Deadly (Pre)Occupations

Posted at Jun 26, 2015 9:58 pm

Originally posted on Brooke Blogs, May 23, 2015.

don't judge meI recently had the privilege and pleasure of being an invited author at a women’s book club in my neighborhood. I told these ladies that if they see me walking my two dogs outside and I don’t wave, they (the ladies, not the dogs) shouldn’t take it personally. You see, it’s just that I’m preoccupied . . . with murder. I write mysteries. And dog-walking is the perfect time for plotting and contemplating ways to off someone. So while Elvira, my corgi, and Kazam, my Brussels Griffon, are romping, I’m stabbing, shooting, and strangling – in my head, of course.

My favorite murder method is one that fits the victim’s occupation. So in one of my books, a minister, a priest, and a rabbi go to a bar . . . okay, not really. But what does happen is I (I mean, my villain) bludgeons the minister with an organ pipe; drowns the priest in a baptismal font; and strangles the rabbi with his own prayer shawl. It’s not that I have anything against members of the clergy – but these victims weren’t entirely innocent, and the means of murder in each case kind of seemed like a bit of poetic justice. Likewise, in another of my books, a greedy builder is bulldozed at one of his own construction sites.

barbell-skull-crushersAnd in my current work in progress, a professional weight-lifter gets his skull crushed by a barbell. If you’re a gym rat like me, you know there’s an actual exercise called the “skull crusher” where you lie on your back, lift a barbell straight overhead, then flex and extend your elbows to repeatedly bring the weight to your head. This is supposed to strengthen your triceps (you know, those flappy things on your underarms that my fitness instructor calls “bat wings”). Of course, you’re not supposed to actually drop the barbell on your skull . . . but that’s what my victim does (with some help). So, it looks like an accident. But my victim’s mother believes otherwise, and she hires my protagonist, private investigator Dirty Harriet, to . . . well, investigate.

Rid-o-rat-rat-poisonMy preoccupation with deadly occupations started on the job. In my many years of working life since I was sixteen, I’ve had some nasty bosses and colleagues (who hasn’t?). One guy liked to kiss up to the manager by being a tattletale. So you could say his actual occupation was being a rat. I fantasized about slipping rat poison into his triple venti half sweet non-fat caramel macchiato. At another job I had, the boss’s wife was a professional equestrian. She liked to sashay into the office to show off her expensive riding wardrobe, her long silky black hair, and perky buns encased in those skin-tight breeches. I was twenty, penniless, insecure . . . and, okay, jealous. I imagined her slipping in a pile of manure and cracking her head on the horse stall.

miriam-with-bloody-handprints-225x300Before you get alarmed, let me say that I’ve never acted on any of these fantasies. Really, I’m a just a mild-mannered professor by day, intrepid crime writer by night (that’s me on the left). I’m nothing like my killers or my protagonist – she shot her abusive husband in the heart. The only things I’ve ever shot are beer cans.

But I do have to wonder – am I alone in these deadly occupational preoccupations? What about you – ever thought about it? And what occupationally-appropriate method would you like to see in future mysteries?

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