Please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com for information on guest blogs and interviews. September Interviews 9/1 Carol Perry 9/8 Nupur Tustin 9/15 Maggie Pill 9/22 Veronica Bond 9/29 Rhys Bowen Guest Blogs 9/18 Mark Leichliter -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Writing Something a Little Too Timely (completely by accident) by Tammy Euliano

Several years ago, I took a Gotham class on writing short stories. I came up with an idea that the instructor insisted I should turn into a novel, so I did. In it, my physician-scientist protagonist is working in secret to cure a decade of worldwide infertility. The story is a little Michael Crichton-esque, and a lot Handmaid’s Tale and Children of Men, but I don’t focus on the creepy left-over society. Instead, my slant is on what happens when the company that funded the research wants to control its dissemination. They want to choose who can purchase fertility. The scientist disagrees, and others have agendas of their own. It’s a thriller that I quite like.

Unfortunately, the book didn’t sell, and I started work on its prequel. Because if you have one book that won’t sell, surely you should have two. What could cause worldwide infertility, I asked myself. And what did I come up with? A viral pandemic. That was three years ago.

The prequel has some fun Dan Brown-ish puzzles my protagonist solves to figure out how a terrorist organization coerced a scientist into creating a virus that would attack only westerners. The virus mutated of course, and…badness. 

Querying the books this year has not gone well. I’ve been advised by agents to either (1) eliminate reference to viruses and pandemics in favor of another reason why the world is infertile, or (2) put the book(s) on a proverbial shelf until the world is ready for pandemic stories in, say, a decade or so.


And yet, there are books coming out that reference the pandemic. The latest Louise Penny mentions it repeatedly, though as if it’s passed and the world is now immune. In Daniel Silva’s most recent Gabriel Allon novel, the pandemic is ongoing. “Established authors can do anything they want,” you say. I get it. Agents and editors have literally millions of books to consider, why take a risk on something with which the reading public is absolutely exhausted?

And so, my book babies will stay quarantined in my computer, unless I can change the main instigating event to something people aren’t tired of hearing about…global warming anyone?


What would prompt you to consider reading a book about a viral pandemic at present?


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Warts and All by Mark Leichliter

The crime fiction I write is realistic by nature. Which is to say that my brand of fiction retains all the warts and blemishes of real life. The blood is real, the pain of loss stays with families and is passed on to future generations, some of the people on the right side of justice are also assholes and some of the criminals have redeeming characteristics. That is, after all, how the real world works. Ted Bundy, who killed at least thirty people, once saved a child from drowning and worked for a suicide hotline. Among the vast majority of law enforcement officers who genuinely wish to serve and protect, we will find murderers like Derek Chauvin. These realities are unpleasant. It’s not a wonder that many readers would prefer more sanitized versions of crime or thrillers where the good guys and gals get clean wins. As a teen I was content to use books as escape, thrilled at the pure logic of Sherlock Holmes or left the bounds of earth (and realism) in science fiction, but somewhere along the way I became the annoying guy who whispers during movies, “That would never happen …” Somewhere, I became a stickler for realism.

 

And why is that? What changed?

 

Perhaps realism is inevitable when I reflect on the times actual crime has crossed my life. That’s a messy, mixed bag—from stupid, dangerous teenage visits to drug dealers who lived in salvage yards to slapstick events, like the time would-be robbers ignited a fire while trying to open the safe in my dad’s store with a blow torch, a fire they extinguished with apple cider.

 

But crime also has a habit of opening wounds that don’t scar well and that never align with how we think the world should be. The sense of misalignment I experienced when my close childhood friend committed armed robbery just after high school remains with me. To know someone so well and be left with so many questions is unnerving. But just as unsettling was the recognition that my friend, the son of a federal law enforcement agent, was granted leniency I would never have received from a fraternal justice system.

 

There were any manner of injustices unearthed by my cousin’s murder. Shot dead with a hunting rifle in the street when he was 22, Greg was killed by his friend’s estranged husband. The murderer, who came from a connected, affluent family, was charged with manslaughter. He served six years. My aunt’s near silence in the face of grief lasted far longer, audible in her shaky voice when she did speak. The weight of her mourning remained evident for the rest of her life. She, like too many real crime victims, defied Hemingway’s suggestion that we often become stronger in the broken places, although she might tell us that just getting out of bed each morning after your child has been murdered demonstrates very real strength.


