The Poison Lady

The Poison Lady (click to view larger)

The Poison Lady (click to view larger)

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!