Mysteries by James R. Coggins

Having read hundreds of murder mysteries, good, mediocre, and terrible, (and even having scribbled a few myself), I’ve come to a startling conclusion: People read murder mysteries for the mystery.

It’s the mental puzzle that attracts. Readers want to see if they can figure out “whodunit” before the writer solves the mystery and reveals the murderer. In a good mystery, therefore, the writer must lay out all the clues, to give the reader a fair shot at guessing the solution.

I have also noticed an unfortunate trend. After a writing two or three moderately successful murder mysteries, many mystery writers develop the delusion that they are real novelists. They decide that readers read their books, not because of the mystery, but because they are fascinated with the characters, especially the lead character—who is usually modelled on the writer. Librarians write about librarians, accountants about accountants, editors about editors, dog trainers about dog trainers. The problem is that these writers’ lives are not really as interesting as the writers think they are.

It is a common human failing. We all have a tendency to think it is all about us, to focus on ourselves instead of the great mysteries of life.

James R. Coggins is the author of the John Smyth mysteries. The hero of these mysteries is John Smyth who, modeled on Coggins himself, is the short, bald, and bearded editor of a Christian magazine who never seems to garner the respect and widespread admiration he deserves.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is
This entry was posted in James R. Coggins and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.