So there is the realism of having known victims and perpetrators and investigators too.

 

Another answer may be because my most recent crime novel focuses on the place I live, so my sense of duty in achieving verisimilitude is close to the bone. The people I write about in Montana’s Flathead valley are also friends and neighbors. The larger social forces at work are real to us, just as real as the decaying presence of meth and the deadly reality of opioids. I’m now at work on a novel that descends deeply into human trafficking, and it seems an unforgivable disservice if I misrepresented the reality of disappearances among indigenous women, including those who have gone missing just a few miles from my home. Reality also reminds us that there are more vulnerable people in indigenous communities for the worst among us to prey upon and fewer resources to protect them. Empathy and respect for those whose lives are touched by crime is a big part of why I think realism has come to matter to me.

 

For the realist writer, the facts matter immensely and typically reveal more than their surface. Ted Bundy may have worked a suicide hotline because his crimes preyed on those who were vulnerable or because he enjoyed the suffering of others. Three other officers on scene failed to demand that Derek Chauvin remove his knee from George Floyd’s neck. My friend dropped his driver’s license at the drive-up window of the liquor store he robbed. Violent crime in Laramie, WY, where my cousin was murdered was sparse in the decades before his death; 18 years later, with the murder of Matthew Shepard, Laramie is synonymous with murder. Stranger than fiction? Perhaps. The task of realism in literature is to create a shadow of the actual world, if one that is sharper and darker. For my part, while I greatly respect the diversity of all mystery sub-genres, including those that allow escape where amateur sleuths solve crimes where readers never see the body, the warts remain visible. There are no “right” ways to write crime fiction. Perhaps we writers exert control over the criminal world because forces larger than ourselves have shaped us in ways beyond our grasp.

 

Mark Leichliter is the author of The Other Side. He lives in Montana. To learn more about his work, visit him at www.markleichliter.com.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Good News by Warren Bull

Image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

Although you have to search for them, there are stories about positive events and people that usually don’t make the “if it bleeds, it leads” type of local news. The following stories are real and help us remember that there is good in the world.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/07/12/dog-stolen-thief-rehab/?utm_campaign=wp_the_optimist&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_optimist&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F342373b%2F60eee0219d2fda945a038a07%2F60b7b40c9bbc0f65275ef89f%2F9%2F47%2F6eee0219d2fda945a038a07

Braydon Morton’s three-year-old Chinese Shar-Pie named Darla was stolen from his home. He put up a post on Facebook and offered a $4,000 reward for her return. A friend added $2,000. When Morton got a call, he went to a local gas station and found a sobbing young woman with his dog. He said he knew immediately that she was a fentanyl addict. He was an addict and had been sober for about eight years. He worried if he gave her the reward money, she might spend it on drugs, and thereby she might kill herself. Instead of calling the police he called a treatment program and paid to have the woman enter treatment. He spoke with her for days to assuage her fears. Then he bought her an airplane ticket to the city where the program was located and arranged for her admission. Morton said a friend had helped him get into treatment and saved his life years earlier.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/07/09/wedding-flower-bouquet-doctor-hospital/

Starting during her residency, Elanor Love, now a physician has been calling wedding coordinators and asking if she could stop by after weddings to pick up left-over flowers to give to her patients in the hospital. The coordinators almost always agree. Hospital patients, especially those who have few visitors, are delighted.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/06/29/kidney-donate-transplant-husband-coworker/

Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis were co-workers for a decade, who didn’t know each other well. The women saw each other in a restroom at work and started chatting as they washed their hands. They had a lot in common, both working in information technology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and dealing with the same medical stress at home. Both women’s husbands needed a kidney transplant and neither was a match to be an organ donor for their husbands. The transplant waiting lists were impossibly long.

Wimbush casually asked Ellis what her husband’s blood type was. He’s type O, Ellis replied. Wimbush said her husband was type AB. Each woman announced that he had the type as the other woman’s husband. The women paused for a moment and looked at each other in shock and disbelief.

