Guest Post: The Ten Commandments of Writing a Detective Novel by Adam C. Mitchell

Welcome Adam C. Mitchell, one of Dragonfly’s most prolific writers. Enjoy this repost from his blog, “Noir Writer, Adam C. Mitchell.” You can find this and other blogs by this author there.

Adam C. Mitchell

As a Noir Crime Fiction writer, I read a lot of noir, both modern and golden age, this writer’s preference being those set in the ’30s and ’40s, and the kingpin of the noir crime caper were my literary idols Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, these two creative masters both set the foundations and gold standard in my opinion, on what good crime fiction should be! This can especially be said for Raymond Chandler, most notably through the eyes of his most beloved creation, his character Philip Marlowe later played on the small screen by Powers Boothe, a Tv show I can’t recommend enough to those wanting to not just read but see the glory of chandler.

The script lifts a lot straight from his books (a character I heavily based my own private eye Jack Malone on – check out my book The Lost Angel to read about Malone). Marlowe showed a side of Los Angeles back in the 1940s that most crime novels and films of the day refused to show, mainly the everyday people with everyday problems and how they suffered through the greed of others and the city leaning on and over them, pushing them into acts, they would later regret.

Chandler throughout the tradition of crime novels of his time, the so-called ‘Locked Room Mystery’ made famous by authors like Agatha Christie. Instead, Chandler created outward-looking stories and plots that showed the world with its lose ever-changing morals. This genre, the genre of noir crime fiction, (some would also say the golden age of crime fiction –I tend to stand by both labels) was his life’s work and even after his death would go on to influence and inspire future generations of noir and crime writers and authors, this author, in particular, being one of those touched and inspired by this god of the genre. So it’s not a stretch to find out the man who gave his life to a genre, had some very strong often controversial opinions on crime fiction.

Below are what he called The Ten Commandments of Writing a Detective Novel.

*These are taken from a book by him Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler published in 1981 – note this book has been republished countless times and the commandants have been added to and expanded upon but this is the original ten.

1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.

2) It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.

3) It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.

4) It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.

5) It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.

6) It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.

7) The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.

8) It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.

9) It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.

10) It must be honest with the reader.

These ten commandments are heavy-hitting left and right hooks to the locked room mystery that was popular in the 1920s-1940s. Chandler delivers a heavy volley of creative punches two of these works in his seminal essay about crime fiction, The Simple Art of Murder (a must-read for any crime author)

In that essay after thoroughly taking apart the murder mystery The Red House by A. A. Milne (yes, the writer of Winnie the Pooh), Chandler fights back against detective stories where the whole point of the plot makes no sense when compared to what would happen in real life in that exact situation. On the matter Chandler says this, “If the situation is false, you cannot even accept it as a light novel, for there is no story for the light novel to be about.”

He goes on to trash other British mystery writers like Agatha Christie who Chandler paints not only as a hypocritical snob but also as boring. “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers,” he quips. (being a fellow Brit crime writer I have to say if I could go back in time I would happily punch the yank, with a choice quip or two of my own.)

Chandler then offers praise to his hard-boiled partner in literary crime Dashiell Hammett who infuses his stories with a sense of realism. “Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought dueling pistols, curare, and tropical fish….He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.” Chandler says.

It’s funny that this quote about Hammet also sums up Chandler.


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“Cades Damnatorum and Other Tales Vol:1” by Adam C. Mitchell

Dragonfly Books is delighted to announce the release of

Cades Damnatorum and Other Tales Vol:1 by Adam C. Mitchell

Cades Damnation and Other Tales
Books2Read

A collection of stories born out of the dark dimension that is known simply as Netherspace.A dimension ruled by the Macabre, by demons and things that give nightmares causes to worry. Are you really ready to follow travellers, monks, hunters, and necromancers and more in this dark place? Are you prepared for Netherspace?

You can learn more about Adam and his writing on

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Interview with Author Adam C. Mitchell

As publishers, we like to learn about our authors. What makes these creative folk tick? Where do their ideas come from? What secrets lie within those imaginative brains?

Meet Adam C. Mitchell whose ability to step into the past and write some of the most intriguing crime noir tales on Amazon. After reading his interview you undoubtedly want to read his books.

Interview with Adam Mitchell

Q1/When did you first start writing and when did you first write professionally?

I wrote a lot during my time at secondary school but as I’m heavily dyslexic I never did anything with it until a story was picked up for a local anthology.  Which after I left school in 2003 gave me the seed of an idea to try doing something with it. I have been writing professionally as an Indie author since 2010, which is when I first wrote a short story which later became PART 1 of THE LOST ANGEL, which was published a year later.

Q2/ Your books are crime noir. That’s unusual in today’s book market. What attracts you to that genre?

What spurred me originally to write noir, especially noir based around the 1940’s and not the more modern noir stylings, was as I struggled at school I was often in the school library taking refuge from English lessons, this was where a librarian helped me get to grips with reading properly and also encouraged me to read things I wouldn’t normally have read. This was where my love for authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammet, James Elroy, and other such authors came from.

