‘absorbing second mystery . . . stunning resolution.’ [Stage Fright]


The end is nigh . . .

. . . I hope. The end of my novel that is. Another couple of weeks should do it. I have yet to decide on that very last sentence and it has set me thinking about how to end a novel. It’s almost as hard as starting one, even though the crime writer has the edge over other writers in that certain things are more or less a given. The mystery will be solved and the wicked brought to book (unless you are Patricia Highsmith). Even so, it is easy to paint yourself into a corner. I read somewhere that William Golding had no idea how to end LORD OF THE FLIES. He mentioned that to his wife. She was sick of him retreating to his study every night and said ‘Oh, why don’t you set fire to the bloody thing?’ So he did – the island, that is, not the novel. Can this really be true? I’d like to think so.
But even when you know just what is going to happen it’s by no means easy to end on exactly the right note, so that the reader closes the book with a sigh of satisfaction. Apparently Truffaut, however gloomy the content of the movie, liked to end on an up note. I’m not sure that he always pulled that off, but I think it is a good idea.
Suggestions of great last words would be very welcome. I’ll try to come up with some for next time.