They got tested and amazingly they turned out to be excellent potential donors for each other’s husband. After some delays due to the husbands’ health, seven months after the conversation four surgeries resulted in successful kidney transplants. The transplant program director said he had never been involved in a situation like that before. Now everyone is doing well.  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/07/07/car-repair-restaurant-eliot-middleton/

Eliot Middleton, a 38-year-old restaurant owner and former mechanic has an unusual hobby. He runs a restaurant in rural Andrews, South Carolina. In his spare time, he fixes up junk cars and gives them away to needy people. He has given 33 cars to people who desperately need transportation. There are no taxis or Uber drivers in the area. Medical facilities are far away. Middleton has posted on Facebook and traded his famous barbeque ribs for donated broken-down cars.    

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/07/19/wedding-dress-black-bride-segregation/

When Martha Tucker got married in 1957 in her pastor’s house she did not wear a white wedding gown even though she wanted a fancy lacy dress. She lived in Birmingham, Alabama where Blacks were not allowed in white-owned stores except in the basement of stores where used clothing was for sale. There was no bridal shop for Blacks. At the time Blacks could not eat in white restaurants. It was illegal for Blacks to play checkers or other games with Whites. 

When she watched the wedding scene in the movie Coming to America with her forty-six-year-old granddaughter Angela Strozier, Martha Tucker mentioned that she had never worn a wedding dress, but she had wanted to ever since she got married.

Angela Strozier made an appointment at a bridal shoe and arranged for several family members to be present at a surprise fitting. Seventy years after her wedding at age 94 Tucker got her wish.

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Some Thoughts on Blogging by Marilyn Levinson

I can't remember when I wrote my first blog, but it had to be more than ten years ago when my first mystery was published. Then blogging was all the rage. "You must blog," the Promotion Pundits declared. "It's one of the best ways to engage with your readers." Many of them drew up long lists of blogging topics for authors. Those documents are still on my computer, though I can't remember the last time I bothered to read any of them.

As mystery writers, we're well aware of our obligation to promote our books and stories. We do this in a variety of ways. While we never know for sure which methods bring us new readers , we know that new ways of promoting rise up and others fade away. Having a newsletter is a must. Social media is still hot. There's Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok. And many more I'm not aware of. Which brings me to the question: Does it make sense to continue to blog?

I write a blog once a month here on Writers Who Kill and even less often on the Blackbirds Writers' Blog. Writing a blog is actually writing an essay—at least it is for me. I suppose my mind has been trained, because I always manage to come up with a topic to write about, usually something related to writing. Doing so takes up time, time away from writing. And the question is: what am I getting in return? I get comments, but these are mostly from my fellow group blogging authors and other author friends. 

Am I communicating with readers as I do when I do an author takeover for one of the cozy groups I belong to? Is blogging helping to create sales? I honestly don't know. But to be fair, I'm going to list a few of the reasons why I will continue to blog:

1. I like writing about writing or any other subject I'm thinking about and like sharing my thoughts with other people. After all, I am a writer and it's natural for me to express myself this way.

2. Blogs have longevity. One of my fellow Blackbirds Writers made a comment to a blog I'd written a year ago. 

3. Blogs are a way of communicating. I will leave a comment on someone's blog if the subject touched me.

4. Blogs can be reused. The topic, actually, since I always have new thoughts when I rework an old blog.

5. Blogs can be helpful to other authors. I can't count the number of times I've given out "Twelve Things to Include When Writing a Mystery Series," which was first written as a blog.

6. Guest blogs are a good way to have exposure to possible new readers.

7. Mystery writers are also mystery readers;  blogging is a way for them to learn about my books and me.

Though some say blogging isn't as important as it used to be, I think it's here to stay. What are your thoughts regarding blogging?


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

An Interview with Maggie Pill (Peg Herring) by E. B. Davis

In this cozy mystery, the first of a series, middle-aged sisters Faye and Barb decide to open a detective agency in Allport, their small town in northern Lower Michigan. They agree that Retta, their baby sister, will NOT be included, since she tends to take over any organization she's part of. Sweetly but firmly, Retta will tell you what you should do, could do, and will do.

The agency does not take off, and Faye reconsiders the decision to leave Retta out, since as the widow of a slain state trooper, she's got contacts all over Michigan. Retta's only too willing to "help" and immediately begins second-guessing their decisions, which leads to sparks between her and Barb.

