Friday, August 21, 2020

What You Don't Know

Sorry to be so very late today. Classes begin on Monday, and this morning we had orientation for incoming grad students -- virtual orientation with each faculty member taking 3 or 4 minutes to introduce ourselves to the students who hadn't met up during PhD student weekend. 

I was thinking about my first classes of the semester on Monday and Tuesday and the work I still need to do on my online courses when I remembered today is my day to post. 

 I was up really late last night and up early this morning. The first thing I thought this morning was the short story that I have due (for an anthology) at the end of the month. The theme is the midnight hour. I had nothing -- no ideas. Then while Googling for images from 1939 (as I thought about a scene in my historical thriller), I came across one of Edward Hopper's 1942 painting. On of my favorite paintings by him, called "Nighthawks," The nighthawks are three people and a counterman in a diner. This painting always makes me think of Ernest Hemingway's short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," and of the movie based on his short story, "The Killers." 

I saw the painting, and I knew my short story would be set in a diner. I couldn't decide who my sleuths would be -- whether it would be a Lizzie Stuart mystery featuring my crime historian and her fiance, John Quinn, a former homicide detective. Or maybe a Hannah McCabe story, with my Albany homicide detective and her police partner, Mike Baxter. 

Because of a series of unexpected events -- including conversations I had with two baseball fans -- I'm now writing a Lizzie Stuart story. I have already established that Quinn is a baseball fan. And it seems that the year of the story -- the series, including my 6th book in progress, is now up to 2004. As I was informed that was a landmark year in baseball. That Red Sox curse that I then remembered. It makes sense that Quinn would stop to watch the game that he has been listening to on the radio. It's late, and he needs  a cup of coffee and something to eat after driving back to Gallagher from the airport. 

I discovered a few minutes in one of the games -- I happened on it in a video -- when play stops because one of the players is hit with a ball. That is the perfect moment for my killer to strike -- while everyone is looking at the television screen. And Lizzie, who Quinn calls from the diner decides she really wants a hamburger and fries and will sleep a lot better if she gets out of the house after spending  the day trying to finish a paper that is due. She gets to the diner just before or just after the murder.  . . 

I think it will work. But I know next to nothing about baseball. I have never been to a baseball game. I have never even seen an entire game on television. I do know a bit about the history of the game -- the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the Negro baseball league, Babe Ruth, baseball movies and documentaries. But Quinn is a fan because my friend -- with whom I talk through my plots-- convinced me that baseball is a thinking person's sport. A sport that Quinn would appreciate.

Thankfully -- one of life's blessing if you're a writer-- people who know about a topic are always willing to share their knowledge -- love sharing their knowledge. My thanks to my two guides through the 2004 baseball season.


Anna said...

I can already envision the tension between the play-by-play action of the baseball game (no shortage of cliffhangers in baseball) and the narrative of the murder: lots of cutting back and forth, rather like the Hitchcock version of Strangers on a Train, where the outcomes of a tennis game and of retrieving keys that dropped through a grate are played against each other. (Yes, I know it was a Rendell story first, but Hitchcock is the version I know.) Anyway, that's how I'd do it--but it's your story, so please ignore my fanversion!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


I have to confess that I've never read the book either. But I'm a huge Hitchcock fan, so I know exactly what you mean about that tennis match and the keys in the grate. I long to be even half as effective as Hitchcock when it comes to tension.