Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Some Mystery Related Influences from my Childhood

Many mystery authors attribute reading Nancy Drew mysteries for the writing they do now. I also read Nancy Drew, but looking back, I believe many other things from my childhood had a greater influence on what I do today.

Most of you know I'm much older than all the rest of the contributors to this blog. I grew up during World War II--and when I was about 10 I was convinced I would be asked to be a spy if the enemy landed on our shores. I lived in Los Angeles and we had black-outs, air raid drills at school, and I was highly influenced by the newsreels at the movies.

As for movies, we went every Friday night and stayed for both features. The 2nd one was always a B movie usually about gangsters, but often a mystery. My parents never questioned whether anyting was appropriate for their daughter or her 5 year younger sister.

At home, I listened to the radio faithfully. Having my own radio (a Christmas present) in my room meant I heard nearly every episode of all the mystery shows: The Whistler, Suspense Theater, The Adventures of Sam Spade, The Shadow, Inner Sanctum.

My little Philco radio also picked up police calls--which I was forbidden to listen to, once my mom found out about them. However, I still listened to them at night--and I heard the reports when the Black Dahlia's body was found. Gave me nightmares for weeks.

My family subscribed to three newspapers: The L.A. Times, The Herald Examiner and The Daily News. I don't think my dad ever read them--but my mother did. The Daily News had the most gossip and "best" photos. The articles I remember most were about the Black Dahlia murder and also the murder of Lana Turner's boyfriend--by her daughter. Any death reported in their pages always carried the lurid details and graphic photographs. I didn't pay much attention to the other news, but devoured all the reports about murder.

And one last memory. One of my mother's church friends murdered her husband. While he slept on the couch, she hit in in the head with an axe. I was young and don't remember many details though I do know she was put into a mental institution. One more thing, I heard one of my mother's friends say, "He was the most boring man I ever met. If I'd been married to him, I might have done the same thing."

Okay, you other authors, any similar childhood memories influence you?

And readers, what happened in your childhood that might have influenced you to read mysteries?


P.S. Yes, I do use some of what I remember in my books--old and newer memories.


  1. We listened to The Shadow on radio, and watched Perry Mason, using commercials as a time to offer up our own solutions. We did the same with Hitchcock and Twilight Zone which were mysterious in other ways. Wanting to solve problems is a pretty basic need, and mysteries help in a safe place.

  2. I also listened to and then watched Perry Mason, he was my all time favorite. Even went to one of the live radio shows.

  3. What wonderful memories, Marilyn. Imagine remembering the Black Dahlia. I recall the murder of Lana Turner's lover by her daughter, big stuff. What effected me was the Cold War. My small Kansas hometown had a missile silo built right outside it. That was thrilling in concept but in reality it was just an empty field, very ho hum. Shooting down of the U2 over the Soviet Union was big stuff, also of course the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was hard for me to take it seriously since it seemed so surreal. Much later the BTK serial killer came to be lodged in the new (jobs-crating) prison outside my old hometown. I've heard Dr. Lyle talk about it and it is a bridge way too too far for me to feel excited about that. Just repulsive. As to the murdering church women, I now realize that a girl pal of mine probably had her mother murdered by her dad in a love triangle with his secretary...It was deemed a suicide, but I think it was covered up.

  4. The time period you write about I was the wife of a career Seabee who spent 3 tours in Vietnam, I gave birth to and raised 5 kids during this period, often alone. Sometimes I held down a job while being a mom without a hubby--rough times, but I filled the empty times with PTA, Camp Fire Girls, and writing.