The sisters finally get a decent case: finding a man who apparently murdered his wife years ago and has been on the run ever since. As they try to investigate what happened, they're opposed at every turn. Local cops doubt the "lady detectives" and most of the town is convinced Neil Brown killed his wife and brother-in-law in a fit of anger. The murder victims' father has no doubt Brown is guilty, and he's furious that anyone might take a different view.

Still, someone wants to keep the sisters from finding Brown and digging into what really happened the day he left Allport. As the sisters piece things together, the new police chief seems like a possible ally. The problem is that both Barb and Retta are attracted to him, and Retta seldom meets a man she can't get. Accepting defeat in that arena, Barb tries to concentrate on the case and prove Brown isn't guilty of murder. That leads to a show-down with a desperate killer in a remote, dangerous spot. Only Faye and Retta can save her, and they have no idea where she is.

Amazon.com

The Sleuth Sisters mystery series comprises seven books, starting with The Sleuth Sisters. They were published from 2014—2019. After reading the first book, I was hooked. There are three sisters, in age order, Barb, Faye, and Retta. Each has a distinctive personality and have very different lifestyles. But in terms of sleuthing, those difference are a plus since they have different talents, and they know each other very well. 

After retiring as an assistant D.A. in Tacoma, Washington, Barb retires at 52 and goes back to her hometown of Allport, Michigan, where her two younger sisters live. She’s financially sound so she doesn’t respond positively to Faye’s suggestion of starting a detective agency. Finally, Barb agrees because Faye is not financially sound. She’s an office manager who always seems to lose her jobs. Faye’s husband is on disability due to a jobsite accident. Although seemingly softhearted, Barb is also bored with retirement. They agree that their baby sister Retta cannot be allowed to join the agency due to her domineering personality, which of course doesn’t last long.

Please welcome Maggie Pill (also known as mystery writer Peg Herring) to WWK.       E. B. Davis

The last book in the series, Captured, Escape, Repeat was published in 2019. That’s only two years ago. Is there any chance of an addition to the series? (had to ask!)

Thanks for inviting me here, Elaine. The answer to that question is probably no. Two years ago, as I was doing final edits for Captured, Escape, Repeat, my sister died suddenly. Since then, I haven’t felt I could face another episode of the Sleuth Sisters. She was the person who knew before anyone else, even my husband, that I was writing, and she was always the first reader. It just doesn’t feel right to start another “sister adventure” without her. 

Why do you write under different names?

As Peg Herring, I had a traditional writing career with an agent, a publisher, and a fan base. I wanted to try cozy mystery, but I wasn’t sure I could be funny, and I didn’t know if my publisher would appreciate the effort. Independent publishing was starting to become feasible and respectable, so I took my grandmother’s name (Margaret Pillsbury), made it shorter, and published The Sleuth Sisters as an e-book. Soon someone wrote to say they’d like it in paperback to give to a relative, so I learned how to make a “real” book. After that, someone asked for it in audio. When I put the book up for auditions, I was lucky enough to get Cerny American, a respected studio in Chicago, interested. They chose the three voice actors who did the audio books, doing a great job matching voices and personalities. Soon Maggie Pill was as popular as Peg Herring, and now I have tons of fun and frustration keeping up with the demands of both.

When the series opens, we find that Barb, former officer of the court, is in fact a criminal. Barb would defend herself by saying the rules of grammar were broken and she is merely fixing them. How does Barb fix grammar by breaking the law?

Come on, we’ve all been there (well, maybe not). I’m a retired English teacher, so I often have to turn away from grammatical horrors on signs and notices. It would only take a second to fix most of them. Barb goes out in the dead of night and corrects errors on signs in her community. She sees her “Correction Events” as a public service.

(Funny story: When I got a job in teaching, I succeeded a very proper grammarian. The principal confided that one day when she called in sick, he went down to let the substitute into her room and found his latest letter to the staff in her desk drawer, liberally corrected with red ink. Moral: we can’t help it. Red ink is in our blood.)

The sisters’ hometown is Allport, MI. You are very specific about its geography. Is it a real place or based on a real place?

I live in northern Lower Michigan (near the tip of the mitten). To get a location I could manipulate as I needed to, I simply slid two counties apart and inserted a new one. Allport is a combination of Alpena and Rogers City, both cities on the Lake Huron shoreline. With a fictional town and county, I don’t have to worry about offending anyone in real life.

