When Crime Writers Travel ;-)

When Crime Writers TravelIt’s not as easy as you might think to be a crime writer. And I’m not even talking about such challenges as ‘writer’s block’ or rejections from publishers. Those things happen to all writers. But I sometimes think crime writing poses special challenges. Take, for instance, travel. Yes, travel.

Just to give you a sense of what it’s like for crime writers to travel, here’s a chance for you to follow along on a trip with a crime writer. You will want to ask your disbelief to stay at home, water the plants and feed the cat, though…


When Crime Writers Travel…


The scene is a busy airport terminal. Passengers are surging everywhere, and a large group of them is waiting at the security checkpoint. Two bored-looking security officers are checking passports and boarding passes.

Officer #1: Next!
Margot (Holding out her passport and boarding pass): Good morning.
Officer #1 nods and takes the documents. After a careful scrutiny, and a close look at Margot’s face, she returns the documents. As Margot passes, the officer notices a book tucked under Margot’s arm, and just catches a glimpse of the title: Weapons Then and Now. With a raised eyebrow, she lifts up her radio communicator and murmurs a few words into it.


Two or three minutes later, Margot is putting her belongings onto the security conveyer belt. Into one plastic tray, she places a handbag, shoes, and ‘phone; in another, her laptop. Then she puts her suitcase on the conveyer belt behind the trays. Another security officer notices something sticking out of the suitcase as it heads towards the X-ray. He makes eye contact with the officer examining the X-rays. As soon as Margot’s possessions go through, the officer takes her suitcase off the belt.

Officer: Ma’am, is this your suitcase?
Margot: Yes, it is. Puts on a lovely smile. Is there a problem?
Officer:  I’ll have to ask you to come this way, please. Gestures towards an empty table.

At the table…

Officer: Ma’am, you have a holster here.
Margot: Oh, yes, I’m so glad you reminded me of that. I need it for an experiment.
Officer: An experiment?
Margot: Yes. Notices the officer’s expression. Oh, don’t worry. I’m a crime writer. This is for one of my books.
Officer: Rummaging through Margot’s suitcase. You have no firearms in here, Ma’am?
Margot: No, I don’t.
Officer: Is your weapon in your checked luggage?
Margot: No, I haven’t checked anything. The officer gives her a quizzical look and then proceeds to go through her handbag. Failing to find anything forbidden, the officer finally lets Margot repack her possessions and leave the security area.

Margot (Muttering to herself as she re-packs): Good thing I didn’t label my travel bottles. God knows how long they’d have made me wait if they saw words like cyanide and belladonna!


Later, on the plane. Margot is sitting in an aisle seat. Her laptop is open and she is busy looking up a web page. The passenger sitting next to her glances over and notices two books on Margot’s lap: Weapons Then and Now; and Murderous Marriages. Now intrigued, the passenger looks discreetly at the web page that Margot is consulting. Margot notices that she is being watched, and looks over at the other passenger with a reassuring smile.
Passenger: I’m sorry, but I just have to ask. What are you doing with those books?
Margot: These? Oh, just some research I’m doing. The web site, too. She gestures towards her laptop screen.
Passenger (Looking carefully at Margot): Umm…sounds interesting.
Margot: Thanks. It’s a big thing I’m planning, so I want to be sure to get the facts, so I do everything right.
Passenger (Clears throat discreetly): I really hope you don’t mind my saying this but, well, I’m a lawyer, and I can tell you, it’s easier to just get a divorce.
Margot: No, no! That’s not what I’m planning! I’m a crime writer! I’m planning a book.
Passenger (Obviously unconvinced): Here. Pulls out and proffers a business card. You may need this at some point.

At this point, the other passenger gets up and Margot moves aside to let him pass. A moment later he’s seen talking to the flight attendant. He’s obviously asked to have his seat moved, because he puts his own laptop case on a seat a few rows away. He comes back to Margot’s row to retrieve his suitcase from the overhead bin.
Passenger (Now holding the handle of his suitcase): Look, I don’t mean to offend, but the less I know about what you’re doing right now, the better. Just…call me if you need me.


Several hours later, the plane has landed. Now, the passengers are milling about in the arrivals area, waiting their turns to go through Immigration and Customs. When it’s Margot’s turn…

Immigration Inspector (Looking at the passport Margot has given her): And how long will you be here?
Margot: I’ll be here for five days.
Inspector: Business? Holiday?
Margot: Business.
Inspector: And what business is that?
Margot: Well, first up is murder in the workplace and how to pull that off. Then I think it’s domestic crime.
Inspector (Trying unsuccessfully to remain expressionless): I see. Picks up her radio transmitter and murmurs a few words as Margot waits for her passport to be stamped. Meanwhile the passengers behind her are getting restive.

A minute or two later, two burly security guards appear and the inspector indicates Margot. One of the security guards steps over to Margot.
Guard: I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to come with us, please.
Margot (With a hopeful smile): Is there a problem?
Guard: We just need to ask you a few questions. Please step this way.
Margot: But…
Guard (With a firm tone): Please come this way.

