Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to kill people

by Carola Dunn

One of the difficulties in writing a long series is trying to find new ways to kill people. I'm not really keen on incredibly complicated devices such as some Golden Age authors used--carefully aimed rifles that were fired by invisible twine when the victim opened the garden gate, or when a candle burning down set the twine on fire, for instance.

Yet I don't want to repeat myself too much. By the time you get to the twenty-first book in a series, it's a real problem.

Let me see--I've had drowning, shooting, ye olde blunt instrument to the head, poison, prehistoric stone knife, dagger in the back, ceremonial halberd, thumbs to the carotid arteries, smothering with a pillow, blowing up with coal-gas, breathing coal-gas, breathing nitrous oxide, crushed by a stone angel, strangling with a stocking, chucking overboard, fall from a cliff...

[No, Daisy did NOT push him over!]

You see the trouble? I just may have to add "run over by a tram" to the list. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea!

Just looked up the relevant city and this is what I found: 

"City chaos

Despite Council promises, from June 1903 until the opening day, havoc had reigned.
Tram in Worcester copyright Leslie OppitxTram in Broad Street copyright L Oppitz
All the main streets in the city centre were dug up for the removal of the old lines used by the former horse-drawn tramcars and for the installation of wider lines and overhead power cables for the new electric trams.
The city was cast into total chaos and the whole operation led to what became known locally and nationally as "The Tramway Siege of Worcester 1903-4".
Citizens had to get around the central area entirely on foot to shop or to do their business, some pushing prams or other makeshift two-wheeled trolleys to carry their goods.
The Council remained optimistic claiming: "What is in view is cheapness - a welcome penny fare to each boundary of the city, a more frequent service, and trams to and fro on every route every ten minutes’.
1904 tram copyright L Oppitz1904 tram - copyright Leslie Oppitz
All cars were fitted with slipper brakes because of gradients in Rainbow Hill and London Road."

The trams ran until 1928--the year after my book takes place, when they were replaced by buses.

Yes indeed, I think someone's going to get run over by a tram...

Friends of Daisy: can you remember any methods of murder I've forgotten?



Anonymous said...

I dearly wanted to kill my murder victim by using a cheese wire, but I think Anne Perry used that method first.
It's hard to think of neat and quiet ways to dispose of a victim, that don't require a lot of physical strength--but since I have decided that the killer in my story is female, that's the kind of method I need. It's given me a new appreciation for the cleverness of the mystery writer!

Carola Dunn said...

I just read a Marian Babson with a cheese wire, but IIRC (god, my memory!) it was stolen as a piece of misdirection, not actually used. There's no way you can come up with a different method every time. Concentrate on characterization and plotting!

Vonnie said...

Things don't change very much, do they? Here now in the Gold Coast of Australia they are digging up bits of road to replace the train lines which they ripped up fifteen years ago. More of the same...

You certainly have run the gamut of ways to murder. A simple holding back of medication which is essential for keeping people alive works for me. In your writing period I guess that would be digitalis.

Of course there's the old favourite - rat's bane. What an interesting discussion!

Carola Dunn said...

Eugene used to have trams. Now we have dedicated bus lanes and hybrid buses. Plus ca change!

Insulin is another holding back--hate to SPOILER

but I use it in A Colourful Death, the 2nd Cornish Mystery. Out in UK next June, so it should be available in Australia then.

Earl Staggs said...

Carola, I've seen several true crime documentaries lately in which antifreeze was used to poison a victim. Also, using someone's deadly allergy to certain things - peanuts, bee stings, and shellfish, for example, as a murder weapon. Regardless of the method used, however, it always comes down to how well the story is written, doesn't it?

Marja said...

Carola, You reminded me of something. Not only do we have to think up new ways to do away with victims, but we have to be sure the method is timely. Can't wait for the tram.

Carola Dunn said...

Absolutely, Earl. I hate to think how many victims have been done in by daggers, gun shots, and blunt instruments, but each story is individual because of characters, plot, setting, and the writer's voice.

Mike Befeler, author of geezer-lit and paranormal mysteries said...

There are so many interesting ways to kill people in our mysteries. In a manuscript I just completed, visible signs indicated the victim had been shot, stabbed, hanged, run over, hit over the head, thrown off a cliff, suffocated and poisoned. Turns out these were all after the fact and the true cause of death occured earlier. P.S. this mystery is a spoof of our genre.
Mike Befeler

Carola Dunn said...

Sounds funny, Mike! What's the title? Let us know when we can get it!