What’s a Hundred Years? …by Gayle Bartos-Pool

99be9-gayle51closeupA former private detective and reporter for a small weekly newspaper, G.B.Pool writes the Johnny Casino Casebook Series and the Gin Caulfield P.I. Mysteries. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line.”



* * * *

Shakespeare died 400 years ago, but we all have read his plays. There is talk now that schools want to stop teaching works by the guys who basically gave us the foundation of our modern literature. I would give you their astute reasoning, but there is no good reason behind it. It’s a stupid idea.

Aristotle, Euripides, Aristophanes, Sophocles… I hope those names aren’t Greek to you (Sorry, that’s a little literary humor.), but these men crafted the basics of writing as we know it. Centuries later we got Shakespeare and Chaucer and Christopher Marlowe, Ibsen, Chekhov and, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and the Bronte Sisters. And list goes on and on.

They make movies based on these books. People still read the classics. Some of the wording is a tad dated, but the stories are still relevant. Romeo and Juliet turned into West Side Story. How many retellings of A Christmas Carol have there been? Good lasts.
Anna Katharine GreenThis takes me to Anna Katharine Green and Mary Roberts Rinehart. These two ladies lived a hundred years ago. Anna Katharine Green wrote her Amelia Butterworth character in 1897, well before Agatha Christie wrote The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) featuring Miss Marple. Christie acknowledges Green as her inspiration. Green also wrote about a young female amateur sleuth, Violet Strange, years before the first Nancy Drew stories hit the bookstore shelves.

Mary Roberts Rinehart

Mary Roberts Rinehart turned out her first mystery, The Man in Lower Ten, in 1906 and The Circular Staircase in 1907, both astonishingly good mystery stories. She references both Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in that first mystery. She went on to pen her Letitia Carberry stories featuring three old spinsters who have adventures and calamities that are rollickingly funny and dead clever.

SCircular Staircasehe is considered the source for the term: “The butler did it.” She didn’t use that exact phrase, but the butler was the culprit. She even has a series of stories centered around World War I. She was a trained nurse and married a doctor; so much of what she writes has facts behind it. She even served as a war correspondent during World War I in Belgium and toured the front lines, so the visuals are based on things she saw firsthand. Not all her stories are mysteries, but they are all good, solid stories, some even slightly romantic, but nothing even remotely lurid. How refreshing.

AKG Mystery Megapack
I started with the Anna Katherine Green stories. When I first started reading these two ladies, I couldn’t believe they were written a hundred years ago. The writing is fresh, some of the social/political comments could have been written today, and the work is witty, clever, and occasionally deliciously sarcastic. I have to admit, both ladies used a few words that are no longer in the vernacular (look it up), but since I was reading on my Kindle, I could look up the meanings right there and then carry on. But the overall feeling was that I was reading something written yesterday, not a century ago. I was and am still amazed at the contemporary handling of the stories.

The list of literary greats from that time and earlier does contain preponderance of male writers, but that’s just the way it was for quite a few centuries. Health care got better so women weren’t dying during childbirth, household appliances were invented to make domestic life easier, and some women decided they wanted to write… and they did. Women wrote short stories for magazines and even penned a few books. They showed what was possible.

But these two ladies weren’t writing fluff or recipes. In fact, there was a lawsuit against Anna Katharine Green because some fool didn’t believe a woman could write a story with such an accurate legal basis as a plot. Well, the idiot ate his words. Green’s father was a lawyer and the lady knew what she was writing about.

If you can’t find hardback books by these ladies, there are e-book collections of their many stories available at remarkably low prices. Some single stories are free, the work transcribing their books to an e-Book format done by volunteers. God Bless them. Some books are only available for free. (I pay for nearly every book that I read. These tireless workers who provided the works of these great ladies and frankly all writers deserve that we pay for their efforts.) These collections contain both novel-length stories and short stories and novellas.

And something else for you writers, these ladies show how to tell a story with a ton of stuff in them, no repetition, lots of plot, character and setting that will make you reevaluate your own writing. Remember, they did these stories a hundred years ago. They were cutting edge in the mystery genre… some of the first to do this genre, male or female. And their works are good.

As many contemporary books as I have read by men and women, these books are rising to the top as my favorites because they did it first and did it beautifully. Cleanly crafted, lots of stuff happening, lots of great characters. Some of the stories you don’t want to end. That is literary gold.

