Monday 20 April 2020

An Interview with Jon Farber

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together. 

Mandatory question considering the situation: How are you coping with the pandemic?

I'm doing fine. I'm a physician in Virginia, but as a private pediatrician I'm not in the line of fire, as children have been spared the illness effects to a remarkable extent. Life is certainly strange, with stay-at-home orders and masks when you go out, but I know how important this is to do, and that this will pass and there will be some semblance of normalcy down the road. None of my family and friends have been affected, but my heart does go out to those not as fortunate.

What's the inspiration behind your story?

The inspiration for the story is easy to report. I only write when I'm inspired; I'm not one of those who feels they have to write a certain amount in a certain time period, or who always has to be writing. I read "The Problem of the Snowbound Cabin" by Edward D. Hoch and I came up with a solution for how the murder might have been done, which was not the author's, and that got me to thinking if I could use my solution in my own story, a snowbound locale being a fairly common locked-room trope. From there, the suspects and the clues just burst upon me as is their wont, most of it fleshed out within an hour or so, and then I decided I might as well do it in the Hoch style

What's the key ingredient for a ripping mystery?

For me, the key ingredient is a clever puzzle, something I can solve which is challenging. It can be very unlikely, but not implausible, which is what ruins a number of the more outlandish John Dickson Carr novels for me. The Golden Age of detective stories is where I like to lose myself.

Who's your favourite fictional detective?

My favourite sleuth:  Ellery Queen, with nobody a close second. I can even put up with the writing, which can range from the pedestrian to the overblown, for the puzzle. I have pretty much all the fiction he has written, with the exception of some obscure radio plays and commissioned 'true crimes' which were published in magazines and never collected. I am almost finished rereading his oeuvre for the second time, and like to think of myself as something of an expert on him. Other writers I enjoy are of course Doyle, Christie, Carr (when he is on his game), Berkeley, and, among the more recent vintage, Rendell.
(Publisher's note: I'm reading Ruth Rendell's "The Crocodle Bird" now. For anyone who loves suspense but hasn't read Rendell, you're missing out!)

Have you solved any real mysteries?

I have some medical mysteries I have been proud of solving, but they required technical knowledge and may not appeal to your readers

What are you working on now?

Speaking of Ellery Queen, I am currently writing (or rather, my literary partner is writing) a cozy whodunit detective novel. That is, I did most of the plotting in my role as Frederick Dannay, he did almost all of the writing in his role as Manfred Lee, and we are now working on polishing up the second draft. It's about a doctor pursuing a serial killer, but despite that theme it is a cozy nonetheless.

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