Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Over my lifetime I’ve devoured countless mystery and suspense novels. I’d like to blame my obsession on Carolyn Keene and Franklin Dixon, whose names grace the covers of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries, respectively. . .but I can’t. They aren’t real people and therefore can’t be held responsible. I was sorely disappointed when I discovered (as an adult) that Carolyn and Franklin were only pseudonyms for various authors. In fact, both series were the brain child of Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate book packaging firm. He wasn’t an author that I’m aware of, just a good businessman.
So, what’s my point? To introduce my topic for the next few weeks. I’ll be discussing various poisons from an historical, as well as a criminal, viewpoint. What does poison have to do with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, you might ask? Well, the effects of poison can be mistaken for the symptoms of disease. Rather like an unknown author can pen a mystery under the name Carolyn Keene or Franklin Dixon, and no one is the wiser until the truth is revealed.
I hope to present information that readers will find interesting and writers will find useful. Keep in mind that poisons don’t necessarily have to be used in a murder mystery, and they aren’t all used for evil. (Take pesticides, for example.)
Poisons can be used to add drama to any work of fiction. For instance, suppose a rancher’s cattle are dying. Why? Is the herd eating something that’s killing them? Will the problem be discovered in time? Or maybe a prairie settler is shot with a poisoned arrow. Can the antidote be found in time? And from a practical standpoint, a backyard gardener might like to know that the pretty plant he loves could be a killer, and he needs to keep the animals and kids away.
In closing, here’s something interesting I stumbled upon as I was researching this topic. I found a blog article written by a forensic expert who briefly addressed three poisoning cases. Those weren’t what caught my attention because I’d read about the cases in other web articles. What shocked me were the comments from readers that followed. Several wrote about their suspicions that deceased family members had been poisoned. Another wrote (several times), “I’m being poisoned. Someone please help me. Call me.” And he/she left a phone number. (No, I didn’t call it.) And yet another commenter went into great detail about how he/she was being followed and slowly poisoned by strange gases and powders. Paranoia, joke, or reality? I don’t know, but a creative person could take any of those comments and run. Conspiracy Theory comes to mind.
As authors, we are gifted with the ability to take a snatch of a blog comment or a tidbit of information and develop a whole book plot. I hope some of what I'll be presenting in the future will give The Borrowed Book readers some plot ideas. Even someone who writes under a nom de guerre like Carolyn or Franklin can be creative like that.
Who could ask for a better job?