The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Surreal Killer, an Excerpt

            He always thought of this part as cutting the calf out of the herd.  The problem:  Pick up the woman somewhere, somehow without any witnesses to the event.  The solution this time:  he found her hitchhiking late at night on the deserted street in a poorly lit part of town.  He stopped the rented car and offered her a ride.  She looked at him, decided he was safe, jumped in the car, congratulated herself on her good luck, and asked if he was heading towards the next town. 

            "Yes, I am.  Where can I drop you off?"

            "Anywhere near the middle of town would be great."

            "You've got it."

            The car started off in the right direction.

            "Can I offer you a little brandy?  It's cold out there," he said.

            "I'd love a sip or two."

            He removed a flask from his pocket and passed it over.

            "Thanks a lot," she replied, and took a long slow swallow.  She returned the flask to the driver.

            Five minutes later the long-acting drug in the brandy had worked its magic and she was completely helpless.  Wide awake, but totally unable to move or speak.  She stared at the driver with terrified eyes.  The driver steered the car onto a dirt road and drove about half a mile into the woods.  After stopping the car, he came around to the passenger side, and pulled her out onto the ground.  She noted that there was grass and dirt in the clearing.  He pawed her body for a few moments, but didn't seem interested in undressing or sexually assaulting her beyond the unwanted touching.  Out came his syringe, and with a few well-coordinated movements he injected a few mL of fluid directly into her jugular vein.  The powerful drug did its work and she was now completely paralyzed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Things To Do In Lima, Peru

In my third South American mystery novel, The Surreal Killer, one of the detectives, Suzanne, goes shopping for baby clothes at the Mercado de Las Incas in Lima with several women she meets at a scientific meeting.  Two of these women worked as scientists from government agencies in Lima and are based (their physical descriptions and their willingness to adopt Suzanne and show her the techniques for shopping at The Inca Market) upon the actual Peruvian government scientist who hosted our group from the University in Montevideo and me in 2010.   We spent that week in Peru teaching a course to about 50 Peruvian scientists and engineers about analysis and toxicology of the Microcystins, toxins produced by Blue-Green algae that can contaminate drinking water supplies.  A highlight of the week was Friday morning’s session, when we presented a condensed version of the 1-week course over the World health Organization’s (WHO) broadband network, which reaches to 19 different Latin American countries simultaneously in real time.  The WHO regional network, called the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), hosted almost 500 participants in 19 different countries for our morning course.  It’s a strange feeling knowing that you are talking to almost 500 people as you deliver your lecture or discussion to a camera mounted on a computer.

Blue-green algae grow in lakes, reservoirs, and wherever else you might find slow-moving or stagnant water that contains the nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients they need to make little algae from.  Some of these algae make powerful toxins that can kill people and animals.  The recipe for disaster is a body of water, sunlight, and nutrients from agricultural fertilizers or urban sewers.  This is a worldwide problem, including the countries in South America that my novels are set in, and just about everywhere else.  It's also an area in which my scientific colleagues in Uruguay are making a major contribution to developing new and better methods to test drinking water supplies for the presence of these toxins. 

The traditional Peruvian delicacy that tourists flock to in Lima is ceviche, fresh raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice and seasoned with herbs like cilantro.  This South American spin on sushi is really, really good, especially when it is accompanied by a cold beer as a snack or appetizer before dinner.  There is an interesting juxtaposition between sampling the ceviche and worrying about whether the ubiquitous blue-green algae we were discussing in the course shared the water with the fish we were eating so cheerfully.  This may be one of the places that the new assays being developed in Uruguay for the algal toxins will have some direct relevance for tourists in Lima in the future.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ambivalent Corpse, an excerpt

This blog began at about the same time as the fourth book of the series started to get written, so it seems reasonable to introduce you, the readers, to the earlier books a bit more thoroughly than just via the links on the blog.  Starting with Book #2, The Ambivalent Corpse, here's how it begins.  There will be more inside stuff about this novel in subsequent posts.  Enjoy this short visit with Roger and Suzanne on one of their early cases.

                        Chapter 1.  The Ambivalent Corpse Appears

We found the corpse on a rocky stretch of beach in Montevideo, about a mile east of the harbor.  Pieces of the body were apportioned equally between the Graf Spee Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial, which are side by side on a grassy knoll overlooking the Rio de la Plata shore facing Buenos Aires to the south.   Because of her strategic location shared between two antithetical monuments, one to the German warship scuttled near Montevideo Harbor in 1939 and the other to the victims of Nazi genocide in World War II, the Uruguayan press named her “The Ambivalent Corpse” (“El Cad├íver Ambivalente”).  But I’m getting ahead of myself in telling this story.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Few Tips on Writing

     Paula Shene contributes a guest blog with some useful advice for aspiring and established writers.  Paula writes children's stories, including the series The Chronicles of The K-9 Boys and Girls on Locus Street, with a slant toward teaching our young the importance of animal care.  She also writes short stories on BookRix [some on Amazon] and articles for the online magazine Angie's Diary.  Paula and Paul have been married for 47 years and raised a good-sized family, so she obviously has some impressive time management skills.

     Giving tips on writing is extremely subjective.  I was going to say except for grammar or spelling, but in American English, at least, these areas also are open to interpretation.  Our English language is an oleo of other languages and regularly we accept words into our dictionary as fair game through daily usage.
     As to grammar rules, it depends if you are writing in a formal manner or in a creative manner.  There truly are no hard and fast rules but knowing those rules is imperative in having an understandable story unfold where the reader is along for the ride, not stumbling after the story line because it’s been woven together with fractured English, misusage, or the favorite of today, texting or Madison Avenue advertising spelling.
     Saying all that, I will say, foremost, creativity is the key to an enjoyable story and will garner readership.  Know your limitations in the technical areas and have readers before publishing that are able to tell you of the places that need correction or deleting or further embellishment.  And have an editor, a breathing editor, who may employ using a program as I do, but who also is able to spot incorrect usage the program may not.