Monday, January 2, 2012

The Men of Jungle Red

LUCY BURDETTE: No, this is not a post about our fantasy beefcake--because in fact we already have the men of our dreams. And we thought it would be fun to start the year off with a real bang--the inside scoop on what it's like to be married to a crime fiction writer. Take it away guys!

JOHN BRADY: My wife, LUCY BURDETTE, and the fellow members of her writers group are just this close to being taken in for police questioning. Only they don't seem to know it.

Not long ago I came downstairs while they were meeting. That's when I heard: "We have to do something with the body!" Then a male voice, "Maybe we could drag it down the driveway and put it in the trunk." To which a female responded: "No one is going to believe we carried the body that far. And wouldn't we leave DNA evidence all over the place?"

So far so good - I know I am married to a mystery writer. But as I told the group that night, what if they were meeting at Starbucks? Any self-respecting eavesdropper would surely call the police. Obviously, someone has been murdered and these conspirators are trying to cover it up.

Being married to a mystery writer, who also happens to be a psychologist, has its fun side too. If somebody really makes her mad--or me, she can kill them off in the next book.

Of course all this talk of murder does make me wonder from time to time. My wife has spent an awful lot of time consulting with toxicologists. Like I tell my friends, if I die unexpectedly, please insist on an autopsy...

JERRY TOUGER (Hallie Ephron's sweetheart): When I was beginning work on a voluminous physics textbook and wallowing in multiple revisions of chapters, my wife HALLIE EPHRON wasn't yet a mystery writer. So turnabout is fair play. Unfortunately, she always gives me her manuscript to catch errors and inconsistencies before its final edit, during which she almost invariably tweaks the endings. So her books have never ended for me the way they do for her readers.

Neither do television mysteries. Because she is so immersed in the craft of mystery writing, she usually sees the ending coming, and is none too inclined to keep it to herself.

BRUCE HARRIS: (Rosemary's guy) It's all been wonderful. I love that my wife writes mysteries. I like to watch her live in her imagination and then transfer it to the page. I marvel that she's written five novels in five years, when most people, including me, can't sustain a story beyond 2 pages.

I love that Rosemary reads mysteries - she doesn't just read them she consumes them. My mother read mysteries like that. She used to rent them from a little store in Brooklyn for a nickel a day. I love mystery readers. They have definitely helped keep books and bookstores alive (as a former publisher that means a lot to me.)

And I really love going to libraries and hearing my wife talk to people about writing and how she got started. I don't even mind being the chauffeur.

JONATHAN SHAPIRO (Hank's sweetheart): I haven't seen my wife for five years. Okay, that's really not true. It's more like seven years, starting from the time she first started writing mysteries. That's not really true either; sometimes it just feels that way. From the day she got the idea for the plot of Prime Time, Hank has been obsessed with doing all she can to fill with writing every waking hour (and apparently sleeping hour, too, since I often find her writing notes in the middle of the night that are undecipherable by the light of day). Even when we are together I often know from that distant look in her eyes that she is thinking of the next twist in the plot.

She used to cook. And I think she was good at it.

But, the truth be told, I love that Hank's success has made her so happy. And me, too. It rubs off. It has transformed our lives in a good way. For instance, in the past years I have dressed up as a vampire, an Oxford don, and Lord Peter Wimsey. My wife is the only person I know who could get me to wear a smoking jacket, a monocle, and fangs.

The times we are apart are amply made up for by the more interesting fabric of our lives together. As a criminal defense attorney, I get to advise her sleuths, Charlie McNally and Jane Ryland, on the complexities of criminal law and procedure. And I share in the triumph of the crime being solved and the book being published.

All I worry about is what I'll have to wear for next year's Crimebake.
And yeah, Bruce. The chauffeur thing.

