Saturday, December 12, 2015

Triss Stein

Triss Stein is a small-town girl who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York City. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident which she uses to write mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the second Erica Donato mystery, following Brooklyn Bones.

Stein's latest novel is Brooklyn Secrets, the third Erica Donato Mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Most writers are readers, and if they are not, what the heck are they doing in this game? And most mystery writers like me are also mystery fans. I think we read a little differently than other fans, though.

There are certainly some mystery authors whose work I have read and loved for years. Even at their weakest moments their books are interesting,
perceptive, clever, funny, surprising. I will always enjoy reading something by them. Those are the people I read like a fan.

The mystery world has expanded so much in the last decades, one could read only mysteries and never run out of new experiences. Reading just the books on my nightstand right now, or recently, I could go back in time and find entertaining fluff about a cash-poor debutante in 1930’s London, or a sobering story about crimes set against the military in World War 11, or a rollicking story about a kind of law enforcement in Elizabethan London. Or I could read about political turmoil that is modern Greece in a book that could have been written yesterday. I could read The Fever. (Because. Megan Abbott. And it’s about time!)

However, after my fan reading, a lot of my mystery reading is because I want to see how an author handles a setting or topic, to see if they have something to show me or teach me, to see what the excitement is about. (That is how I came to read Gone, Girl, which, by the way, I thought was brilliantly plotted.) Sometimes I learn what I need by the first half or less, and if I am not captivated, I stop reading. That is reading like a writer.

There are mystery lovers who sneer at “literary” fiction. I am not one of them. A book of beautiful language and perception, where nothing much happens, can be a way to grow. I recently read Alice McDermott’s Someone, a brief novel which yet seemed to encompass a whole life. I’m still trying to figure out how she did that miracle. A book that takes apart the narrative and splinters it into a funhouse mirror can be a rewarding challenge. I have loved Kate Atkinson’s work since before she wrote mysteries but I did think that Life After Life might be too much experimenting for me. Instead, I could barely keep breathing as I read it.

And I like to do some oddball non-fiction reading. My love of reading about history’s obscure corners is subsumed these days by research for my own books, but I find travel writing and books
about food and cooking to be oddly fascinating…and they won’t keep me up if I read them at bedtime.

But right now, I am deep in When Books Went to War by Molly Gupthill Manning, the story of the Armed Services Editions books that helped the American troops of World War 11 stay sane before, after, and in-between combat. Sounds boring?

How could any book be boring when it tells me that FDR said, “In this war, books are weapons?” That two of the most popular books in the program, ever, were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Forever, Amber? That men read until the “pages of each book were so dirty you can’t see the print?” That they wrote “thanks for everything from Zane Grey to Plato?”

A perfect book for any book reader, book writer, book lover.
Visit Triss Stein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Brooklyn Secrets.

My Book, The Movie: Brooklyn Secrets.

--Marshal Zeringue