When I was in second grade I wanted to be the world's greatest detective like Sherlock Hemlock on Sesame Street.  When I learned to read one of my favorite stories was The Adventure of the Speckled Band starring Sherlock Holmes.  Like every mystery lover I grew up reading the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew mysteries.  I loved puzzles and cryptograms, but I think the thing that really solidified my love for mysteries came during my second semester in college when I helped my ex-girlfriend research the century old unsolved murder of Jennie Cramer who was found floating by the West Haven, Connecticut shoreline on August 6, 1881. 


I was trying to help my girlfriend pass her class and - although it wasn't my assignment - I spent hours doing research in the university library going through New York Times archives, digging up every detail that I could concerning the horrible crime.    I don't know how she was graded since we broke up at the end of the summer.  But the love of research and the love of mysteries and mystery writing stayed with me.

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I think I followed a similar path--started out with the Hardy Boys (gack), then onto Conan Doyle and Christie, from there to John D. MacDonald and Fleming's wonderful Bond books. My father was an avid mystery reader, and they were always around the house: Nero Wolfe, Maigret, Rumpole, you name it--spy fiction, too (not to mention lots of art history, literary fiction, poetry, and a certain amount of H.P. Lovecraft). For me, crime fiction was always what you read for pleasure. Still is, mostly. I'd wanted to write a mystery since I knew I wanted to be a writer, pretty much. Took me a while, but here I am.
I started the mystery reading with Christie when I was in my teens. And never stopped.
I found Raymond Chandler around 13 or 14 and fell in love with that kind of writing. Prior to that it had been a lot of Sci-Fi and History. From Chandler it went to Hammett, and then Rex Stout, and then on into the rest of the genre. Good stuff.
Mysteries struck me immediately as the highest form of literary art. Not only did the authors have to write well, they had to keep track of multiple plot lines and make it all add up at the end. The challenge of pulling it off myself was too much to resist.

I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys as a kid, and moved on to Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane. Enjoyed them all enough that I wanted to discover what lay between the extremes of Christie and Spillane.
The usual. Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes when I was young (with a smattering of Encyclopedia Brown and Jacques Futrell's Thinking Machine), then one day I was helping my dad clean out the basement and came across an old copy of Mickey Spillane's THE TWISTED THING.

My interest lay dormant for quite a while. I didn;t discover Chandler until I was almost 40.
My background isn't much different, however, I would be remiss to not mention the great Encyclopedia Brown! - "I wouldn't believe him if he swore he was lying!"

I may be mistaken, but I seem to remember reading his adventures in Boy's Life.

Beyond that, I didn't read a lot of YA books as a child. My parents heavily encouraged reading, and I can remember being quite young - pre-teen, and mom sitting next to me reading whatever she was reading while I struggled through HP Lovecraft.

I may have told the story here before...in 5th grade, I wanted to check out The Hobbit from the school library and the librarian wouldn't let me...saying it was restricted to 6th-graders. So I did what seemed logical - I stole the book from the library...but was caught trying to sneak it back in when I finished reading it. Now, they called mom who came up to the school and I was quite smug over the ass-chewing she gave them for trying to deny me a book. That is, until I got home...and had to accept my punishment across my rear for "stealing."

As far as mysteries, I'd read the odd mystery (Holmes, some Chandler) in middle and high school between assigned classics but didn't get into them until I was in the Coast Guard. I think it was 1989, we were getting ready to head to sea for an extended patrol and I stopped at a flea market and among other things picked up a little two-book set for 50 cents. It was a hardback of Ed McBain's Vespers with a old paperback of Mugger. I wasn't looking for mysteries - just something to read at sea - and they were cheap. Let's see, '89, so I was about 20 at the time and I've been hooked on mysteries of all sub genres ever since.
Encyclopedia Brown was another of my influences. I have written a few Encyclopedia Brown-type stories for my niece who is in fifth grade. I wrote them as a Christmas present specifically for her, but perhaps someday I will have them published. I wanted to give her some Encyclopedia Brown books like the ones I read when I was her age, but I can't find very many of them at the bookstore anymore.
Hardy Boys, Holmes. My Mom loved Hercule Poirot and Nero Wolfe so we had lots of those books around the house. I wrote spy stories as a teen (James Bond influence) and when I began to write long fiction seriously I turned to historicals. I was beginning another 'historical' where Aristotle, the Father of Logic, would solve a crime. But I learned early in the research that someone had done this, and so I concocted a classics professor who knew Aristotle well as the protagonist instead. And suddenly I was writing a contemporary mystery with an amateur sleuth.
I began with The Famous Five and The Secret Seven then graduated to Agatha Christie in my early teens, followed closely by Dorothy Sayers. The Hobbit and the Trilogy during my university days provided me with a brief foray into Sci Fi's Julian May and Stephen Donaldson. I spent many years on other worlds and spheres whilst raising my children, true escapism from the motherly grind. Now I'm back to mainstream mysteries and trying to write one myself (truly a beginner). I still have every book (ie purchased) except for a few cartons that were lost in the shipyards of Genoa (Italy) including my childhood 'Pookie' books... now if I could just locate my enthusiasm for getting on with my book....
Very early on, I read Harriet the Spy, then graduated to Nancy Drew books which could be obtained at the grocery store, with some begging, as if they were candy. First, I read Secret of the Old Clock and was pretty sure that I wanted to read more mysteries. Then I read Secret of the Wooden Lady, which was much farther along in the series, but that book hooked me on mysteries for life.
Alfred Hitchcock

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