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February 19, 2011

We are pleased to introduce another guest blogger. J. J. Murphy is an award-winning health care writer in Pennsylvania and a long-time fan of Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table. He started writing Murder Your Darlings as an escape from toddler television after the birth of twin daughters. Having read the book, I’d say that he chose the right path. This tale, featuring Dorothy Parker and her cohorts of the Round Table, is about as far from toddler fare as you can get. Enough from me, let’s hear from J.J.


When Dorothy Parker once walked up to a bar, the bartender asked, “What are you having?”

“Not much fun,” she quickly replied.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. Dorothy Parker had a lot of fun. It was the Roaring 20s and she was having a ball.

Except for her writing – she always struggled with that. “I can’t write five words but that I change seven,” she said.


Even if you don’t know Dorothy Parker, you do know Dorothy Parker. She coined such phrases as “Brevity is the soul of lingerie,” “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

She was one of the few women allowed at the celebrated Algonguin Round Table, that famous group of quick-witted critics, writers and editors who gathered for lunch every day around a circular dining table at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s.

So when I was trying to come with a smart, witty, plucky heroine for a historical mystery series, Dorothy Parked seemed the natural choice. She always has a quip on her lips – and usually a drink in her hand. Along with her friend and fellow writer, Robert Benchley (or was he more than a friend?), she goes on a lark through Jazz Age New York to solve the murder of a critic whose body was found under the Algonquin Round Table. The book is Murder Your Darlings, recently released by Obsidian/Penguin.


Dorothy Parker is known not only for her quick wit at the Round Table, but for her poetry, book and drama criticism, short stories and even Hollywood screenplays (she won two Academy Awards).

But one goal she could never achieve was writing a novel.

Dorothy always wanted to be matched with the “big boys,” as she called them: Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner (who also appears as a character in Murder Your Darlings), but her perfectionism was her undoing. She started several times to write a novel. But she always grew discouraged and never finished one.

As a reader, though, Dorothy Parker loved mysteries. I won’t compare myself to her as a writer, but I feel that in some small way, I’ve justified her legacy with the creation of Murder Your Darlings. At the very least, it’s a novel with her picture on the cover! I hope she wouldn’t throw that with great force.

Thanks to the Birth of a Novel bloggers for letting me write this guest post. (I’d be happy to come back any time … well, any time after a nice long lunch.)

And from the Birth of a Novel bloggers: Thank you, J. J., for sharing your fascination with an intriguing American literary figure.

For more about J. J. Murphy:



Find on Facebook: Algonquin Round Table Mysteries



4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2011 8:27 AM

    Before my first novel was published, my son and I would stop into the Algonquin before taking the train back to Long Island, and offer up a toast to the members of the Round Table. Actually, it was more of a prayer that someday–. When that day finally came, we toasted them all in style. My 4th is about to come out and while I have never achieved the status, fame, or skill, of any of them, especially the delightful Dorothy, I’m grateful I’ve come close. Well, I hope close. This book sounds much too delicious to miss.

    • February 23, 2011 9:02 AM

      Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen. I love the idea of you offering a toast to the Round Table set for your own writing. Rituals seem to be a necessary part of writing. Good luck with your books.

  2. February 24, 2011 10:33 PM

    I’m afraid I’ve never been to the Algonquin, but I love Dorothy Parker. I think I even used one of her quotes in my new book–probably “What fresh hell is this?” JJ, your book sounds like a fun read. Nice post too.

    • February 25, 2011 8:54 PM

      The Algonquin Hotel is great. It’s the only hotel I know that has a resident house cat. But for you could buy my book for less than the price of a cocktail at the bar! (Not a plug for my book–just making a comparison. Words are cheap–alcohol is pricey!) Still it’s worth it to stop into the lobby and have a look around. They have a replica of the Round Table in the restaurant. You can reserve it for yourself and your friends.

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