Women of Mystery

A four-part screening-reading-and-discussion program is based on the film “Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction”

Women of Mystery is a compelling and innovative book discussion program that inspires participants to engage in lively discussions of contemporary literary and social issues, and to draw connections between the fictional world of crime novels and the social challenges they face in their own communities.

The four-part screening-reading-and-discussion program is based on the film “Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction” by award-winning filmmakers Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald. It combines engaging interviews with the writers; dramatized readings from the books; and fascinating scenes following Grafton, Muller and Paretsky, as they research, photograph, and explore Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Featured Novels

  • ‘S’ is for Silence by Sue Grafton
  • Vanishing Point by Marcia Muller
  • Fire Sale by Sara Paretsky

Book Discussion in a Box

Women of Mystery organizers will receive:

  • 15 copies of each of the titles in the program (45 books total)
  • A VHS copy of the film “Women of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction”
  • A promotional poster
  • A Women of Mystery discussion guide
  • Selected bibliographies of Grafton’s, Muller’s, and Paretsky’s work
  • Biographies of the filmmakers and the writers
  • Evaluation tools
  • An interview with the “Women of Mystery” filmmakers

We ask Women of Mystery program organizers to

  • Engage a discussion facilitator (e.g. a local scholar or a librarian) to lead the discussions
  • Acknowledge the California Center for the Book in printed program and publicity materials and orally at events
  • Return a full set of books to us
  • Complete and return Women of Mystery evaluation forms

Structure

In week one, participants view and discuss the film, which profiles mystery writers Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and Sara Paretsky, and delves into the worlds of their detectives.

In weeks two, three, and four, books by Grafton, Muller, and Paretsky, are used by a scholar to facilitate discussion about, for example:

  • The writing and filmmaking processes
  • The construction of a well-told story
  • The intimate connection between the reader and the fictional hero
  • The importance of Grafton, Muller and Paretsky, and the social issues (e.g., homelessness, spousal abuse, the death penalty, and the environment) featured in their books
  • Questions about crime and justice
  • The evolution of the woman’s voice in contemporary fiction
  • The significance of place and setting within detective fiction.

The Roots of Learning

Reading and discussion are the roots of learning and can also become the roots of community bonding. Women of Mystery enables members of different communities to come together and talk about the issues addressed by the filmmakers and the writers. With its combination of film screening, reading, and discussion, and its focus on Grafton, Muller, and Paretsky, Women of Mystery widens the community of the book and introduces audiences to women storytellers who are challenging the existing texts for women’s lives and are making social and literary history.

This “book club in a box” is free of charge to California libraries.

Out-of-state libraries, Professors, Teachers can purchase the “Women of Mystery” video from New Day Films or by phoning toll-free 1-888-367-9154. Mention the California Center for the Book for a special $75 public library price (regular public library price is $99). Email info@calbook.org for discussion questions and an interview with the filmmakers.