Author: gbpool

A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (writing as G.B. Pool) writes three detective series: the Gin Caulfield P.I. series (Media Justice, Hedge Bet & Damning Evidence), The Johnny Casino Casebook Series, and the Chance McCoy detective series. She also penned a series of spy novels, The SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. She has a collection of short stories in From Light To DARK, as well as novels: Eddie Buick’s Last Case, Enchanted: The Ring, The Rose, and The Rapier, The Santa Claus Singer, and three delightful holiday storied, Bearnard’s Christmas, The Santa Claus Machine, and Every Castle Needs a Dragon. Also published: CAVERNS, Only in Hollywood, and Closer. She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” (The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook and So You Want to be a Writer are available.) “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California. Website: www.gbpool.com.

23 thoughts on “What’s a Hundred Years? …by Gayle Bartos-Pool”

  1. Fantastic post, Gayle. When I finished reading, went straight to Amazon and ordered the Anna Katherine Green Mystery Mega Pack! I can’t believe there’s talk of dropping the classics? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t imagine how life would be without our written past, in all areas, literature, human events, sciences not being there for us.

    I’m going to my bookcase next to look for whatever I still have of Mary Roberts Rinehart books. I think one of them should be my next book club selection! I was thinking of cleaning my kitchen, I think I’d rather go curl up with Anna or Mary… Smile.

    Again, excellent Post.


    1. Mad, I am reading all their work. I just finished The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow by Anna Katharine Green. It seemed like a fairly simple story as began, but it kept going deeper and deeper into the story. These two ladies do show how to write a story to get lost in.


  2. You mentioned Anna Katherine Green in another context not long ago, and I was so intrigued that I bought a collection of her stories. I haven’t started it yet, but your post has made me think that maybe today should be the day. Thanks for making me aware of her work!


    1. It’s always tricky to recommend a book or TV show or even a restaurant, but I do want to give people a chance to read someone who blew me away. Two people in fact. Some of Anna Katharine Green’s work is quite contemporary and Mary Roberts Rinehart’s work is brilliant. Makes me want to write better and better.


  3. Thank you for this informative introduction to these early brilliant writers. Do you have any plans to teach courses with these writers as the primary focus? I imagine there would be significant interest in such a class. I applaud your work and your scholarship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never thought about teaching a course in their writing, but I will think about it now. I teach writing courses, and what better way to teach writing than by teaching the ones who started this ball rolling. Both these women are considered pioneers in the mystery field. Thanks, Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul, I enjoy many authors, but these ladies did it first and i am amazed with the scope of their stories. Even the ones that aren’t necessarily mysteries are so well done. But good is good, and they are remarkable.


  4. Good, informative post, Gayle. I know you’ve recommended Ms. Green before, but now I am positively drooling to get to some of her stories. Here you say, ” In fact, there was a lawsuit against Anna Katharine Green because some fool didn’t believe a woman could write a story with such an accurate legal basis as a plot.” I wonder which of her books/stories inspired such ire and question, do you know? I love legal mysteries.
    I haven’t read much Shakespeare (except the required Julius Caesar and Romeo & Juliet in high school), but I’ve been to a few of his authorized (and modernized) plays and have enjoyed them. Some are hilarious. We get many, many sayings from him today (and from the Bible).
    I guess gettin’ old ain’t so bad after all… at least if we keep on writing.


    1. Jackie, It was The Leavenworth case that brought the lawsuit. She grew up with a lawyer father and knew what she was taking about. And she won the case.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gayle, as you know I am a fan of mysteries for children and I have discovered a not-quite-100-but-counting-year old writer of children’s mysteries and adventures – Enid Blyton. Some of our readers may be interested in checking them out for their young kids. The Secret Seven is the team of junior investigators. http://amzn.to/2avIyTx


      1. Jackie, It’s nice to know the names of some of these older works. Many are very good and often better than more current offerings.


  6. Great post, GB. I bought the Anna Katharine Green Mystery Megapack a while ago based on your recommendation, and I dip into it whenever I want to escape some of the tedium of today’s literature. It doesn’t surprise me that the schools don’t want to bother teaching the classics. They’re also doing away with cursive writing. A whole generation of kids unable to read the Declaration of Independence–now that’s sad.


    1. Bonnie, As pathetic as it is that schools might stop teaching the basics – literally reading, writing and arithmetic, there are still a few parents out there who will fill in the gaps for their children. It is ultimately the parents’ responsibility when society lets them down.


  7. Reading well written books is the best way to learn how to write. How sad that masters of great literature may be lost in the expanding definition of what’s now considered to be.


  8. Gayle – a fascinating post. I love these writers from yesteryear. I now have several of these stories on my Kindle. I found that Anna Katherine Green’s ‘voice’ reminded me of Jeremy Brett’s wonderful portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. So very intelligent and interesting. Thank you for sharing these names with us. And – yes – you should think about teaching this…. Well done.


    1. Rosemary, One of the many things I like about these two authors is the unfolding of the stories. They keep opening new avenues and take the reader willingly with them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: