Monday, July 25, 2016

Hooked by a Title

The year was 1989, I lived in a small Texas town and I perused the local library for mysteries to read.  Suddenly one afternoon I spotted an intriguing title Death in Zanzibar by M.M. Kaye, an author I had never read. And a "faraway place with a strange sounding name" could not be ignored.

Fast forward to four years ago when I started a blog series titled Hooked from the Start and the fifth and last blog dealt mainly with first lines. I don't know why I put the series on hold but I did mention that Part Six would deal with titles, especially Death in Zanzibar by M.M. Kaye (M.M. stands for Mary Margaret). Obviously, I intended to continue the series but life got in the way and I forgot all about it. Hopefully now I'm back on track. 

Yes, I am a great lover of mysteries and of far away places and six of Ms. Kaye's books began with "Death in...." a faraway place. I read most of those books in 1989 and read one right after another. Later I discovered that not all of these titles originally began with "Death in" and must have been changed to indicate a continuity of sorts. She and her military husband moved 27 times and she used some of the places as inspiration for her novels.

 I learned, by reading her biography on Wikipedia, that she was born in India and her father was an intelligence officer in the Indian Army. Her grandfather, brother and husband all served in the British Raj, which was the rule of the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947. Death in Zanzibar was the first of her mysteries that I read and as I said, I was hooked. The novels that I read next were all Death in a faraway place: Kashmir, Berlin, Cyprus, Kenya, the Andamans. She wrote other novels also but her most famous novel was The Far Pavilions.

In 1989 a public library was my sanctuary to search for mysteries. And certainly a series that began with "Death in..." suggested mystery. I discovered a lot of mystery writers that year just from browsing through titles. Of course the Internet later made it a lot easier to find mysteries or any genre, for that matter.

Part Seven in this series will continue not with titles or first lines but with blurbs that caught my attention.


Patricia Gligor said...

A great title will hook me every time! But, I've learned to read the book's synopsis before buying it. A great title doesn't mean a great book so a reader has to take that into account.
In my Malone mystery series, I use titles that are short (two words) and that have double meanings. For example, in "Mixed Messages," the main character receives threats AND love poems (from different sources) and her alcoholic husband is sending her mixed messages too.

Marja said...

I can't tell you how many books I've read because the title hooked me, and it was usually worth the time. As for me, I generally try to come up with a title that comes from the story. I want the title to relate to the story.

Excellent post!

Palmaltas said...

You are so right, Patricia, that a great title doesn't mean a great book. I am usually hooked by faraway places and tropical islands and beaches. Recently I was hooked by a tropical island scenario and the first half was outstanding but the second half took a turn that was very amateurish, to say the least and putting it mildly. In that case I should have read the reviews.
And I am loving your Malone mystery series.

Palmaltas said...

Thanks so much, Marja. Titles usually do hook me as well as the genre. And I love the originality of your titles.

Marilyn Levinson said...

The title of my new mystery is DEATH OVERDUE. I'm glad to see I'm following a good practice.

I read a book by M. M. Kaye that takes place in India. An amazing novel covering so much of Indian culture of that time. I can't remember the title, It was long-- published in two volumes.

Palmaltas said...

Death Overdue sounds like a winner, Marilyn. The M.M. Kaye novel you are thinking of may be The Far Pavilions. It was made into a movie and is considered her masterpiece.

Jean Joachim said...

I read M.M. Kaye for exactly the same reason -- the title intrigued me! I loved the couple of books of hers that I read. Thanks for this blog.

Palmaltas said...

Thanks for your comments, Jean. I'm always thrilled when others read the same books I do or are hooked the same way I am.