Barb says she used her brain to get ahead. Faye worked hard and hasn’t been very successful (at least financially). Retta, short for Margaretta, was pretty, ambitious, and financially sound. But she has her own vision of the world. Would Retta agree with Barb’s assessment?

The thing about sisters is they share so much and yet turn out so differently. Retta has had her share of sorrow, but she has a lighter outlook than her sisters, which makes her more prone to take chances. Retta enjoys the company of men and likes being spoiled, or at least appreciated. She isn’t shy about using flirtation as an investigative device. She would say that Barb never learned to let go and have fun because she’s always worried about propriety. And she’s probably right.

When they finally get a paying client, who asks them to find her brother, the case takes them to the boonies of upper Michigan. One of our writers, James M. Jackson has a home in the UP. I had to laugh at your description of the area. Is it as bleak as you describe? Are accommodations that lacking?

Amenities in the U.P. aren’t lacking, they’re just spread out. It’s heavily forested, lightly populated by humans but full of animal life. To balance the lack of “civilization,” nature provides breath-taking scenery, peace, and quiet.

As a lawyer, Barb isn’t a warm fuzzy character, unlike her sister Faye, who has a large heart and even Retta, who loves her big fuzzy dog. But, Barb seems to lead her life in service to others. Isn’t that a way of showing her warmth and care?

I think Barb cares too much. In order to keep her heart from breaking over the way people treat each other, she developed a protective shell. I imagine those who work in the justice system need to do that or be depressed all the time about things they can’t fix.

What’s an ice spud?

It’s a tool for chopping holes in the ice on a lake. Imagine a hoe straightened out.

Retta was a wife to a policeman killed in the line of duty. She became an activist for increasing protection for police and co-authored a book on the subject. Although she now seems well connected and a great resource for the detective agency, before her husband’s death, was she a housewife and mother?

Yes. It’s interesting to speculate on what she’d have been like if her husband had lived. He was a “manly man” and very protective of her, so she might have continued to be his little sweetie forever. Tragic events make us adjust our view of life and even our way of life. Retta came out of her tragedy still a “sweetie” but with the courage to face both crowds of media people and, if necessary, bad guys with guns.

Faye at one point gets kidnapped by a nonviolent, inept kidnapper, Gabe. After overpowering and getting information out of him, she mentors him. Gabe becomes a series character doing odd jobs for the sisters. How did that happen?

I liked Gabe. He was never meant to be more than a scene or two, but he reminded me of kids I’d had in my high school classes, kids who weren’t bad people but still ended up in jail. In keeping with the sisters’ personalities, they defeat Gabe when he’s doing wrong and then support him when he decides to do what’s right.

Never-been-married Barb gets to know the new police chief, Rory Neuencamp. What type of alliance do they form professionally and personally?

It’s a bit trite, but cozy sleuths need a connection to law enforcement to be realistic. I wanted a cop who’d help the sisters out, and in the first book, it underscored the sibling rivalry between Barb and Retta to have them both interested in the new man in town. Rory is a capable cop who is willing to accept Barb’s independent spirit, so they work together well.

What’s wrong with Faye’s dog Buddy? Why does Barb feel like he allows her to live in her own home?

As a stray who’s probably been abused, Buddy doesn’t take guff from anyone. He’s one of those dogs who has his “people,” Faye and to a lesser extent Faye’s husband Dale. He’d prefer that everyone else keep their distance. (My daughter had a Rottweiler like that. He wouldn’t bite me, but I was 100% sure he didn’t like me.)

 Barb claims Faye is too soft-hearted, but Barb ends up adopting a stray cat. Is she a hypocrite? Why does she call the cat The Brat?

Barb hasn’t had the option of keeping a pet as an adult, since she lived alone and had a demanding job. Still, they were raised on a farm, so she’s used to having animals around. I see the stray cat, Brat, so called because she’s so independent, as a sign that these days Barb is becoming what she couldn’t be as an assistant DA, patient, compassionate, and loving.

Retta’s dog is large. What type is he? How did he get his name?

Styx is a brown Newfoundland, and he’s based on my brother’s dog Terra (short for Holy Terror). It felt like Retta would choose a “fancy” name for her dog (Styx is the river in Greek mythology one must cross to reach the afterlife) while Faye would choose something easy traditional, like Buddy.

