Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Was Your First Clue, Sherlock?

Been reading some Sherlock Holmes...Seems a bit silly, I know, but if you want a crash course on how to craft a short story, in the mystery or crime genre, you could do a lot worse than a bit of reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is one of the many Public Domain books available online, for free or almost free. I enjoy reading classic short stories on my iPod Touch, because I can turn it on at 2am, read for a while, then go back to sleep--all without turning on any lights. (Important if you live on a boat.)
I enjoy browsing the many varieties of Best Short Stories collections, too, because there are seemingly endless ways to package and serve up what amounts to a couple of hundred great stories, over and over again. For example: "Best American Short Stories" (pick a year), or the "Best American Short Stories of the Century." I'd take the best stories culled from one hundred years, over those picked from one lousy year, any day. Unless I had the option of "The Ultimate Collection of American Short Stories" at hand, naturally.
Then there's "Best Short Stories of the Modern Age"--when did that start? The Modern Age. Pretty cool to be reading those on your iPhone.
But the best short stories are the collections you find by accident in old-fashioned bookstores full of both new and old books (not necessarily used but old). Or wandering past the shelves in your neighborhood library. I envy anyone who has not yet read the short stories of Willa Cather, or Edith Wharton, or Henry James, or O'Henry, or Hemingway...What are you waiting for? Pick one out, pull up a chair and dive in.
Short stories are NOT a dying art--places to publish them are dying, but the short story lives on--online in places like AmericanLiterature, and in collections old and new.
Happy reading--hasta pronto!