Monday, January 16, 2012

Writer's Library

by Kathleen Bradean

I've been away from my computer, so I had to write this before the topic was posted. Sorry that it's off topic.

On Face Book, I recently commented that I'd be hard pressed to explain my collection of reference books in court. It doesn't matter how innocent you are, if an attorney mentions that you have The Poisoner's Handbook and Deadly Doses within easy reach of your computer, the jury is going to sit up and take notice. If he also mentions The Poison Master, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, Wisconsin Death Trip, The Medical Detectives, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, In Cold Blood, Forensic Detection, twelve issues of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, three of Chew, Gorky Park, half a dozen Agatha Christie novels and everything ever written by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, juror number nine is going to tut-tut while making notes on her court-supplied pad of paper and you can be sure she'll bring that up during deliberations if no one else does.

No less incriminating are The Grifters, Rip-Off - Crimes of Deception, Famous First Bubbles, and The Flimflam Man.

I can only imagine the raised eyebrows if they passed around exhibits a) Everything that Creeps, b) The Dark Erotic Visions of John Santerineross, and c) Visions From Within the Mechanism: The Industrial Surrealism of Jeffrey Scott (1019). As art books go, they're a bit, well, disturbing. But the imagery works for me.

If the passed around the more interesting titles on my shelves, The Art of Seduction might disappear into one of those huge purses women use nowadays to tote around half the cosmetics department of Macys, one tissue (slightly used), a mint (which is mating with the fuzz collected at the bottom of her purse), three nickels, and a small refugee camp. Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice for all Creation would probably get pawed half a dozen times between the evidence locker and the court room. For various reasons with would lead to a rant so we'll just leave them at reasons (thank you, Charlotte), none of the pages of 101 Best Sex Scenes Ever Written will be stuck together. In fact, anyone who steals that deserves it.

I have no idea what they'd make of my Russian Fairytales (with the sales slip from the Hermitage used as a bookmark), The Winter Child, Vampires Burials and Death, A Midsummer Night's Fairy Tale, and A Fire in My Heart: Kurdish Tales. I can't imagine not having them on hand for reference. There's a lot of subtext going on in folk tales, and the closer we get to original sources rather than the castrated versions we were given to read when we were kids, the better we understand the people who shared those tales. But let people think it's just whimsical of me. In their Disnified world, things like The Red Shoes don't exist.

The only books on my shelves that a non-writer would consider actual writer's reference books are Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, On Writing by Stephen King, The Browser's Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, The First Five Pages, a thesaurus, A Story is a Promise, Plots, 101 Best Beginnings Ever Written (much better than the sex scenes book), and possibly the autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 1. Although it would be wise to withhold the Mark Twain from them. I think they'd be terribly insulted by his observations on juries, judges, and trials.


  1. Well, Kathleen, I have no author's reference books at all on my shelves, other than a thesaurus and a dictionary.

    I bought Susie Bright's book (How to Write a Dirty Story) a few years ago and discarded it halfway through.

    Maybe I'm just pig-headed. Or, as I commented earlier, lazy.

    On the other hand, I learn most about the writing craft from this blog, and from reading the work of my colleagues.

    (And I'd love to be a fly on the wall at that trial...!)

  2. I didn't find Susie Bright's book useful either, but I suspect we both picked it up well after we'd started writing erotica and most of it was information that we already knew. As with panels at writer's conventions, it must be hard to decide what to present in a book like that. It seems as if everyone goes over the basic information for absolute beginners and never touches the intermediate or 'old pro' level stuff, but in the world of writing, everyone expects 'old pros' to turn to their community of writers (developed over the years) for sage advice and gossip, I suppose.

    My favorite book for browsing is Dr Titiana's Sex Advice For All Creation. Not only is it funny, but for science fiction writers, it's a mother lode of information on sustainable biological systems to help create alien species.

  3. Such an interesting library! I never thought of cataloguing mine, or making a list of titles. That would be revealing.

  4. Jean - It's not that I'm planning to kill anyone. Why bother when you can defriend them on FB and more effectively disappear them than any dictatorship ever could? But I suppose that's what fascinates me about murder. Why don't people just walk away? To quote one of my own characters, "Dead bodies are gross."


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