Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Last week Fed Ex brought me a flat package from the Philippines. Right address, wrong name. I stood in my kitchen and eyed it warily. I didn’t know the sender, didn’t know anybody in that country. It had to be a bomb. Or a threatening note from some crazed stalker. I opened it with caution, at the same time laughing at myself. Girl, you watch too much crime. Turned out the package held sale papers for a car—in pesos. Who knows how these people got my address, but it wasn’t intended for me.

So then my brain got to working. Unknown package, sent by mistake. Opener sees something she shouldn’t see. Hm . . .

Such is my life of writing crime thrillers. I get a nosebleed, I think blood splatter patterns. I see someone on a cell phone, I think do you know how your movements can be traced? In short, crime is always on my mind.

My life has become constant research as to how crimes are solved and sent through the legal system. I’ll cut out articles in the paper about some unique crime or twist in a trial. I watch Court TV—Forensic Files, The Investigators, The System, etc., and programs such as Cold Case Files on A&E. I take notes and throw ’em in my idea boxes sitting on my credenza. I have learned some way cool stuff! All kinds of poisons, how killers think, legal system antics and forensics galore. To me the forensics are the most interesting. How one tiny fiber solved a case. Or a branch on a tree proved a murder, when the body had never been found. What blood splatter shows us; gun residue issues; toxicology tests; how an anthropologist determines sex, age, and gender from a skeleton. I could go on and on.

I am careful not to taint my constant research. So I don’t watch TV crime dramas—CSI, Law and Order, etc. These shows may be based on reality, but they must adhere to the conventions of fiction in one hour of TV. So they’ll fudge on certain techniques, or who does what. In order to keep characters to a minimum, they’ll have the techies doing things that other specialists would do. I’ve had someone read one of my books and make a comment as to how a crime would have been investigated—“Well, anybody who watches Law and Order would know that . . .” Blat. Push wrong answer buzzer here.

My husband can’t understand it. “How do you watch those horrible shows?” Especially with my high degree of empathy for people. Well, how does anyone working in the crime field do it? You shut off the emotions and look at it purely analytically. Solving the crime is like piecing together a mind-boggling puzzle. It’s fascinating. For example, did you know . . .?

Sheesh, I’m going too long. More on this tomorrow.

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