed.
In short, crime fiction depends on societies' legal systems for its existence. If murder weren't illegal, then murder mysteries would not be crime fiction. Laws are the constraints that crime novelists exploit while we're doing our thing.
I came to Christie when I realized that there's more to the very famous plot of Witness for the Prosecution than meets the eye. Most people who are familiar with the story know the 1957 movie where Marlena Dietrich fools a jury by telling the truth when she knows that they won't believe her, an immoral-to-them foreign woman. But the original story was written in 1924, just three years after women were allowed to serve on juries in England.
I asked myself whether there would have been any women on the jury that Dietrich's character bamboozled. How would a reader in 1924 have understood a story that, to them, took place in a room where everybody but the protagonist was a man? Everything I've done with Christie's work started from that question.
After I finish the Christie monograph I'm working on, I want to expand my focus and write Crime Fiction: The Literature of Justice.
I guess I'd better get busy.
Has Achieved Nirvana
Mrs pj is a huge fan of Poirot.
Congratulations, Mary Anna! You have been very busy indeed!
Did you find that the pandemic lockdown gave you more time to invest in this project (and your novel), or would it have been the same with or without it?
|Shut up and play your guitar!|
Congratulations, Mary Anna!
|"I've got morons on my team."|
I don't know how I would have done it without the lockdown. I signed the contract for this book the same week as the contract for the next two mysteries, and my new publisher wanted them to be just a year apart. (The old one let me pick my own deadlines.)
This was also the same week that I filed my tenure documents and settled in for the year-long wait for a decision. So it was a do-or-die period for my professional life. I lost a lot of sleep that week.
Oh, and I was teaching summer school that week, because Covid-related enrollment problems caused one of my classes to be canceled and God forbid that something like that be forgiven when there's a worldwide crisis on. Nope. I had to make up that class.
Because there was so much going on, I almost turned the Christie book down, but Quirt said, "You can't possibly say no to this one." Which was true, but holy heck.
I told him he was right, but he'd better be prepared to listen to me whine for two years. I was still ten months away from getting the Covid vaccine, so your question is spot-on. This book is exactly how I spent lockdown. (And the next year.)
|Has Achieved Nirvana|
Time well spent. I think you passed over the academic bridge some time ago. I think you are in scholar territory now.
|(self-titled) semi-posting lurker|
MA, thanks for all the background!
Also, yeah, you got walloped with the timing of all of these! Wow!
I did my book project in 2021, and being stuck at home helped a lot. But it was no where near the amount of stuff you had on your plate. Whew!
Don't forget that you were also knitting up works of art, AM!
Late to the party - but congratulations. It sounds like quite an adventure. It sounds like you backed yourself into a corner and then worked your way free, not an unusual strategy for productive people. Still, it's nice to take a breath after finishing a project like that.
|Has Achieved Nirvana|
What's my excuse?
Oh yeah, I'm not a productive person.
On deadline! So much so that I gave myself tendinitis in my forearms. OUCH!
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