There’s plenty of excitement in a lot of US states this week. The Mega Millions lottery is now up to over US$450 million, and likely to grow before Tuesday’s drawing. Even people who don’t usually play the lottery are risking money on tickets, and there are office pools and other group efforts. Everybody wants to win.
And that’s not surprising. Many of us imagine what it might be like to be rich. Some even dream of it. It can be fun to think about what you’d do with all of that money. We all know in our logical minds that the chances of getting really rich aren’t great. And we all know in our logical minds that being very rich doesn’t mean a person has no challenges, problems, sorrows, or even tragedies. But that doesn’t stop us dreaming of that kind of wealth, at least a little.
There are plenty of crime-fictional characters who dream of it, too. And sometimes, that can get them into a lot of trouble. And even when it doesn’t, it can certainly complicate their lives. Like a lot of real-life people, though, that doesn’t stop their dreaming.
In Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, for instance, we are introduced to Simon Doyle. When we first meet him, he’s engaged to Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort. Neither has money, but they are in love. Then, Simon loses his job and needs another, so that he and Jackie can marry. Fortunately, Jackie’s good friend, Linnet Ridgeway, is extremely wealthy, and in need of a land agent to manage her property. Jackie convinces Linnet to give Simon a try as land agent, and Linnet agrees. Then, the unexpected happens: Linnet falls in love with Simon. He’s attracted to her, too, and especially to the life of luxury and money that she lives. In fact, he’s always wanted the ‘rich life.’ They marry and plan a honeymoon trip to the Middle East. Jackie follows them everywhere, which greatly unsettles the couple. So, they try to evade her by taking a sudden trip up the Nile. Hercule Poirot is on the same cruise, so he is present when Jackie unexpectedly turns up on the boat. He is also present the second night of the cruise, when Linnet is shot and killed. At first, Jackie is the most logical suspect. But she has a proven alibi, so she cannot be the murderer. Simon, too, has a corroborated alibi. This means that Poirot has to look elsewhere for the killer.
Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes is the story of John ‘Duke’ Anderson. He’s been recently released from prison, and is now on the ‘straight and narrow,’ working at a print company. One night, though, he gets the chance to visit a very posh Manhattan apartment building. When he sees the wealth and luxury there, he gets the idea of having a lot of that money for his own. So, he creates a plan to rob the entire building. He won’t be able to do the job on his own, so he makes arrangements with people he knows to get weapons, assistance, materials, and so on. The only thing is, the FBI and other authorities have been recording those people for reasons of their own. This means they have access to all of Anderson’s plans. The question becomes: will the authorities see this, and stop the heist before it happens, and people get hurt?
In Patricia Melo’s The Body Snatcher, a São Paulo salesman and former telemarketer moves to Corumbá when a tragedy ends his job. He settles in and forms a relationship with Sulamita, who is an administrative assistant to the police. One day, he happens to witness a small plane crash into a nearby river. By the time he arrives, it’s too late to save the pilot. But he sees that the pilot has left behind a backpack and a watch. The narrator takes those things, and later discovers that the backpack is filled with cocaine. Instead of reporting it all to the police, the narrator dreams of what it would be like to have all of the money that would come from selling the cocaine. It would be just a one-time thing – just enough to set him and Sulamita up for life. His friend Moacir lives nearby, and seems to know the right people, so the two go into business. Moacir makes the connections, and the arrangements are made. But that turns out to be only the start of real trouble for both men, and for Sulamita. They get drawn into a mess involving ruthless drugs smugglers and end up in much more trouble than they imagined.
Carl Hiaasen’s Lucky You is the story of Joylayne Lucks. She’s an avid environmentalist who dreams of having a lot of money so that she can use it to protect the land. She gets her chance when she buys a winning lottery ticket. The prize is US$14 million, and she plans to use it to buy a piece of land and keep it out of developers’ hands. Then, the ticket is stolen by a Nazi group that wants to use the money to fund a militia. Features writer Tom Krone has been assigned by the Register to do a piece on Lucks and her big win. Instead, he finds himself drawn into a plot to get the ticket back.
And then there’s Vincent Naylor, whom we meet in Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage. He’s recently been released from prison, where he learned one important lesson: don’t take any more risks unless the payoff is worth it. Naylor meets up with his girlfriend, Michelle Flood, his brother, Noel, and a few other people, and they concoct a plan. They’re all dreaming of big money – money that will let them get out of their humdrum lives. So, they decide to pull of a heist. The target is an armored car company called Protectica, that transfers cash among local banks. The details are planned, and the heist goes off. Then, things take a tragic turn, and everything changes for the group.
Lots of us dream, however idly, of what it’d be like to be extremely wealthy. It does have appeal, doesn’t it? That’s why I have my lottery ticket. On Tuesday, I’m going to win that pot. And when I do, I’ll need a lot of support. I’ll certainly need legal counsel – from several different countries, too, since I plan international philanthropy as well as careful investments. Some of my plans also include academic bursaries and endowments, so I’d be glad of help from people in academia, too. I’ll need an IT person who can help set up safe communication and file transfer among the people who work for me. I’m going to also need people with NGO and other philanthropy backgrounds to help me set up the groups I want to set up. And of course, all of this has to be released to the public in the right way. So, I’ll need someone with a background in journalism, and in fashion and public image, to help me make the right impression. I know I’ll need other support, too. And, of course, if these people also had an interest in books and reading, well, that would be all to the good. Do you happen to know anyone??
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.