The other guard approaches Margot and, one on each side, they escort her out of the arrivals area as the other passengers stare. As they leave, Margot’s voice can just be heard.
Margot: I’m a crime writer! I’m here for a crime fiction festival! I’m on two panels……


See what I mean? Life is not easy if you write crime fiction!! Am I right, crime writers? 😉


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45 responses to “When Crime Writers Travel ;-)

  1. Brilliant Margot! With some of the official’s I’ve met travelling through airports my disbelief didn’t really need to stay behind 😉

  2. Perfect for my current travel-status! And no, that’s not too far-fetched at all…

  3. Probably a good job that you don’t write books about hi-jackings and terrorism…

  4. I remember coming into America to do a course call Way of the Warrior back in the day. That led to some interesting discussions with officials at passport control!

  5. Margot, proudly wearing her deerstalker hat, approaches the customs officer somewhere in central Europe:

    CO: “Miss, what is that hat?”
    M: “It’s my deerstalker.”
    CO: “You wear that hat to stalk the man you love.”
    M: “No, the deer is an animal.”
    CO: “I understand you cannot love a man who is an animal?”
    M: “No, the hat is worn by Sherlock Holmes.”
    CO: “Even if you hate this Sherlock as he is an animal towards you I cannot let you enter our country to stalk him.”
    M.: “I do not hate Sherlock. I love him. I am not stalking him. He is not a real person.”
    CO: “If he is not real how can you wear his hat?”
    M: “Oh, I wish I had never listened to that Bill Selnes and got this hat.”
    CO: “So it is a conspiracy between you and this Bill Selnes to stalk Sherlock.”
    M.: “Oh my, is there someone here who likes to read crime fiction?”

    • Ah, so you’ve heard of the bit of trouble I had because of bringing that deerstalker hat, have you, Bill? It wasn’t a pretty sight. But I did finally get through Customs after a few hours. What a nightmare! Fortunately one of the Customs supervisors had read The Hound of the Baskervilles, so I was all right in the end. I must remember to leave my hats at home next time. They’re more trouble than an arsenal would’ve been!

      [In all seriousness, Bill, your post had me laughing out loud for several minutes. Brilliant! Just brilliant! Thank you for a real lift.]

  6. I’m sure they’ll let you out for good behaviour Margot 🙂 Greta fun

  7. Terrific, Margot, and well-plotted. I’m intrigued at the way paranoia has crept into the public system and our private lives.

  8. So funny! Hide your holsters! Must remain tight-lipped. I held a line of travelers for a half hour at a drive through crossing by being too giving too much information. That led to me ordering a new passport so I didn’t need to explain the stamps next time through.

  9. Some day I will write about the time Megan inadvertently carried red pepper spray into Ireland. And this was back when the “troubles” were in full force.

  10. LOL — it’s for sure you need to be careful about the words you use when traveling. Anything suspicious will trigger a full search and perhaps a very long interview by officials. I’m even careful what book I read when I’m on a flight — even with a Kindle, folks peek over my shoulder.

  11. Hahahahaha! Excuse me while I dry my tears. This was absolutely hilarious! I hope you made your conference and didn’t wind up in the clink. Next time, be sure to bring one of your books so you can flash your picture. Helps lend credibility to “your story.”

    • Thanks, Sue – so glad you liked this story :-). And you’re right, you know. I really ought to think of bringing some of my own work along sometime. If nothing else, I can flash it as I get carted away in front of news cameras. There’s publicity for you! 😉

  12. HahaHA! I’m on the side of the guards – I’m always suspicious of what you might be planning… 😉

  13. Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:
    This is a blog I’ve really been enjoying since I started following. It’s fun, witty, and elucidating. I hope you enjoy my Sunday reblog!

  14. Kathy D.

    This is hilarious. Did you really have problems because of your deerstalker hat or is that humorous?
    It really is dangerous for a crime fiction writer to travel.
    I wonder about crime fiction readers. If one has mysteries with violent-sounding titles, security guards could get nervous.
    A friend had her shampoo confiscated at an airport a few years ago — and with a lecture, no less.
    It is truly amazing though what some people try to bring on planes in the way of weapons — which are confiscated — knives, guns, rifles, tons of scary stuff.
    So, a holster, hat and book shouldn’t be threatening!
    I’d like to hear the story about the red pepper spray in Ireland.
    Ah, I’m glad that I only do armchair traveling, me and my mysteries, tea and goodies. No passport needed, no lines, no pesky security searches.

    • You definitely have an easier time since you armchair travel, Kathy. My story and Bill’s priceless addition are both made-up, although I could well imagine people getting nervous at some of the websites that I visit for research… Your story of your friend’s shampoo reminds me of the time I had a tube of toothpaste confiscated. I got a lecture, too…

  15. We’re lucky we still have you with us Margot – I’m surprised they didn’t lock you up and throw away the key!

  16. I am with Kathy D. I am an armchair traveler for those very reasons. Very fun post, Margot.

  17. Kathy D.

    And less expensive. The cost of a few books, tea and snacks is so much cheaper than traveling. And less dangerous. Very little chance of one’s apartment crashing into the basement or diverting due to birds.

  18. Your imagination is shining! 🙂

  19. Catching up on some reading, Margot, and just loved this post. I suspect you, like me, fear that one day the police will bust in after observing your Google search cache after searching for topics like ‘What happens when a person is hit over the head with a bottle?’ and ‘Easiest way to knock someone out’…

    • I am utterly convinced that’ll happen, Angela. They would likely be very curious about my search for ‘Quickest acting poisons..’ All in the name of research, but convincing them of that would be another matter. 😉 – Glad you enjoyed th post.

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