Writing Class


Who is Warren Murphy

-and what can he possibly teach me about writing a novel?

In a new anthology called “Crime Square,” Warren Murphy has a story entitled “Gatekeeper” which some consider a high-quality slice of the story-teller’s art. The anthology’s editor writes that “Despite a slew of national awards, including multiple Edgars (Mystery Writers of America) and Shamuses (Private Eye Writers of America), Warren Murphy has spent most of his time traveling under the critical radar. His Destroyer series sold fifty million books but more importantly took the stodgy old action adventure genre and opened it up as a vehicle for social satire. His soft-boiled detective series, Trace, were called the funniest mysteries ever written and another series was considered trail-blazing in its depiction of the casual racial relationships among big city cops.”

The Destroyer series gave the world the classic archetypal story of the brash young westerner being trained in the secret arts by an inscrutable old Asian; it became a movie and a TV pilot but even more importantly it provided the source material for what seemed to be half the films made in Hollywood in the 1980′s And even now, 40 years after its first publication, new Destroyers continue to come from Murphy’s pen.

Private eye Devlin Tracy is also one of a kind. There are seven books in the Trace series and they won seven national awards, making it one of the most honored series in modern detective history. Mystery and Detective Monthly called the books “the funniest mysteries ever written, bar none.” The head of the Private Eye Writers put Trace on its alltime list of the top 20 private eye novels and listed the spinoff TV show, “Murphy’s Law,” on its top 20 list of television detectives.

No one-trick pony, among his almost 200 books, Murphy has written fantasy, horror, big suspense novels, political thrillers, locked room mysteries, and despite taking ten years off “to deal with some minor annoyances,” the awards and credits keep piling up. He’s also a screenwriter with credits on the Eiger Sanction for Clint Eastwood, Lethal Weapon II, while the film, “Remo Williams, the Aventure Begins” was based on his Destroyer series. He took time off once to write a book-length report on urban rioting for a statewide policeman’s association.

Murphy is an occasional lecturer, professor and teacher, with a reputation for telling it as it is, even when — actually, especially when — it is politically incorrect.

Mary Higgins Clark once quoted approvingly his description of what terror is, relating : “Warren Murphy says ‘Terror’s not ghosts flying through the walls, going woo-woo-woo. Terror is when the party is over and everyone has gone home and at last you can take a deep breath and you lock the doors and your place is finally empty and quiet, and you turn out the lights and then you hear the toilet flush upstairs. That’s terror.’”

And here are some of the things said about him and his work:

“Flights of hilarious satire.” L.A. Times

“Four stars. Cheerful mayhem.” NY Times

Adventure novels “read even by the literate.” Village Voice

“Used as sociology texts in college classes.” Mother Jones.

Along the way, there have been other citations from such venues as the Romance Writers, West Coast Review of Books, Anthony award nomination, Fiction Writers Monthly, Mid-Atlantic Mystery award.

So with all those plaudits, why does he travel under the critical radar?. “Two reasons,” he explains. “One, I’m a hermit. and two, because the ginmills are generally better outside the critical radar.”

In his younger days, Murphy ran political campaigns but now is a full time– (when not retired) — writer, mostly of mysteries and adventures, although he has written horror and fantasy and historicals and contemporary romance and nonfiction essays and movies and original stage musicals, and is now writing the libretto for an opera, a book of golf instruction, and a history of the Mafia.

The encyclopedic St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers calls Murphy “the professional’s professional” and says “The breadth of Murphy’s talent staggers the imagination…comic detectives, caper novels, large suspense novels, sword and sorcery spy novels and locked room mysteries, together with short stories, comic books, movies and countless collaborations do not even begin to mark the parameters of his creative genius..”

* * *

So that’s why he might be able to teach you a thing or two about writing your novel. But who knows? Give it a try. You can’t beat the price.

Follow the links below for each lesson.

How to Start...And Finish...Your Novel

Lesson One  |  Lesson Two  | Lesson Three 

Lesson Four  |  Lesson Five  | Lesson Six 

Lesson Seven | Lesson Eight | Lesson Nine

Lesson Ten | Lesson Eleven | Lesson Twelve


11 Responses to Writing Class

  1. Always willing to learn, boss!

  2. Sandra Novelly says:

    I am certain I have a lot to learn.

  3. Great opportunity to learn from the master :) I am just getting started in my writing career and i look forward to this opportunity!

    • I am in process of finishing my first screenplay to novel conversion. In fact it will be my first completed thriller fiction work in five decades. I have come to realize that I am desparately in need of help.
      I’ve read and digested many of the books on writing. When I’m reading them they all seem to make sense. When I tried to apply them to my work, I feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest. Perhaps I am. But I love the climb!
      Thank you for your generosity in sharing your expertise with writers like me who dream of being like you.
      Creatively yours,
      Milt Saunders M.D.

      business@miltonsaunders.com (or above email address)

  4. Pingback: Destroyerclub Election Eve Chat « Destroyerclub

  5. Donna Courtois says:

    Molly Cochran has some posts about writing on her blog. The latest — <a href="http://mollycochran.com/blog/?p=94" — talks about outlining.

    For those who don’t know, she co-authored several Destroyers with Warren Murphy, as well as some great non-Destroyer novels like The Forever King, Grandmaster, and The Temple Dogs.

  6. hey guys, i’m so glad you’re hanging around and don’t forget to invite your friends. fact is, it took a long time to figure some of this stuff out, and yeah, maybe i’m no rocket scientist — (but i am pretty good at math and chess) — but i think i can give some tips to help you all get to the place you want to be — with a book in your hand that a) you are proud of and b) that you know is good. after that, it’s the luck of the draw. but, dammit, if i can do it where i came from, i’m betting on you. all best, hang tough, never surrender, warren. (and who the hell was it who wrote “sore wa ii desh’ta yo.”? i saw it someplace, can’t find it again, and can’t translate it. HELPMEHELPMEHELPME. warren

    • Jonas says:

      It is Japanese and it means “That was good, really”. Now, why someone would end an English comment with such non exciting content in Japanese one can only speculate about. This is what it would look like in Japanese (if the mysterious God of Computerized Characters is with me): それはいいでしたよ。

      • hi, jonas, thanks. i knew it sounded japanese — (as you might know, i had a japanese mother-in-law) — but google’s translation service wasn’t any help. so your contribution is deeply appreciated and gratefully accepted. thanks again, warren

    • Jonas says:

      Oh, yes, and a Happy New Year!

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