BILL SANTO (Jan Brogan's husband): Aside from the obvious risk that your wife can bump you off in any number of clever undetectable ways with the gleeful participation of all her mystery writer friends, the most notable characteristic of a "mystery marriage" is the frequent discussion of completely fictitious people as if they actually exist. Getting lost in the fantasy of a good plot peopled with characters created from your mates imagination is better than any therapy session, and cheaper too!

JOHN QUIN-HARKIN (Rhys Bowen's Piece): Most of the time I enjoy Rhys's mystery writing (except when I get my head bitten off for attempting to communicate with her when she's working through a complicated plot point). I spent most of my life with an airline so I'd seen much of the world, but Rhys's writing has given me an opportunity to travel with her around the United States. When she started writing mysteries I suggested that we drive instead of fly around the United States to visit bookstores and I believe we've covered almost every state on several interesting coast-to-coast car trips. More recently I enjoyed accompanying her to New York when she was an Edgar nominee, to DC when she was toastmaster at Malice, and to Hawaii when she was guest of honor at Left Coast Crime.

As for getting involved with her work--I'm her final editor before the story goes off to her pubisher and we have several days of tension while i try to make her see things my way (I''m always right, of course and she's always stubborn).
We have been known to act out action scenes that didn't seem quite plausible to me. This has involved wrestling on the floor and raised eyebrows from our children.

Above all I'm delighted that she has been able to do what she wants to do all her life and is always busy and energetic.

RICK WILSON: (Deborah Crombie's husband) AKA the Technical Expert. Who does she ask when she wants to know how to fire a shotgun or a pistol? What a crime scene looks like? A fire scene? How to make a Molotov cocktail? Where a suspect would leave fingerprints? That would be me.

And Jonathon, I know that blank look all too well--that vacant stare just as I'm telling her something really important. She's talking to people in her head. Sometimes she does this out loud, but fortunately not too often in public.

I take care of the dogs and cats and the house when she goes gallivanting off to England to do RESEARCH.

I also design and administer her web page, but the most important thing I do is KEEP HER COMPUTER RUNNING.

Oh, did I mention that dinner is always late when she's writing?

LUCY: Aren't we the luckiest women in the world? aren't they charming and funny? (Most of the time, that is...) And wait, there's one you haven't heard from--Julia's amazing husband Ross. He got so excited by writing up his post, that we decided he should have his own day. So look for the men of Jungle Red, part two on Saturday.

And if you have any questions, ask away. I can't guarantee any of the guys will answer, but we probably will!


  1. Oh, I am laughing out loud. How many times have I gotten that strange look from my SignificantOther as I wonder out loud, Where would you put the body around here? I pointed out to him only this morning that Poirot said he heard of 5 men killing their wives and of 22 women doing their husbands in. Poirot's conclusion was that marriage wasn't for him. And we laughed. It's an exciting life, no?

    Thanks to all you patient, understanding, supportive JRW Men. We love our Jungle Reds and you make it all happen! (Well, practically...)

    And I am just as guilty of announcing the ending of the TV mystery and spoiling the suspense -- Sorry bout that.

  2. This is so funny. It sounds like it's an adventure living with a mystery writer. And I sort of wonder if Rhys makes those Action scenes just a teeny bit implausible on purpose? ;)

  3. I love the image of Rhys and John muscling through her action scenes! We are a lucky bunch of women and our husbands all seem to be good sports. (I've seen Jerry wear fangs, too!)

  4. Raymond Chandler once said, "A really good detective never gets married" -- apparently not so of a really good of the women who write them!

  5. I'm STILL laughing...poor guys.

    YOu can't believe how patient Jonathan is--the idea that this hot-shot lawyer has become a chauffeur, roadie manager and accountant, as well as a book plot consultant--and oh, I should include pschiatrist--is a never- ending source of wonder.

    Psychiatirst? Oh, yeah.

    HANK: This is NEVER gonna work. This book stinks.

    JONATHAN: You always say that, and it always works.

    HANK: No I don't.

    J: Yes, you do.

