It’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?
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.
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? 😉