“Hey, guys, if I throw a body over a bridge along the interstate, how long will it take to get down the Green River to this point?” I point at my map sprawled out on the table in front of us.
Carl shakes his head. “I don’t think you can get it that far…too many bends in the river. It will wash up to shore.”
“Well, what can I do to the body to get if farther down? I need it to be found at this point.” I tap on a wooded area with some underground caverns where the river flows.
“You could put it in a boat,” Thomas says, “but you’d need buffers. Tie coolers with beer on either side of the boat.”
“I can’t put a dead body in a boat and float it down the river without people noticing he’s dead! Come on!”
“Wrap it up in plastic…and put a beer in its hand,” Thomas grinned.
“You aren’t helping.”
“OK, just give me the beer then,” Thomas crooned as he popped another tab.
“Tangle it up in some debris. That should help it float and it will conceal it at the same time.”
“How did you kill him? Shoot him? If he bleeds out in the water, he’ll be fish food before he has a chance to make it that far.”
“Water slows down decomposition. Blood will attract scavengers and parasites no matter where it is. She needs to get it down the river quick or someone will notice.”
The conversation meanders from the best knife to use, the best brand of duct tape to not pick up finger prints, and finally to decomposition.
Contrary to what the FBI has in their files, this is not a group of serial killers or police academy flunkies. We are crime writers and we take our research very seriously.
Researching for a novel is very important because someone will look for and find mistakes. Crime writers need to know a lot of disciplines to make their work realistic like weapons and means of death, police procedures, and the roles of lawyers, medical examiners, and forensic scientists. They need to know about jurisdictions, various types of evidence, the criminal justice system, and other facts that play into a crime and how it is solved.
A crime writer essentially writes three stories: one about the crime and who did it, one about how the crime is concealed, and the third that readers see that is a combination of the two. The crime itself must be realistic. Today’s readers want graphic details. They want a psychological analysis of the criminal. They want to be in on the investigation and they want to know more than the investigator or next victim. They want to be thrilled.
Researching is not all that easy though. I spent my weekend reading a textbook on body decomposition. It was enough to make me sleep with my lights on. My bookshelves at home are filled with books about poisons, serial killers, and how to write about murder.
I contacted the DNR and asked their opinion on how long it would take a body to travel that far down the river. I asked them about the depth of the river, obstacles, and current speed. I never got a response, but I am sure it raised a few eyebrows. I always identify myself as a writer, but I have yet to meet my Kate Beckett who will take me under their wing.
I visited a criminal justice class and talked to the students about the murder and asked them how they would trace the body back to the original place of the murder. They loved the experience and the instructor asked me to come back again.
I also contacted the FBI to ask about jurisdictions. I got a nice pleasant reply that said they did not have time to assist with such matters. No Seeley Booth for me. It occurred to me after spending the last three days leafing through library books on murders, crime scenes, and investigations that I really should finish this novel or the FBI might show up at my door. I am not sure that there isn’t a wire tap on my phones already or undercover agents posing as fellow writers in my group…I’m not sure about Thomas.
But writing about and solving murders is fun. “Fieldtrips” to the morgue are like Christmas. We look around and see sweet little grandmothers as horrific villains. We look at a nice family picnic in the park and crime scenes are unfolding in our mind. We are known to sit at our computers giggling with glee as we conspire on someone’s awful fate. Often we work in prisons or law enforcement or for the coroner and we love our job. We are news junkies, lovers of psychology, and fans for the underdog. We love to keep you on the edge of your seat tempting you with your greatest fears, but pull you back in when good prevails and evil earns it’s just reward.
We are crime writers. Be careful or you’ll end up in our novels.