The good news is that the third book in my Dirty Business mystery series, Dead Head (Minotaur Books) will be released next week. The bizarre news is the story of a Virginia man who bought a guinea pig in a pet store and then went home and made a hat out of it – which he wore around town until someone called the cops and he was arrested for animal cruelty.
Most writers have an idea file. Mine is filled with newspaper clippings and the printed versions of online stories like the one about Guinea Pig Man – although he may be too strange to use. Who’d believe it? GPM sounds like a character from a Carl Hiaasen novel. If anyone else had written him, I’d have said the writer was trying too hard to be quirky.
Bizarre news story number two concerns two would-be bank robbers who called the bank they were planning to rob to explain just how they’d like the bills packaged. When they arrived, they were genuinely surprised to see the cops waiting for them. These braintrusts were from my home state of Connecticut. I’m not sure my editor would let me write characters that dumb. (Perhaps by book number nine in the series…)
Dead Head had its origins in a news story too. Not as bizarre as these, but one that was even more fascinating. About two years ago an upper middle class suburban woman was arrested when it was discovered that she was a fugitive from the law who’d been living a lie for decades. None of her neighbors or family members really knew who she was and might never have known if someone hadn’t informed. I was mesmerized by the notion of walking away from one life and starting another – and with over 100,000 missing persons in the US at any given time, it probably happens more than we think. And it had me asking myself – how well do we really know our neighbors?
Whatever the facts of that real case, I was off and running with my story which has amateur sleuth Paula Holliday hired by the woman’s family to find out who dropped the dime and why.
Who knows, maybe in two years I’ll be launching a book called Guinea Pig Man. What have you seen in the paper lately that’s made it into your idea file?
Rosemary Harris was born in Brooklyn New York and now she, her husband split their time between Manhattan’s East Side and Fairfield County, Connecticut. A small item in the New York Times about a mummified body led to her first book, the Agatha and Anthony-nominated, Pushing Up Daisies, followed by last year’s The Big Dirt Nap.
“I love my heroine, Paula Holliday. People always ask how much of me is in Paula – some, but of course she’s the younger, thinner, more adventurous version of me. And she’s funnier than I am.”
Rosemary is vice-president of MWA/NY and past president of Sisters in Crime, New England. She’s also a member of Garden Writers of America and CMGA Connecticut Master Gardeners Association.
Visit Rosemary at www.rosemaryharris.com