They say, “Writers should write what they know about.” Well, to be honest, I’ve never murdered anyone. I’ve thought about it several times. But alas, I have no credits or dead bodies that would qualify me as an expert.
I had an ordinary childhood. I grew up in Beechhurst, Queens, a suburb in New York City. When I was a youngster, I sat glued to the TV set on Saturday afternoons watching old murder mysteries. Films like The Thin Man, Sherlock Holmes, and Charlie Chan transported me to another world that was full of romance, adventure, and intrigue.
Unlike my school friends who were content to watch sitcoms, I inveigled ways to stay up late to catch 77 Sunset Strip and Perry Mason. In those days, there were no cable channels dedicated to murder and mayhem. My addiction for daring detectives and cerebral lawyers grew worse, and I became “hooked on books.”
Libraries throughout Queens' County soon had posters of me taped to their walls. I was known to take out stacks of novels by Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Dorothy Gilman, and Earle Stanley Gardner. When I returned them, displaying withdrawal symptoms and begging for more, librarians gave me wide berth.
As a young adult, I dreamed of becoming a private eye, but was terrified of driving on highways. How was I going to carry on a high-speed car chase on side streets while my prey was getting away on the Long Island Expressway? There was also the matter of being confrontational. I was too polite to call people cheats and scoundrels. What if the culprit became angry? Tough detectives were always getting into trouble—cooling their heels in jail, losing their licenses, and facing violent deaths. The only thing that appealed to me was going on a stakeout where I could spy on adulterous spouses and eat pizza.
The need to poke my nose into other people’s business became overwhelming. I found myself working in banks, looking for missing assets, and hunting for discrepancies. It wasn't enough. I needed to use more of my “little grey cells.”
Six years ago, I hit bottom. By that time, I could recite every line in Columbo. Television programs, such as, Law and Order and CSI, only made my condition worse. The plots gave me clever ideas about how to get rid of mealy-mouthed nuisances. At night, I dreamt of deadly poisons and heinous ways to administer them. It had to stop! I was at my wit’s end.
Then it happened. On a cruise to the Panama Canal, I saw an Alpha Capsule in the ship’s spa. That dangerous-looking object stimulated me to write my first book, The Singing Sleuth. I had finally found a way to kill people and not get caught. My Scottish hero, Alec DunBarton, was able to call suspects liars and not break into tears. I didn’t have to risk life and limb on a high-speed car chases. I was “free” to visit exotic locales, create juicy romances, and invent yummy red herrings.
Of course, nothing is perfect! While Alec drinks Glenlivet and consumes fattening food, I gain weight. When he smokes his pipe, I burn my fingers trying to keep it lit. And whenever Alec opens his mouth to sing, I write a check for the song lyric’s copyright.
Despite these few inconveniences, I couldn’t be any happier. I love living between the “sheets,” and I’m no longer limited by my own reality.