    H: Well, this time it's true.

    J: You always say that, too.

    How about you Reds-readers? What would your significant others say abot YOU?

  6. I hope that no one anywhere near any of us has any kind of unusual misfortune because if an investigator were to examine our laptops and the subjects we google, we'd all be in the clink.

    Happy new year!!!

  7. What fun! I'm sending this to Mr. Right so he can see he's not alone!

  8. Oh, the JRW men are delightful! And Jan, I'm sure the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security have already tagged my computer. Now if I could just turn them into fans so they'd buy my books!

    I've decided that a successful writer must have an amazing spouse. Lawyer Guy is my go-to for the law, military & weapons, and general brainstorming. He has an innate sense of when a plot point works or doesn't and being an attorney, he's usually pretty diplomatic when he tells me why I need to fix a scene. He doesn't complain when the house is dirty, dinner is late--we don't let him cook. Like The Only (our DD), his idea of a grilled cheese sandwich is two pieces of bread with cheese in the middle and microwaved. When I got my first royalty check, I went out and bought him a month's worth of underwear and socks. Now laundry can wait.

    So happy to meet all of you gentlemen, and you are in every sense of that world! Your writers are lucky to have you.

  9. We sure are lucky Silver--and sounds like you got lucky too! The extra socks and underwear is a brilliant idea!

  10. Two pieces of bread and a piece of cheese in the microwave! That is fabulous.

  11. Oh. guys, you are so funny . . . and sweet.

    Scout says, "I love it when she's writing. She isn't talking. Well . . . not all the time, anyway."

  12. In case any of you were thinking you might need to report my DH as a suspicious character, what with the guns and knives and petrol bomb advice, I thought I should add that he was a cop for ten years before he became a computer guru.

    He ran the 911 dispatch center, so had a hand in every pie. Very useful for a crime writer, I must say! Although I have to agree with him that having someone who can fix your computer tops the writer's A+ list.

  13. This is simply the most charming blog I've read in ages. At least, all year. Thanks for sharing your husbands' perspectives.

    Can't wait to show this to Bob, my own tech support, editor, and shoulder rubbing spouse.

  14. I bet if I interviewed these guys the story would be a LOT different.

  15. Lucy, it sure makes midnights in the laundry room a thing of the past!

    Hank, no. Not brilliant. Not at all. Especially given how I make grilled cheese--on a griddle, with butter, each outer side of the bread truly grilled with a piece of cheese on top to get melty and then I put it under the broiler to get hot and bubbly before putting the pieces of bread together. I make a proper grilled cheese sandwich, you see. The Only? Nope. And trust me, microwaved bread is *shudder* Try it. You'll see.

  16. Wow, Debs, you are lucky--a former cop and a computer guru all in one! John could give tips about police procedure but he'd have to make it up:)

  17. This was delightful. You are all very blessed. When I am formulating something, I end to talk out loud, and my cat just looks at me. I also love "real" grilled cheese.

  18. Wonderful post! What a great group of supportive spouses you all have.

    My significant other doesn't read anything I write (he doesn't write and he doesn't read fiction). But he always says, "That's good!" when I come downstairs and tell him how many words I just wrote or about a sale or contract. And he has been obliging when I needed a tall villain to try to twist out of a hold from.

    On the bus coming home from NYC yesterday I was working on a short story on my netbook, sitting very close to the woman in the seat next to me. I kept wondering if she was going to glance over and see "She hadn't planned to kill Johnny..." or "What Yvonne really wanted to do was..." and then turn me into the bus driver.

  19. I'll get behind Lil on the real grilled cheese line. But that's why I never have them anymore . . . oh the fat! But that's what i love about them. If I can't have the fat, I don't want it. Well, I do. I still want it. I'm still hungry. But I'd rather be hungry and thin, than my fat self and hungry again.

