Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Real Life Crime Scene?
RHYS BOWEN: I know we've all had enough of crime and tragedy in the past week. Sometimes I wonder why I dare to write about crime, when it is so devastating and horrible. But then I think that the kind of mystery stories I write attempt to make sense of the senseless. They bring justice, punish the guilty--which we can't always do in real life.
Anyway, I thought I'd keep it light today and tell you about a real life crime scene. I came into the kitchen the other morning to see a trail of red across the floor. Dark red. Sticky in places, dried and crusted in others. I've written about enough crime scenes to know what blood looks like. Something had died in my kitchen.
Now, my kitchen is good-sized by modern standards, but there's nowhere to hide a body in it, apart from the pantry and that's at the far end. I crept forward, my heart beating very fast. The trail led me around the refrigerator. There were spatters on the white wall. Was I about to find a corpse on top of the fridge? And then I saw it--the cask of red wine that I'd been nagging John to remove for months had finally given up the ghost and started to leak.
And how do you handle it when you write something really creepy, like Hallie? Can you detach yourself, shut off and sleep well at night?
I'm afraid I'm very impressionable. I could never take horror movies, apart from giant ants that ate New York. That's why my crimes and sleuths are genteel and not very graphic.
HALLIE EPHRON: I confess, when a reviewer called my book "deliciously creepy," I was over the moon. I used to love listening to ghost stories around a camp fire. Loved even more telling ghost stories and scaring the bejesus out of my friends.
I still watch reruns of Twilight Zone with its "journey into the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition . . ." And I'm a huge fan of Hitchcock movies.
I try to write the kind of creepy that earns its thrill because it feels real. Like that just-off moment when you arrive home and realize your front door is ajar. Or you hear water running and running and no one is turning it off. Or something isn't where you know for sure that you left it.
Hold the graphic for me, too.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yeah, I've had enough of creepy this week. I had to interview the twenty-year old young son and brother of two Marathon victims--I showed up at his door, and he flung his arms around me, so upset.
I spent lots of Saturday on the verge of tears. It's very disturbing. I'm better now, which is also disturbing.
But to lighten up a bit--our coffee maker keeps coming on, like it's possessed. I kept wondering--WHY is this happening? WHO is turning on the coffee maker? (Turns out, someone had hit "auto" and it was the timer. Sigh.
And I skip graphic. Just skip it. I even watch TV through my fingers sometimes--I don't want those pictures in my head.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I certainly don't want real life to imitate my books, even though most of the time my detectives are dealing with the aftermath of crime rather than being in the midst of it. How would I respond to the real thing? Well, you don't know, do you, until it happens. But a few years ago, my husband got the end of his finger cut off when our front door slammed on it. (The door is the original four-foot wide arts and crafts door built in 1905. It's VERY heavy, and we were having our house leveled so it was swinging shut with even more force than usual. I was just down the street at the supermarket. He called me, and when I got home he'd found the fingertip and put it in a baggie. I put that in another bag with ice, put him in the car, drove to the nearest emergency room, checked him in. When they still hadn't seen him after nearly an hour (blood dripping all over floor, terrible pain) I called another hospital, put him back in the car, drove there VERY fast, checked him in, got him treated, went to pharmacy to get prescriptions filled, got him home and settled--then collapsed.
So I think most of us do what we have to do, then think about it afterwards.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Your husband was able to put his fingertip in a baggie? I hope I'd be able to do something like that. I'm pretty good in a crisis, but dang, I've never been tested like that.
Creepy can be good (like HALLIE-creepy) but I don't write graphic violence and I don't want to see it or read it. No nail guns thank you. that scene in Scarface...can't watch it. The images stay in my head forever. I saw someone get hit by a car twenty years ago and the image is still fresh...the last thing I'm gonna do is watch Saw III. Or write it.
I have to say I'm loving writing a book that doesn't have a murder in it.
RHYS: So have you ever had to handle a real-life crime scene, dear friends? Do you think you could?
STOP PRESS: We just learned today that Writers Digest has named Jungle Red Writers as one of its top sites for writers for 2013.