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The Road to Mystery Trivia

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 12, 2012

The Road to Mystery Trivia with Kathleen Kaska

Kathleen Kaska is the author the Classic Triviography mystery series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz. All three books have just been reissued in by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country.

From Trivia to Sydney

The road from mystery trivia to Sydney Lockhart meandered, hill-climbed, and detoured. Good detours. Not linear, and with a mind of their own.

I started assembling mystery trivia to learn that craft by dissecting the work of master mystery writers Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle; and suspense filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. I also wanted to offer something different to catch the eyes of a publisher. The trivia book idea came to me when I read an article in a writers’ magazine about the popularity of those books. The second Stephen King trivia book had just been published as well as one on Clint Eastwood and the Seinfeld TV show. Gazing up at my complete collection of Agatha Christie mysteries on my bookshelf, a cerebral light blub went on. Three months later I completed a proposal and two months after that, I had an agent. He sold the Christie trivia book in short order, and it was followed by my Alfred Hitchcock trivia book (The 100thanniversary of Hitch’s birth was right around the corner. Timing is everything.) Later came my Sherlock Holmes trivia book.             

SherlockHolmes book

        Agatha Christie book 
Was I ready to plot my own mystery? I tried hard, attempted an outline, played around with a few settings, and worked on character development. But I couldn’t seem to create anything that resonated. Although aware of the basic plotting formula, I had a difficult time pulling things together. Focusing on what I enjoyed the most, writing travel and outdoor articles, I soon landed a staff-writer position at a local fitness and outdoor adventure magazine. Then after a couple of short-story contest awards and some nice reviews on my trivia books, it was time again to refocus.

Starting a plot outline caused an immediate knot to form in my stomach. What was the problem? I’d done outlines for my trivia books and lengthy articles, but for my first mystery? It wasn’t happening. Then my old “pal” Stephen King came to my rescue again. His “seat of the pants” method of plotting gave me a brand new perspective. Characters seemed to walk into my life and tell me their stories. All I had to do was listen. And write.

Sydney Lockhart introduced herself to me on the long drive from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas to my then-home in Austin, Texas. By the time I pulled into the driveway, I had gotten to know Sydney very well. The first hotel-setting was in place, and when I started to write, the story flowed fast and furious. I’m now on book number four, and Sydney hasn’t stopped talking.





Sherlock Holmes: “Kathleen Kaska has put together a wonderful mind teaser for all Sherlock Holmes aficionados. She covers it all—stories, books, the media—with lots of questions, puzzles, and trivia facts. No true Sherlockian will want to miss this grand Triviography and Quiz Book.”—Michael R. Pitts, author of Famous Detectives I, II, and III, and co-author of The Great Detective Pictures.

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.” —Kate Stine, publisher Mystery Scene Magazine

Sherlock Holmes: A must for any fan of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and movie history. The quizzes are fun and challenging – and the surrounding text provides a wealth of information on the life/work of the revered filmmaker. A real treat for pop culture enthusiasts!—James Robert Parish, author of The Hollywood Book of Scandals

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13 Responses to “The Road to Mystery Trivia”

  1. Thanks for hosting me today, Nancy!

  2. What a great post – very different, and very appealing. FIRST, because I owe all of Dame Agatha’s mysteries and well and I wish I’d thought of her great idea to do a trivia book. How fabulous that it sold so quickly and then two more to boot! Then, that Kathleen also had plot issues, which are now kicking me in the butt, but I think I need it for the story I’m telling, although another one popped up one morning and I’m sure going to just follow the characters around and see what happens. I also have read a lot of Stephen Hunter’s books which are set around Hot Springs Arkansas and I had never heard of it before, but definitely see it from back in the 50s and picture the long drive to Austin and this character just popping up. Thanks for posting something a little different, Nancy, that also went down another off-the-beaten path.

  3. *own, not owe, lol, tho I owe a lot to her!!

  4. Glad you enjoyed the post, Di. It’s interesting to hear other viewpoints now and then. A trivia book must require a tremendous amount of research.

  5. You are right about the time-consuming research, but I learned so much about these great writers of mystery and suspense.

  6. I’m such an Agatha Christie fan that I just ordered your trivia book, plus your first one in the mystery series when I read that it was set in the 50s in Hot Springs. I read the first few pages and was intrigued with how you had her disguising herself as a man. Felt like something I would really enjoy, seeing how my mother approached ERA/NOW from the same age as your character and how it has had repercussions for us in my generation.

    • Di, Please let me know how you like the books, and which Christie book is your favorite. I know it’s hard to pick just one. It’s true women continue to struggle in many instances. I enjoyed writing Sydney because I gain strength from reading about strong women, no matter which era they lived in.

  7. I’m going to check out the first book in your series, too. I like historical mysteries.

    • It’s amazing what was happening in Hot Springs in the 1950s. It was still a rough and tumble town. But what I like most about the fifties are the clothing styles, music, and a feeling of newfound freedom for women.

  8. Jacqueline Seewald said


    A very clever idea! As mystery readers and writers nothing could be more enjoyable than trivia connected to the classic mystery writers.

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