  20. Ooooh, Austin/Jack are you suggesting that we twisted arms to get these positive - and charming - responses?

    Okay, I will add one comment that Bruce has made but didn't include here...he also loves that I have a whole new universe of people to be annoyed with and it isn't just him anymore!

  21. I loved this post! What a great idea! (But, the way some of those guys write, you gals better watch out.)

  22. I know Kaye, and we didn't edit them one bit (wink, wink.)

    Ro, phew, so glad to hear Bruce had one snarky comment!!

  23. This is one of the most entertaining pieces I have read in DAYS!

    It sounds as though all of your guys are in awe of you - unless they feel that it's "safer" for them to let you ladies believe that!

    I can't wait to hear what Julia's husband has to say! Is he writing a "tell all" piece? Is he normally that talkative when asked about his wife's work? I must admit that I am quite intrigued that he wanted extra time! OR -did he procrastinate because he didn't know what he could safely say,since he lives with someone
    who makes money off of killing people?

    Deb, I'm glad you clarified your husband's former occupation!I kept saying to myself "I HOPE he was a cop!"

  24. Deb, too funny -- I didn't see a thing odd about your hunny's varied expertise! Maybe because I'm a westerner with an outdoorsy side and expect a guy to know his way around a knife and gun! I can tell you, though, it's also nice to my own handy medical expert!

  25. Great to have significant others who are so supportive and understanding, and who realize that the characters on the page do become "real" people.

  26. This is pretty awesome. Of course, from the warm supportive community of mystery writers, I expected nothing less than warm, supportive (and funny) spouses.

    I'm glad that my husband is a willing chauffeur and book-toter, and more, that he's very willing to forage in the freezer for his own dinner when I'm writing. Also, that he's a mechanical engineer who can explain cars and the physical forces of racing to me.

    I love the image of Rhys and John acting out the action. I have to remember that for my own purposes.

    Happy new year, all!

  27. What a great blog to hear from the spouses of the Jungle Red Writers.

    I love what the men had to say.

  28. Since everyone seems so interested in John and my action scenes acted out on the floor, we'll just have to videotape next time!

  29. I also meant to add that I don't think I could have survived as a writer if my husband hadn't been my biggest cheerleader.

  30. Aren't they the best--and you guys are too! Hmmm, I doubt they are in awe of us though:).

    And just wait Deb until Sat--yes Julia's hub procrastinated. and yes he was voluble. and yes, he'll tell all--or at least enough to be very entertaining!

  31. Rhys,

    I almost wonder if if it would be better for us to use our imaginations than to see a tape of the two of you! Can you tell us for which of your books John helped you out on the floor? Or should I just reread all of them to look for it? I do know that in the future I will read them VERY closely and ask myself "Did Rhys and John act out THIS scene, too?"

    You all ought to ask your mates to collaborate on a book about being married to "professional" killers!

    I'll bet that spouses of writers of textbooks don't have such interesting stories to tell, unless the books are training manuals for the CIA or the FBI or similar agencies!

  32. Great post, guys! I've met quite a few of your spouses at conferences and other events, and they're just as funny and delightful in person. It isn't easy to be married to a mystery writer (as my husband will admit)--so it takes a very special man.

    Happy New Year JR ladies (and gentlemen)!

  33. You Reds are so lucky to have such knowledgeable and talented husbands. I, too, love the mental picture of Rhys and John acting out fight scenes. Gives me an idea for Ben!

    Ben knows nothing about guns or weapons, but he's a publisher and editor. So he's a great first reader and last (before the manuscript goes to my agent). So I'm pretty lucky, as well.

    Happy New Year, dear Reds!

  34. This is priceless!

    My Hubby is a retired enginer. I came home from critique group all upset. "One says this isn't a romance, one says it sizzles, and the third said it worked for her." I was lost. He told me to read the story to him. His answer, "They are all right. The story in our of balance. You have all the sizzle in one place." He was right and nope of us saw the problem.

    So, yep, I'll keep him.

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