How did Retta find out about Barb’s secret activities? Why did she insist on helping? What was the deal?

Retta finds out about Barb’s Correction Events by accident. (Faye has figured it out too but would never say anything.) Retta understands Barb’s need to make things right in her small way, but of course, she isn’t above a little blackmail. She wants to be fully part of the agency, so she uses her knowledge to her advantage. There’s a lot of humor in Barb’s adventures, and fans often comment on them. Many, many people would like to do what she does, so they live vicariously through Barb and her pots of paint.

Why does Faye’s mother-in-law like her better than her children?

She doesn’t, but she recognizes who will take care of her and cater to her wishes. Most of her children ignore her, but Faye has a strong sense of duty. Though the old woman is demanding and mercurial, Faye does her best to make her happy, which is kind of her approach to the world.

How easy is it for younger next of kin to check their elders into nursing care and take control of their assets?

I’m not sure it would be easy, but in cozy mysteries, things get simplified. I do know of cases where elderly people objected strongly to being institutionalized. Doctors have a large say in whether a person remains independent, so I figured if a deceitful relative began a campaign of disinformation with the locals and then used drugs to create confusion, it could work.

Why does Barb ask Faye’s son Cramer to hack for her? You wouldn’t think a retired D.A. would ask anyone to break the law.

She has the best of intentions…Isn’t that how we all justify ourselves when we do wrong?

Barb has two cars. One she considers her baby. What are they and why does she only drive one in the winter?

In Michigan, roads are salted liberally all winter long to melt the ice and snow. Any car with a metal body, like Barb’s ’57 Chevy, would corrode if driven in winter, so she stores it and drives her everyday car, a Ford Edge.

What are some of the arcane things Faye knows from reading romance novels?


Romance novels aren’t my forte, but Faye would say they teach you about relationships. Also, authors love to slip in historical information and details about careers, recipes, hobbies, etc., so a person picks up bits and pieces she doesn’t even realize she’s learning. My first novel as Peg Herring was set in Scotland during Macbeth’s kingship. I came upon crannogs (castles set in the center of a lake for defensive purposes) and had to put one into Macbeth’s Niece. The information was simply too cool not to share.

When Lars, an FBI agent boyfriend of Retta’s, is given the choice of an overseas assignment or returning to Arizona, we never find out which he chose. What happens?

That was supposed to be part of Book 8, which never happened due to reasons already given. Lars would have been a great addition to the Smart Detective Agency, but he’s also a good reason for Retta to leave Allport, giving the sisters a reason to retire from sleuthing. We may never know.Thanks again for the opportunity. You asked great questions!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

They Didn’t Really Get It Right by KM Rockwood

“Predicting the future is easy,” goes an old saying. “Getting it right is the hard part.”

My grandmother used to say that during her lifetime, transportation had undergone so much change it was hardly recognizable. Her father would hitch the horse to the buggy for a trip into town, which was about as far as they ever went. And later in her life, she rode on jet planes to visit her grandchildren and great grandchildren, sometimes overseas.

While many people had faith in the inventions we take for granted now and worked diligently to make them feasible, there were always skeptics. Many of them were well-known figures who made predictions that were proven spectacularly wrong.

"How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s

"Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia." - Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830

"No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free." - King William I of Prussia, on trains, 1864

"The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty--a fad." -- President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, 1903

In the March, 1904 issue of Popular Science Monthly, William S. Pickering opined about the possibility of transatlantic flight: “Even if a machine could get across with one or two passengers the expense would be prohibitive to any but the capitalist who could own his own yacht.”

Things as basic as electric lights had their doubters.

"Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure." - Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison's light bulb, 1880

“When the Paris Exhibition (of 1878) closes, electric light will close with it, and no more will be heard of it. – Oxford Professor Erasmus Wilson

Most of us are dependent upon computers and their word processing programs in our writing. But when they were new, not everyone saw the advantage.

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor of Prentice Hall business books, 1957 New York Times.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” – Ken Olsen, chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Even those who embraced progress could miss the reality of coming technology.

