There is a Golden Age of detective fiction going on at the very moment, but because most of what’s being written is aimed at 8-to-12 year-olds, it gets overlooked by, like, grown-ups. I’m trying to raise awareness of this with my frequent Minor Felonies posts, and it’s partly in pursuit of this aim that I’m delighted to welcome M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman — authors of the excellent Adventures on Trains series — to my nerdy detective fiction podcast, In GAD We Trust.
Ahead of the publication of fifth entry in the series Sabotage on the Solar Express (2022) and Sam’s non-fiction book about train journeys Epic Adventures (2022), both published on 17th February, Maya and Sam sat down to discuss writing murder for a potentially sensitive audience, how to clue a solution without making it too obscure, the importance of their collaboration with Elisa Paganelli, and the explosion of detective fiction available for younger readers in recent years.
There are also quite a few parallels between the classic-era Golden Age titles of a century ago and the work being done in the younger market, and it was lovely to get some perspective on this from two people actively involved in writing high-quality, engaging, and well-motivated mysteries. I know the step to books for 8 year-olds might seem an odd one to take for those of you raised on a diet of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but I’m hoping the discussion — not least the point about the rigour of audience expectations, and the need for everything to hang together for a book to be read five or six times — will at least give you something to think about.
Anyway, onwards with the chat…
I’m very grateful to Maya and Sam for their time, to Jonny Berliner for my theme tune, and to you all at home for listening. In GAD We Trust is now a monthly undertaking, rather than a fortnightly one, and will definitely stop at some point, but while it’s fun I’m going to keep putting these out yet.
You can find all previous episodes on the blog by clicking here.
The Adventures on Trains series by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman
1. The Highland Falcon Thief (2020)
2. Kidnap on the California Comet (2020)
3. Murder on the Safari Star (2021)
4. Danger at Dead Man’s Pass (2021)
5. Sabotage on the Solar Express (2022)
6. The Arctic Railway Assassin (2022)
2 thoughts on “In GAD We Trust – Episode 28: Writing Mysteries for Younger Readers [w’ M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman]”
Absolutely lovely! It actually amounted to a master class of sorts on what to think about if you want to write one of these. I envy that I never had a seat mate at work as simpatico as Maya or Sam. Some of us end up having to walk these mean streets alone.
That was a great episode JJ! Really brightened up a dreary weekend. I loved hearing Maya and Sam talk about their experiences with the genre and about crafting these books. Some great and intriguing insights into the state of publishing for younger readers. The idea of writing books to appeal to kids other than the ones who already are bookworms is a great one. Makes me feel more cheerful about the future of books. Every reader, even adults, loves to see themselves represented on the page. Perhaps us book obsessives forget sometimes that books don’t have to be only aimed at us.