The other thing I love about the 1940’s noir style and especially the crime markets set in it, as there were no forensics (which I find a right pain to write about). It was also a more human style of writing focusing more on characters, their lives, their motivations, and failings. Rather than just the simple story.

Q3/ Have you ever written in any other genre?

I have dabbled in other genres. Currently, I have a science fiction short story collection called NETHERSPACE, and a pulp-styled adventure novel called EYE OF THE FIRE, both out on  Kindle and paperback. I am also close to publishing a semi-autobiographical satirical novel through Dragonfly Books called, BEER, WOMEN AND THE WRITTEN WORD, which will be on both Kindle and Paperback. There are also plans for a classic styled Space Opera book on the horizon with a touch of classic noir thrown in for good measure. Keep your eyes open on my author page and Dragonfly’s pages for more details. (Adam’s Website Adam C. Mitchell

Q4/ What kind of books do you read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

I devour almost any hardboiled Noir writer who writes old school noir, but I have a small soft spot for one or two modern noir writers most notably James Elroy. Currently, I am reading a lot of Charles Bukowski’s books; the style and feel of his books lends itself to how I like to write.

Q5/Can you remember the first book you read?

WOW, that’s a tricky question as due to my dyslexic barrier I avoided books until I was in my late teen. The first one I read cover to cover after the joy of books and the written words had me in its grasp was Audlous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD, followed shortly by THE RINGWOLD saga by Larry Niven.

Q6/Your characters are very realistic. Do you base them on real people or are they straight from your imagination?

That’s a loaded question really, who wants to be based on a baddie, or someone that gets killed off gruesomely, lol. But yes the characters mainly from THE LOST ANGEL were loosely based on actors who’d inspired me, most notably their mannerisms rather than their appearance, with the main PI character and Main Character Eddy being based on Nathan Fillion (PI) and Ray Lolita. Other than THE LOST ANGEL the characters are purely out of my imagination.

Q7/Who is your favorite character that you created and why?

Out of all the Noir books the two characters that stood out for me were  JACK MALONE the PI from THE LOST ANGEL, (a recurring character in most of my books). I loved this character because I built and wrote him around all the great PI detectives on the silver screen as well as all the clichés to for that matter.  The second character I fell in love with was the dame that would later become his wife, PEGGY ELLEN, in the new book, THE QUEEN AND THE VIPER. A female character that I created to break all the stereotypical molds of the female leads in this 1940’s genre being weak or just eye candy and constantly in need of saving. This character can kick ass and take names better than most men in the books I write.  Also, I hope to use her to springboard a series of 1940’s superhero books. (Still a pipedream but, THE QUEEN AND THE VIPER has set the groundwork.)

Q8/When you write, do you have a specific method you use? Do you write straight through from beginning to end or do you write pieces at a time?

Generally, as I write in parts, rather than chapters, I start with a character and then put him or her in a situation which would form for example the end of Part 1 and then work backward, thinking how would A, B, C, and D happen to get to that situation. The books kind of spurs from that, I then do the same method for each part of the book and I usually write four. Making sure each one links up smoothly.

Q9/If you compare your writing to another author, who would it be?

I don’t like to compare my work to other writers as everyone is different, however, I think no matter who we are, even if we don’t know it, subconsciously we borrow and emulate authors or books we love. So if I had to say who do I emulate if only a little I’d say Chandler.

 10/If one of your books could be made into a film, which one would you choose? Who would you want to play the different roles?

Now that’s the dream and again I think I ’d choose THE QUEEN AND THE VIPER, and have Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play the PI Jack Malone and his future wife Peggy Ellen. With Josh Brolin to play the aging hero THE VIPER. Of course, if I had the chance to see this on the silver screen I’d have to do it like they did in the 2006 film THE GOOD GERMAN and have it all in black and white with a retro feel about it.

Q11Are you working on anything right now? Would you like to share the plot?

I’m working on a few things like I said before. A space opera book with a hint of noir, but that’s still a pipe dream at the moment. But the one that should be out soon once the editing gods have cast their eye over it, is the Semi-autobiographical book BEER, WOMEN AND THE WRITTEN WORD, I won’t give too much away other than to say yes it’s based heavily on my life during the birth of my daughter, the main character is again heavily based on little old me, and it’s got a hint of the Bukowski and John Fante style to it, is un-politically correct and very adult and naughty in places. Here’s the blurb below.

“The book you have in your hands follows the path of Mitchell’s

alter ego Harry Block.

Through the High’s and Low’s of a job he hates,

Impending parenthood, the trials and misadventures of

redemption and a rather successful career in alcoholism.

All the while dealing with the stuggles of the written word

And writers block (No pun intended)”

 12/ In addition to writing books, I see you design your book covers. Have you done covers for any other authors?

I do dabble and have done a few covers for indie authors Samantha L. Latham, D.M Pennington, and my dad’s, Charles Mithell’s debut novel Valon. As a rule, I don’t charge the rather high rates a lot of designers do, as all us indie’s have tight budgets and every penny counts. Instead, all I ask is they buy a paperback of mine and then review it.


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