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Monday, October 26, 2009

Samantha Archer and the Field Trip Mysteries

Editor's Note: This month is National Field Trip Month and National Mystery Month. We asked author Steve Brezenoff to write about his favorite part about the creation of the Field Trip Mysteries. Check out our Mystery webpage!


When the editors at Stone Arch Books approached me with the Field Trip Mysteries concept, I jumped at the chance. Writing a mystery is great fun on its own, but the idea of a series, featuring four bright and interesting kids, plus the added concept of fun, educational venues — changing from adventure to adventure — sweetened the pot even more.

From the get-go, I knew I wanted to pay homage to some of my favorite mysteries of the past. Rather than look to Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, or Miss Marple, though, I decided to reference the classic detectives, crooks, and stars of American film noir. Several of the cast of the Field Trip Mysteries — regulars and "guest stars" — are named for those colorful characters. But that wasn't enough for me. So I created Samantha Archer.

Herself named for a couple of noir detectives played most famously by Humphrey Bogart and Jerome Cowan, Sam also brings something else to the party: the talk. By putting Sam in the care of her grandparents, and in front of their TV — so often playing the classic American detective films — I let Sam absorb and come to love the distinctive speech of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and their ilk.

Some of those authors' lingo simply won't work nowadays: even in context, modern readers simply won't get the meaning. "Get in the boiler, Bo, or I butter your necktie" probably won't be clear, especially to a striving reader. But used sparsely, and with clear context and even direct translation, such terms bring a tone to the stories that I particularly enjoy, and make Sam Archer my favorite character.

--Steve Brezenoff

1 comment:

Blythe said...

I have no idea what it means but I'm going to threaten to butter somone's necktie.