Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Kathleen Kaska

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Kathleen Kaska is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

Above is the cover photo for one of her three mystery trivia books, The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, and cover photos for her others on Sherlock Holmes and Alfred Hitchcock are below. Here's what Kate Stine, editor of Mystery Scene magazine, had to say about Kathleen's book on Agatha Christie:

"Kathleen Kaska covers every aspect of the Queen of Crime's life and career in The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. She has packed an astonishing number of quotes, characters, plots, settings, biographical details, and pure fun into these quizzes. As Poirot might say, your 'little grey cells will get the exercise!' This book, fiendishly clever and remarkably researched, is pure gold for fans of Agatha Christie."

Below is Kathleen's article on how to write trivia. Please feel free to ask her a question or let her know what you think of the article or her books in the comments. Enjoy!

Not Just Trivia
by Kathleen Kaska

Midge loved Edward, who loved Henrietta, who loved John, who loved Veronica, who was not his wife. Jealousy and rejection led to a tangled murder sorted out by none other than our favorite Belgian, Hercule Poirot.

While writing What's Your Agatha Christie I. Q.? (2nd edition renamed The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book), I wrote a variety of questions: multiple choice, matching, true/false, short answer, as well as crossword puzzles. I felt it wasn't enough to offer readers mere facts about Christie’s writing and her life. Reading the straightforward questions in other trivia books piqued my curiosity—I wanted to know more—but there was no more in the offering in these books.

So, when I began writing my first trivia book, I dug deeper to discover the who, what, where, when, why, and even how, of Christie’s writing. I wanted to disseminate the information in a creative and entertaining manner without spoiling the endings. For example, my first quiz summaries thirty Agatha Christie plots, giving teasers of the mysteries like the one above which describes the chain of unfortunate lovers. I used this method for the quizzes, “Murders, Motives, and Victims,” “Aliases,” and “Murder Settings.” In featuring Christie’s ten most popular mysteries, I categorized the information into characters, clues, and circumstances.

With The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, I began most quizzes with behind-the-scenes anecdotes describing Hitchcock’s practical jokes, bizarre antics, and innovated filming techniques. For example, while filming Psycho, Hitchcock closed his eyes and ordered his prop man to stab several different types of melons so Hitch could capture the right sound for the frightening shower scene. He decided on the casaba melon. This book also includes a chronology of Hitch’s life and career and a detailed filmography of all fifty-three feature films.

The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book gives the reader a plethora of information on where Arthur Conan Doyle got his ideas for many of his Holmes stories. The crime in “The Red-Headed League” was based on a well-known bank robbery staged by Adam Worth, who ran an intricate crime network in the United States between the 1860s and 1870s. Conan Doyle kept a collection of articles on file, a practice he later gave to his Great Detective. In this book, I added a grading scale at the end of each chapter, a chronology of Holmes’ life, and a list of Sherlock Holmes societies located around the world.

I also sprinkled “Did You Know” facts throughout all three books. These facts give the reader an even deeper insight into the lives of these three creative geniuses.

Did you know that Arthur Conan Doyle was a sports enthusiast? He was one of the first to introduce snow skiing to Switzerland.

Did you know that due to the constant wet conditions on the set for the filming of Lifeboat, Tallulah Bankhead complained bitterly of her discomfort. To appease his actress, Hitchcock allowed her to be filmed sans underwear? Bankhead’s immodesty almost cost the studio major publicity with the Ladies’ Home Journal, whose reporters were invited on the set.

Now, try your hand at these three quiz questions.

1.  What is the title of the Agatha Christie mystery where ten strangers are invited to an isolated island off England’s Devon coast? It wasn’t quite the vacation they’d hoped for.

2.  What Hitchcock movie’s climax scene takes place on a studio replica of a national monument in South Dakota? Hitch was not allowed to film on site since the U. S. government prohibits the defacing of a national monument.

3.  What was the name of the street urchin Sherlock Holmes used to assist in him gathering evidence?

You probably nailed these three questions. How about three more from the Holmes’ trivia quiz “A Study in Statistics?” I classified these as difficult.

1.  At which bank does Holmes have an account?

2.  How many windows are in Holmes’ setting room?

3.  What after-dinner drink does Holmes enjoy on occasion?

If you answered these correctly, you are a true Sherlockian!

Thanks, Kathleen! Now, who has a comment or question for her? Or an answer for one or more of her quiz questions?


Maggie Toussaint said...

I don't know the answer to your questions but I admire the creativity it took to write these books and pose the questions.

Wishing you all the best, Maggie

Unknown said...

Great post, Kathleen. I'm not much of a Sherlockian, I'm afraid. #2, though - North by Northwest?

Fun stuff - your Sherlock book is the perfect birthday gift for a friend of mine, so off to order.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks, Maggie. Not only did I learn a lot, they were fun to write.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Hi Shelia,
You're right on number 2. It's one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. Let me know how your friend likes the book. And thanks a bunch.

Kaye George said...

I know one of these! #1 for Christie. In GB, Ten Little Indians. In the US, And Then There Were None. Was the street urchin Jack? I'm not sure of that. I've visited the replica of 221B Baker Street in London, and think that might be an interior room? Not sure.

MUST get these books!

Kathleen Kaska said...


You're correct on the Christie title of which it has many variations, depending on the publisher.
Nope on the name of the street urchins. It was a "group" name. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It is always good to hear from you!

Kaye George said...

Baker Street Irregulars?

Kathleen Kaska said...

Yes! Kaye. You got it!

Kaye George said...

There's a lot of *stuff* back inside my head--somewhere. :)

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone, and for your rapid responses, Kathleen! I hope the conversation will continue this evening and tomorrow, from those who read their yahoogroups on daily digest and others who get the news late. Don't be shy about leaving a comment or a guess about a trivia question answer!

Di Eats the Elephant said...

I knew Ten Little Indians, but none of the others. I thoroughly enjoyed your Murder at the Arlington. Your main character had great spunk for a young woman - a reporter who wanted to do more than fluff - in the 1950s. I also got the Agatha Christie trivia book but have been having more trouble with that. I should probably re-read my collection (which is always a pleasure). Glad to see another post from you.

Marne Ann said...

What a fantastic post! So, what led you to write the three Trivia books? Are these your personal all-time favorite authors? Or were they the ones you thought would be the best recieved? I'm a bit of a Hitchcock fan, myself and am going to have to check that one out.
Marne (my parents were fans as well)

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks for your wonderful comments. I'm so happy you like Sydney. She's a hoot. That was one of the reasons I wrote the trivia books. I hope people will read Agatha; she is truly the Queen of Crime.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Marne Ann,

Yes, these three were and still are my favorites. Thanks for asking.
And Beth, thanks for having me as a guest today. I enjoyed everyone's comments and attempts at answering the questions. Most answers were correct. Of course, there's still that unanswered question concerning Holmes bank? Any takers?