Thursday, September 2, 2010
LADIES' KILLING THURSDAYS
Talking about murder
So far Ladies' Killing Thursdays have focused on research and how easy the internet has made that task. There's no limit to the facts you can ferret out if your willing to move your curser far enough. But another form of research – and my favourite – is talking to people who know things I don't know, especially things that can be used for criminal purposes.
I asked my pharmacist how to doctor a nitroglycerine spray in such a way that it would kill. She gave me her first thoughts on the subject and then called me at home after she'd discussed it with her colleagues. She felt she'd come up with a method that was fast and almost undetectable. I was grateful for the time she took and gave her a copy of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in which the story appeared. But I have to admit that in this case the price was high. Now whenever I walk into the drugstore, she hollers from the back of the store. "Hey Sue, have you killed anyone lately?" She and the rest of the staff get a great kick out of this witticism but I'm the one who has to look into the faces of the other customers and watch their eyes slide away from mine in alarm.
Generally speaking, I find people more than willing to part with gory details. I buttonhole people at dinner parties and make surreptitious notes on the napkins. I talked to a refugee from Vietnam at a bus stop and the result is a story in the upcoming International Association of Crime Writers' anthology.
My husband and I have a cottage on the same lake as the Queen's University Biology Station. The students and staff there have been generous with information on deadly plants and mushrooms and have offered to explain how their bat and bird recording equipment works and how a body might disappear forever inside one of the abandoned feldspar mines on the property.
Of course, this type of research doesn't always work. My doctor used to be a fount of information on methods of death but he's moved his practice to Toronto and his replacement isn't nearly as forthcoming and indeed, seems to be in a great hurry to get me safely out of the office. And my dental hygienist pretends she hasn't heard the question and gouges my gums even harder. I may have to look for a new dentist.
Have any of you had luck conducting research by talking to people? Or not?
Sue Pike has published nineteen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted will appear in the December issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.