Inspiration for Murder
I’m often asked where I get my inspiration for my writing and I always reply most of it comes from life experiences and observations.
Like most writers I watch people, I listen to them. Call me nosey – if you will – but I know I’m not alone in making use of free material when it seems to me that people are unaware of how loud they talk in public places such as restaurants, pubs, and even on buses and trains. Some of the juiciest tidbits have been overheard in supermarket queues.
For some reason, people appear to have lost their inhibitions and are content to chat about their most intimate business in public without any regard for those who are within hearing.
And believe me, the audience is listening and watching!
I once picked up the receiver – old fashioned landline phone, back in the day – and overheard a very strange conversation that was between a man and woman. My overactive imagination concluded that they were plotting something to do with her husband. It could have been a surprise birthday party but I didn’t get the impression whatever it was had a party at its core. We were always told by the GPO (General Post Office) that one could not get what we called a ‘crossed line.’ It was impossible, apparently, to listen in on another call on a different line. Wrong! There was no way back then to dial 1471 to find the last caller’s number and so I rang the police.
‘Leave it with us, madam, we’ll follow it up.’ I gave them my number so they could check with the telephone exchange, I suppose. I never heard another word. So who knows if anything came of it – but, it bugged the hell out of me for years. I wrote a short story about it and it’s somewhere on my computer. along with a zillion other novels and short stories…
I don’t always use the exact details of what I overhear or witness, but I sometimes use the feel, the vibe created; if that makes any sense. I’ve never witnessed a murder, let’s get that straight. I don’t know anyone who has committed one, at least, not to my knowledge, but people have secrets…
When we first began working in Hollywood we were amazed to overhear many of our colleagues talking about the various, ‘movers and shakers,’ in the music and movie industry who’d taken ‘the fifth,’ to avoid prosecution for various crimes. Cripes! What had we got ourselves into!
During our first days working in the entertainment capital of the world – unless you count Bollywood, and that is a whole other ball game for another day perhaps – we were warned endlessly about this person, or that company, and given a quick run-down of what they’d done to climb the greasy pole to success, managing to stay there for decades. Boy-oh-boy. Mind-blowing stuff.
We were advised to read certain books to familiarise ourselves with their history. And we did! OK, now we know, what next? We couldn’t walk away because it seemed everyone – more or less – had an interesting history, so it didn’t leave us much choice.
Those of you who are fascinated by the music/movie business, do take a look at these books. I think they will blow your mind.
Reading about these household names, their infamous business dealings, and the mega and superstars they’d worked with and whose careers they’d been responsible for, the successful movies and records they’d been involved with, was something else.
The books have never been disputed, so some of the stories we were told were in actual fact true. In an industry and country where everyone is ready to sue at the drop of a hat, that spoke volumes.
One of the first negotiations we conducted in Hollywood was with a lawyer who had a baseball bat and a gun on his desk. Helps focus the mind when working out contractual details, I can tell you.
The writer in me was intrigued and before long lots of ideas were forming in my head, but of course, it would be years before I would be able to actually write them.
But when I eventually did have time, well…
Dreamer, a short story I wrote for In A Word: Murder, was inspired by my experiences working with rock bands and super-star lawyers and managers. What lengths would a rock band go to secure a publishing and recording contract, along with a super-star manager? A hit maker. In-fighting, jealousy, money, stardom, and valuable copyrights all make for an explosive recording session. The lead guitarist’s face and image don’t fit. The trouble is, he’s the songwriter…
Hollywood Cover Up, another short story contribution to In a Word: Murder, was inspired by meeting several ‘movers and shakers,’ at major Hollywood movie studios. Since writing this story, there have been some earth-shattering events involving some of the major players in Hollywood. They are not, I hasten to add, the actual inspiration for this story. My story is about an Englishwoman working as a PA (Personal Assistant) to a studio head with publishing interests. She sees and overhears a bit too much at a party thrown for a presidential hopeful. Soon the Secret Service and the Hollywood mogul are out for her blood.
I’ve written many more, of course, and not just short stories but I thought I’d mention a couple of the shorts.
We used to work in one of the largest, most famous nightclubs in London, run by a celebrity (now dead), putting rock shows on every six weeks. It was hard work but great fun. A lot of ‘odd’ characters hang around nightclubs. You only have to think about the books written in the 1930s and 1940s with sleazy operators, involved with the dancers and singers – often in hock to gangsters – and the ‘gum-shoes,’ involved with the heroines… you get the picture. A time when movie stars and gangsters ruled ‘the Strip’ in Hollywood, in the days of prohibition and after.
The Kray Twins in London in the 1960s, and the clubs they ran, were infamous and murderous. The list of movie and television stars who flocked to their clubs is well known.
And it still goes on. Oodles of inspiration there, I can tell you.
Back to our time in London…
Not only were there strange characters in and out of the venues (there were two in the heart of the West End we worked at), visiting the management, and often to be found in the General Manager’s office chatting for ages about who knows what, but there were even stranger characters involved with some of the artists performing there, along with their entourages.
I’ve written about an event in a nightclub in my short story, The Debt Collector, in Telling Tales. This was about a hitman sent to retrieve money owed by the manager of a band who legged it to Ireland to escape. It was inspired by a tiny black-suited man and his large and imposing wife who sat all night in the artist bar waiting for their victim to appear following one of our shows. He opened his jacket to prove how serious he was about finding the errant manager. Such a big gun for a little man. About a year later we had a phone call from someone in The Falls Road, Northern Island, telling us that the ‘thief’ had been found and because he also owed us money, we should tell him how we would like him dealt with? Knee-capping, broken legs or …? We said we were fine, nothing to be done on our behalf and the phone went dead. Not a word since.
Wills. They can be a joy or a curse depending on whether you benefit or not. and even when you are named as a beneficiary, it might not all be plain sailing.
In my short story, Murder by Christmas, which is included in Undercover: Crime Shorts, six people gather in a lawyer’s office for the reading of a will. At the end of the reading three people go home empty-handed, resentful, and angry, and three others are given a letter with details of tasks they must perform in order to meet the terms of the will. How far would you go to benefit from a will? My three beneficiaries surprise themselves.
My inspiration for this story came from my own experience of the lengths people I know had gone to ensure they’d be a beneficiary in a will, cutting others out before the writer of the will had even died. Undue pressure exerted. It gave me the idea for my story, but I decided that the deceased would pull the strings and not a potential beneficiary.
Many of the stories in Undercover: Crime Shorts, have been inspired by events I have heard about or witnessed. I guess anyone in close proximity to me or any writer needs to think carefully before conducting a public conversation. An author may well be listening.
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