Fri
Mar 15 2013 8:30am

Writing Murder Loves Company: Famous Authors Who Dabbled in Mystery

The Red House Mystery by A.A. MilneIn today’s marketing influenced world, authors tend to be categorized in one segment or another—mystery/thriller, romance, literary, etc. But in reality, most writers try a variety of forms, and people who are not strictly writers also like to try their hand at writing a mystery. The list below is filled with famous people better known for their non-mystery exploits, but who wrote mystery.


A.A. Milne 

Yes, before there was Pooh Bear, there was murder. Alan Alexander Milne's mystery novel, The Red House Mystery, published in 1922 before he created the famous bear of very little brain, received critical acclaim. Rumor has it that he decided to delve into the world of children's fiction because it was a better market, much as many authors are doing today after the success of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.  Milne also wrote a parody on Sherlock Holmes, “The Rape of the Sherlock” that appeared in Vanity Fair.


William Faulkner

Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, but before that he was one of a team of writers that worked on the classic screen adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, staring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  He also wrote other screenplays. His thriller novel, Sanctuary, hit the bestseller list and was also made into a movie.


F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Most well known for writing The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald's first published work was a murder mystery, “The Mystery of the Raymond Mortage.” It was written when Fitzgerald was 13 years old and published in the publication of the St. Paul Academy.


Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain 

Twain, best known for creating Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but did you know Huck and Tom solved a murder and collected $2000 in Tom Sawyer, Detective? Twain was also the first writer use fingerprints in his short story, The Thumbprint and What Became of It. So when you think of it CSI owes it’s literary roots to Mark Twain.


Steve Allen 

Steve Allen, host of the Tonight Show before Jay Leno and Johnny Carson, got his start in radio. He was an excellent piano player and composer (he composed more than 14,000 songs). In addition to publishing books of non-fiction and poetry, he published ten mystery novels, including the Talk Show Murders and Murder on the Glitter Box. (Today personality Al Roker has also written a book more recently called the Talk Show Murders.)


Bleak House by Charles DickensCharles Dickens

Not only can Oliver Twist be considered a mystery, but also Bleak House has a mystery and a detective, as does Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Charles Dickens also wrote short stories that classify as mysteries, including “The Detective Police” and “On Duty with Inspector Field.” There is a much more detailed account of Dickens’ mysterious writings here.


Gore Vidal

Vidal is better known for his literary novels, including Myra Breckenridge, and his social and political essays, but he published three detective novels in the 1950s under the pseudonym, Edgar Box. The Box novels include: Death in the Fifth Position, Death Before Bedtime and Death Likes it Hot.
 

Dave Barry 

Humorist Dave Barry, who also co-writes the Peter and the Star Catchers children's books for Disney with Ridley Pearson, wrote the novel Big Trouble (also made into a movie starring Tim Allen.) He's also written several other novels for adults in addition to his nonfiction humor tomes. 


Marcia C. Clark 

Best known as the head prosecutor in the infamous O.J. Simpson case, Marcia C. Clark has now published two mystery novels: Guilt by Association and Guilt by Degrees.

It seems that writing murder, loves company.


 


Deborah Lacy likes speakeasies, yellow heirloom tomatoes, and crime fiction. She blogs at Mystery Playground. You can find her on Twitter @quippy.

Read all posts by Deborah Lacy for Criminal Element.

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7 comments
Scott Adlerberg
1. ScottAdlerberg
Faulkner wrote a whole collection of mystery stories called KNIGHT'S GAMBIT that is quite good. They all feature lawyer Gavin Stevens as the man solving or looking into the crimes in some way. And in INTRUDER IN THE DUST, a novel, Stevens defends a black man accused of killing a white man and has to investigate to find out who really killed the white man. Faulkner always wrote about violence and crime, but I think his experience in Hollywood thought him a thing or two about how to structure stories to be solid mystery tales.
Terrie Farley Moran
2. Terrie
Okay so Gore Vidal surprised me the most. I'd love to take a look at the mysteries he wrote as Edgar Box.
Deborah Lacy
3. DeborahLacy
@ScottAdlerberg - thanks for the additional Faulkner titles. I will look both of them up.

@Terrie - I know, Vidal surprised me too. It was also news to me that Twain write the first story where fingerprints came into play. Who knew he was the grandfather of the CSI franchise.
4. James Watts
Twain's "Pudd'nghead Wilson" also has a crime element that hinges on the uniqueness of fingerprints.
Deborah Lacy
5. DeborahLacy
@JamesWatts - I haven't read 'Pudd'nghead Wilson' in a long time. That's a great addition.
Clare Toohey
6. clare2e
If you're interested, we actually had a great post on Vidal/Box and his titles appearing in reprint by Ron Hogan:

http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2011/07/gore-vidals-comeback-the-return-of-edgar-box
Terrie Farley Moran
7. Terrie
Thanks Clare, I'll pop on over and read it.
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