Writers keep strange company sometimes.
This particular weekend, I was invited to join a yearly gathering of mystery writers called “Magna Cum Murder.” What could I, a writer of nonfiction for children, have to contribute to a conversation on mystery-writing?
Did I do research? I was asked. Then I could participate on the “Research, Reality, and License” panel. Did I live in Indiana? Then I could join a panel on the midwest as a setting for crime. So here I am, waiting for my panels to convene and, in the meantime, picking up some fascinating information.
Last night, I met “The Poison Lady” a.k.a. Luci Hansson Zahray from Gatesville, Texas, whose subject was “Traditional Poisons.” I now know how to poison a character and how to get whatever I need to carry out the dastardly act. I know that a murderer who wants to inflict a particularly slow and painful death on a victim might want to plant a strychnine tree in a pot (being very careful to take it in with the geraniums if there’s a frost warning!).
I also know that, until the year 1960, very good mothers made sure their children got a daily chocolate-covered pill containing arsenic, strychnine and iron. It was de rigueur in the raising of strong, healthy children.
And I learned that, when these mystery people are not committing hard crime or knocking their characters off, they’re a pretty interesting and friendly bunch!