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” Popular Mechanics, 1949

Much as we depend upon photocopiers rather than carbon paper, in 1959, executives at IBM told the upstarts who would found Xerox, “The world potential marketing is 5000 at most,” and said there was no market large enough to justify production. 

I don’t know if I would be writing if we didn’t have modern technology. I know that if I tried, I would be a lot more frustrated (how many messy corrections before you have to retype the entire page? Ever get tangled in a typewriter ribbon that decides to jump track and smear its ink all over both you and your work?) 

 

Sources for the information in this blog include:

“25 Famous Predictions That were Proven To Be Horribly Wrong,” List 25  25 Famous Predictions That Were Proven To Be Horribly Wrong (list25.com)

Kelly, Gene. “History’s Most Boneheaded Predictions’” Washington Post, September 7, 2021

 Tina Sieber, “8 Spectacularly Wrong Predictions About Computers & the Internet, March 15, 2011 8 Spectacularly Wrong Predictions About Computers & The Internet (makeuseof.com)

Szczerba, Robert J. “15 Worst Tech Predictions of All Time, Forbes, January 5, 2015

 

 

 

 

Monday, September 13, 2021

What I'm Watching: Mystery Edition

By Shari Randall

 

A few years ago, my kids gave me a subscription to Acorn TV, which I used to watch the Agatha Raisin TV show. As a tiny drop of rain can turn into a mighty flood, this small taste of streaming television has led to me trying the offerings of many different streaming services. Thank goodness most give a one-week free trial. Here are a few shows that I discovered – with trigger warnings for the discerning mystery viewer.

 


Agatha Raisin: If you’re a fan of the books, where Agatha is an insecure brunette former PR executive with little bear eyes who retires to the Cotswolds and tries, with little luck, to fit in, you might be disappointed in the new version. Ashley Jensen, who plays our Aggie, is a gorgeous blonde who is much more adept at navigating the social waters of Carsley than M. C. Beaton’s character. But if you simply pretend that it’s a new show called “Ashley Raisin” you’ll enjoy the talented cast, Cotswolds scenery, and snappy banter.

TRIGGER WARNING: Blonde Aggie.

 


Mallorca Files: The scenery is the only thing prettier than the two leads. The mysteries, alas, aren’t nearly as attractive.

TRIGGER WARNING: I didn’t watch enough episodes to find any overarching problems, except that you may empty your bank account to buy tickets to this stunning island.

 


New Tricks: Following a drug bust disaster videotaped and shown on TV, a disgraced, but ambitious and talented female detective is given a last chance to save her career: run a cold case program staffed by similarly problematic police officers called back from retirement. The Unsolved Crime and Open Cases files offer meaty problems for the underrated crew of Sandra Pullman and “the boys” to unravel. This well-written BBC show was so popular it ran for 13 seasons.

TRIGGER WARNING: Occasional mature images, themes, and lots of British swearing. Often subtitles don’t help with the very entertaining, but occasionally opaque, slang.

 


Lupin: Quelle surprise! I had a few complaints as plot holes and storyline issues you could drive a bateau mouche through popped up, but in the end I stuck with the show and am so glad I did. Inspired by the adventures of Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsene Lupin novels, gentleman thief Assane Diop takes on a French billionaire in an attempt to avenge his father’s death. (I can’t say more – no spoilers!) The actors’ charm and panache, the Parisian setting, and the way elements of the classic Lupin books are woven into the story are as delightful as an airy mousse au chocolat. It’s all a bit over the top, the characters have plenty of TDTL (Too Dumb To Live) moments, but there’s so much style and warmth on screen, you’ll be hooked. 

TRIGGER WARNING: Those plot holes may have you tearing your hair out. Plus, my French is rusty, but I want to watch the untranslated version to see if all the F bombs are in the original. If this is a trigger for you, prenez-garde.

 


Brokenwood: My new favorite show. Some have called Brokenwood “Midsomer Murders transported to New Zealand,” but there’s a special charm to this show and its lead, Senior Detective Mike Shepherd, a laid back, country music loving wine aficionado. The New Zealand setting and culture are spectacular, and the mysteries are top notch. The special sauce for Brokenwood is the way supporting characters, even very minor ones, pop up in episode after episode. Trudy, Jean, Frodo…you’ll see what I mean.

TRIGGER WARNING: Only seven seasons.

 

What new shows are you watching?