Ideas, Man

Where do my craziest plots come from?

Ideas, Man

I won’t belabor the controversy surrounding American Dirt. I see both sides of the debate about whether an author who does not have personal experience of a culture can write about that culture.

But if push comes to shove, I’d probably be more sympathetic with the argument that fiction writers can say whatever they want (and live with the criticism, of course).

I certainly wouldn’t want to censor their books, because that smacks of book-burning fanaticism. Go down that road, and we’d end up with someone like Donald Trump as president.

Wait a minute. That didn’t come out right. Oh, well. Let’s move on. 

I’m often asked where I get my ideas for some of my bizarre plots and scene descriptions. Some of the folks who do the asking look askance at me, especially if I’m holding cutlery.

So, what follows are brief synopses of scenes already in my thrillers and mysteries, or that will eventually make it into future books. Try to guess which actually happened to me, and which just popped out of my addled, martini-influenced brain.

  • The Poison Pen: A man is concerned because his wife is one of the few women on the block who hasn’t received a scurrilous note about spousal shenanigans (fanny pinching, propositions at parties, etc.). He and his wife are, of course, prime suspects, although innocent. His wife finally gets an anonymous poison-pen letter accusing him of maintaining a messy yard. Outraged at this perceived slur on his masculinity, he asks a cop friend to find out who’s sending the letters.
  • The Log That Wasn’t: A fisherman in Cuba has a lure caught on a tree branch. He can reach it by stepping on a log jutting out from the shoreline. But the “log” isn’t a log. It’s a huge barracuda nuzzling by the bank. When it rolls its eyes and flaps its fins, the fisherman somehow stops in mid-stride and mid-air, avoiding becoming dinner.
  • Religious Experience: A priest takes some friends down a winding staircase into a large room below the altar. The room contains a full bar, complete with burly bartender on duty. The place, with a door opening to a street behind the church, was once a speakeasy. Now, church groups such as the Rosary and Altar Society use it for meetings.
  • A Head for News: Just after dawn, a young reporter visits the site of a just-discovered car wreck from the night before. He is allowed by the police to peer into the front seat, where the driver lies dead. The corpse has no head. “Check the back seat,” a cop helpfully suggests. Sure enough, there it is. The driver had been decapitated by a pole. The reporter, who’d had a bad night (although not as bad as the driver), doesn’t lose his breakfast (as the cop probably hoped), but instead can’t wait to write his lead.

That’s enough for now. I’ll have some more real or imagined scenes in my next column, as well as the answer to today’s quiz.

Lawrence De Maria’s latest thriller, The End of Us, is due out momentarily. It contains instructions on how to build a nuclear bomb. All the basic information is available on the Internet. He has not actually built one, although after a visit from his toddler grandson, his home looks like Yucca Flats.

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