MARY SUTTON: You said on your website that “settings are characters.” What do you mean by that?
JOYCE YARROW: Well, it is often said that a place ‘has character’ – and since our environment has such power to shape us, I would take it one step further. Cities and towns, suburbs and wilderness all share the qualities of a living organism, both symbolically and in reality. This is why streets are called arteries, mountains taunt us with their grandeur, and Billy Joel sings about being in a ‘New York’ state of mind.’
As I see it, my job as a writer is to bring to life the physical universe in which a story takes place, so that the border between character and setting blurs and the two merge in the reader’s mind to create an alternate reality. Raymond Chandler was a master at this, to the point where a mini-industry has sprung up in Los Angeles, taking mystery fans on tours of the settings portrayed in his books. Here’s a classic example: “The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel, but I didn't move. Not being bullet proof is an idea I had had to get used to.” From The Big Sleep.
When I traveled to Russia in search of settings for Code of Thieves, each place I visited—Vladimir Central Prison, the Moscow Metro, the Matryoshka Factory, et al—became a character in its own right, revealing its unique personality and inviting traumatic events to transpire there.
Istoria Books is rereleasing Joyce's excellent mystery novel Code of Thieves this April. The new edition features an essay by and interview with the author.
Code of Thieves by Joyce Yarrow
Full-time private investigator/part-time poet Jo Epstein travels to New York and eventually to Russia to help clear her emigre stepfather—who is framing him for murder and who is sending him threatening messages in Russian nesting dolls (matryoshkas)? Her investigation takes her on a journey into her stepfather’s past and into the honor-bound code of the “vory,” a Russian criminal syndicate.
- "Intricately layered like the Russian nested doll of the title..." Library Journal
- "You'll want to discover the secrets buried in The Last Matryoshka..." Lesa Holstine, Lesa's Book Critiques
- "Joyce Yarrow....may very well prove herself to be the Mickey Spillane of the 21st century...." Seattle Post Intelligencer
Buy Code of Thieves by Joyce Yarrow for Kindle here.
It is also available at other major etailers.
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Istoria Books's "Mysterious Monday" program features posts about mystery writing, reading, bookselling and more by writers from beyond the Istoria stable. Stop back on Mondays for insightful posts on the mystery genre. Check out Istoria Books's mystery offerings here.
Mysterious Monday posts from the past:
- Jenny Milchman writes about Putting the MIST in mystery: obscuring facts
- Carola Dunn writes about her experiences with a mysterious bookstore display: Downton Abbey, Barnes & Noble, and Carola Dunn
- Mystery writers and readers' mystery pet peeves, part one
- Mystery writers and readers' mystery pet peeves, part deux
- A President's Day Mystery
- Whither the Hit Person by Gary Alexander
- To Review or Not by Marlyn Beebe
- Common mistakes mystery writers make about the law...by Leslie Budewitz