William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing

The Blog: February 8, 2014

– More Lessons from the Master: Horace Widgeon

Students of the crime genre may recall that I my last posting I promised to discuss how our guide to all things criminous, Horace Widgeon, conceives, assembles and composes the incredible plots of his Inspector Grodgins series. (And if you don’t recall, please reread the blog below. Catch up.)

In his authoritative text, The Art of the Whodunit, the celebrated author devotes an early chapter to coming up with story ideas. It is called “Conception.”

“Do not,” he exhorts, “despair if plot ideas for your first go at a mystery prove elusive. It may be (as was the case in my own first run at it) that you are thinking too hard. Yes, that often happens. The mind is too full of plots banging their heads against each other. Take a walk in a wooded vale or relax over a good book. Empty that busy mind.”

As Widgeon’s fans know (they’re called Widgeonites) he pumps out a book a year. Nine months, actually, the remaining three spent clearing his mind in his Canary Island condo, a pattern that might seem mechanical to more creative writers. He responds to that in this immoderately metaphorical passage:

“I have made it a point of pride that my novels, like human life, invariably emerge from the womb after nine months of gestation — give or take a week or two. That is followed by three months of recovery from birth pangs. Following a rigid routine demands discipline — one must set time targets. Writing is, after all, a business.” (A notion that, as he complains elsewhere, most writers don’t comprehend.)

Widgeon won’t mind if I copy another passage holus-bolus. Here he waxes lubriciously about conceiving plot ideas:

“As with human congress, a seed must be implanted, and it is here that the writer seeks deepest connection, the thrusting and straining for a rapturous moment of conception that leads to that Eureka moment: ‘The caretaker of the graveyard! Only he could have disposed of the body!’”

How does Widgeon find his own plot ideas? Tune in next week.