|Donna Andrews, author|
of two award-winning
and Turing Hopper
Okay. Been done way too many times, usually badly. Who hasn't seen Snoopy atop the doghouse, opening yet another story with those deathless words “It was a dark and stormy night.” Have you, incidentally, read the whole opening paragraph of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel Paul Clifford?
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
I'm thinking maybe Leonard has a point.
|The 19th Meg Langslow|
mystery, available now
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
When Marcia Talley, Barb Goffman, and I chose Storm Warning for the title and theme of the seventh volume of the Chesapeake Crimes anthology, we hoped people would use the weather in interesting ways—ways more Chandlerian than Bulwer-Lyttonian. We hoped to get a variety of weather—winter blizzards and summer frog-stranglers. Desert winds and icy blasts. Weather not just as atmosphere, but weather as motive, means, and opportunity. We sent out a challenge to the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and we weren't disappointed.
Well, except for one small thing. And this is just my quirk, not Marcia's or Barb's.
I really wanted someone to include Jim Cantore.
|The newest Meg Langslow|
mystery, due in August 2016.
Then I toyed with the idea of having Cantore as the sleuth. That was more promising, except that I quickly realized that he'd be pretty lousy at solving murders. Ever seen that video in which the college student tried to tackle Cantore when he was reporting live on a winter storm in Charleston, South Carolina? Cantore just flipped the guy aside without even missing a beat. He's that focused on the weather. And it's not as if a dead body is going to give him a clue to how deep the snow's getting or which way the hurricane would turn, so why would Cantore care? As Sherlock Holmes has said, “the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work. . . .” I can see Cantore studying hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos, blizzards . . . but fingerprints? Gunshot residue? Chain of custody? Sadly, no.
I did toy with the idea of making Cantore either the killer or at least a bright red herring. Imagine it: a serial killer who commits his crimes during major weather events. Think how hard it would be for law enforcement to catch—the murders would happen in different jurisdictions, in different ways, to a variety of people. The one common thread would be that the site of the murder would be a place where the weather was so severe that at the site of each of these natural disasters there was—as in Ellis Peters's second Brother Cadfael mystery—One Corpse Too Many. It would probably turn out that Cantore wasn't the killer. Would it be the second banana weatherman, tired of Cantore getting the spotlight? The cameraman, weary of standing hip deep in water, snow, or mud so Cantore can appear on camera? Or--
But that's a novel, not a short story. And while people have paid good money in charity auctions to be victims, suspects, and even killers in many of our stories, I have no idea if Jim Cantore would find it amusing to be suspected of being a FICTIONAL serial killer. So I put away the idea. And was mildly disappointed that no one else mentioned Jim Cantore.
Ah, well. Dibs on the idea, though. I just might find a way to talk Cantore into it, one of these days.
And in the meantime, check out the variety of weather-driven stories to be found in Storm Warning.
in the Chesapeake Chapter of SINC
series of Chesapeake Crimes