On this Thanksgiving Monday, BGs, I’d thought I tell y’all some highly uplifting pieces of info that are a mere arm’s reach away as I write. I got a bunch of books to my left, you see. A big ol’ heavy dictionary, and a good honkin’ synonym finder are the closest. Every writer’s gotta have that. I also have other fiction-writing books by such folks as Stein, Maas, Bell, Vogler, Campbell, Browne & King. You probably recognize these guys. AND—I have three handy-dandy books on murder and mayhem.
In fact, that’s the title of one. Murder and Mayhem, by D.P. Lyle, MD. The good doc answers all kinds of questions that crazy writers like me might ask. Just a few examples: What are the symtpoms of concussion? How long will a black eye persis? What happens when someone is struck by lightning? What is artificial blood? How dangerous is it to transport heroin in a swallowed condom? What is the Gulf War syndrome? What noises are made by victims of stabbing to the neck? How did David kill Goliath? What substance can be added to a fire-eater’s “fuel” to cause a sudden and dramatic death? How long does it take for an unburied body to skeletonize? How long does the foam around a drowning victim’s mouth persist? Will oleandor poison a cat? Do blind people have “visual” dreams? Do bodies move during cremation? Can a coroner determine between a freshwater and saltwater drowning?
Yup, I’ll bet just the kinds the things you’d want to know.
Doc Lyle also has a handy-dandy Web site, full of archives of like-minded questions. You can also submit a question. Doesn’t matter how preposterous it is, the doc will take them all in stride.
Next on my shelf is Katherine Ramsland’s The Criminal Mind: A Writer’s Guide to Forensic Pathology. This interesting book tells you why criminals act the way they do, and all the different psychoses/neuroses they can suffer from. Chapters include interesting tidbits on such issues as: Theories of criminality (and why the various theories matter). The psychology of a courtroom. Lie detection. Hypnosis with eyewitnesses. Insanity defenses. Criminal responsibility. Violence management. Treatment for sex offenders. Juvenile crime. Victim profiling. Duty to warn/protect—a fictional case involving ethics. Someone left a question on this blog last week about how to create believable bad guys who aren’t all the same and mere stereotypes. Reading this book as background can help give writers an understanding of how to create a murderer or other kind of criminal.
Next up on my shelf is Cause of Death: A Writer’s Guide to Death, Murder and Forensic Medicine, by Keith D. Wilson, M.D. This is a Writer’s Digest book in the “Howdunit Series.” This book was written in 1992, so some of the stuff can be out of date (such as the photos and explanations of hospital emergency room equipment). But much of the information remains relevant. Topics include: Rigor mortis and lividity, toxicology, all kinds of stuff on burial and funeral homes and coroners, deciding manner and mechanism of death, various forms of capital punishment in different states and how the subject dies. Part III focuses on causes of death: all forms of accidents, sudden death, and chronic illness. Final chapter looks at ethical questions such as cryonics, right to die, euthanisia, and death by voodoo. (Yes, I typed that last one right.)
These books make for light and entertaining bedtime reading, putting a suspense author in the perfect mood for sweet dreams.
Anyone out there have a book to add to my fun collection?