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Atlin Merrick Book Reviews

I absolutely can't read how-to books about writing.

Improbable Press Book ReviewsIt's like asking a caterpillar how she manages to control all those legs. Do that and, if she stops to think about it, she may never move again. Ever.

So reading books about writing does not help me with writing, unless help is defined by overwhelming ennui and a need to binge Great British Bake-Off.


Instead I read a lot of books about the things I write about.

When I was writing Sherlock Holmes stories for breakfast, lunch, and after-dinner dessert, I adored books about science, such as:

* The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases by E.J. Wagner,

* Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, and

* The Rainbow Colors of Pee by Ashley Titan, because I—

—wait, what?

You're wondering about that last book you say? Well I did too, so when I had the opportunity to review it, you double-damn well believe review it I did. And review it I will here in future, complete with images of blue pee! So exciting.


Now I'm working on a book with Lee Harper over at History Bones and I'm reading books about Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River; Frances Glessner Lee, the 'mother of modern forensics' and creator of the Nutshell Studies; Joseph Merrick, who was also known as the Elephant Man (and from whom I take the name Merrick); Queen Nzinga, 17th-century ruler of what is now known as Angola; and lots more.

I want to know:

What are your writerly reads right now? What's fueling your writing or your brain, what's delighting you, what would you recommend?

Have a look at the comments for some great writerly recommendations; and please share yours. If you'd like to share a 200-300 word review as a guest blogger, do that too!

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  • Lee Harper on

    I absolutely look to The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Botz because it focuses on the dioramas created by Frances Glessner Lee. Her work combines miniatures, true crime, and storytelling through art. The detail is incredible and she’s been a huge influence on my art. Also love Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy. I don’t do taxidermy, by the clothing, sets, and detail in his work is amazing.

  • Anarion on

    I do most of my research for my Sherlock stories online, so I had to think about this for a while. The one and only book I ever bought explicitly for my writing was ‘Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo’. I was looking for books about tattoos in general and stumbled upon this gem. Amazing title, history, women, history of women – what’s not to love?

  • Narrelle Harris on

    I’ve been reading a lot of folklore for potential sequels to an existing book, including Dublin Folk Tales and Nottinghamshire Ghost Stories; and a lot of Victorian-era Australian crime history (including Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends). I am yet to read some other books in my teetering research stash about social and queer history of the period, inclding Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians and a big fat hardcover called “Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914”.

  • Margaret Walsh on

    I am currently reading “Dynamite, Treason & Plot: Terrorism in Victorian and Edwardian London” by Simon Webb as research for my third book.

    It is interesting and absorbing in its own right as it draws parallels between the anarchist and Fenian terror campaigns and those of the IRA or, more recently, various Muslim terrorist groups.

  • Jamie on

    I no longer spend my time with books that don’t spark some kind of creative delight in me. Almost every book I read helps me to write but if I must mention one (or 46) then it is the entire Discworld series and the Tiffany Aching series. The way these books reflect our own world and human behaviour is done so sharply, wisely, and hilariously that they have been better teachers than all the writing guides I’ve seen combined.
    Also art galleries and nature. Inspiration everywhere!

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