Reading Scary Stuff

I’ve been thinking about scary stories and my reluctance to read them. My fear relates to seeing years ago the movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. I was on a first date and just when the movie got intense, the guy I was with disappeared into the men’s room and left me alone in the dark theater with danger on the screen. First and last date, and I still don’t go to many movies. The last one was, I think, The Hundred Foot Journey in 2014. I’ve tried twice now to read Ken Follett’s World Without End, but the opening chapter involves a little girl in danger and I squirm and slam the tome shut. Sorry, Mr. Follett.

Yet, when I look at the book covers posted on various sites, I know I’m out of touch with what’s hot in fiction–murder, mayhem, betrayal and Armageddon. Not my idea of a good read. And yet–yet–I read scary non-fiction that other people won’t touch. Recently I posted a short list of climate-related books on my author FB page and people ran screaming into the night, I guess. Only one of my readers admitted noticing. We can keep the danger in fiction at a safe remove, but science–which is not fake–hits too hard. Scrapes us raw and we retreat into fairy tales. I do that too, but we have to break this habit. Climate fiction helps, some. But sooner, rather than too late, we have to consider the results of our ignorance and our guilt over what we’ve done to the earth and what it will, in return, do to us.

Beware the Bimbo Sleuth

Early January is list time–resolutions, good intentions, tax forms to get, etc. Here’s one of my lists: Things I Don’t Like to Find in Mystery Stories.


1. Bimbo sleuth–a sexy female amateur who breaks the law to show us how inept the professionals are; (When she’s not meddling in police procedure, she has a job that would otherwise bore her to tears. Often she’s a widow or a divorcee, mother of one snarky teenager.)

2. A police official cast as the bimbo’s Significant Other; (He–almost always the professionals are male–will have two responses to her, annoyance and smarmy forgiveness.)

3. Sex reduced to recreation or manipulation so that the S.O. won’t be mad at the bimbo for meddling in his investigation; (These folks never run out of libido or hot showers, often together.)

4. Plot slowed by insignificant obstacles, like wardrobe failures, rain, running out of wine; (It’s like untangling fishing line or yarn, time consuming with little payoff.)

5. Man-eating pythons; (Yes, I did find one of these. Yuk! Where’s the human element in that?)

6. A host of named minor characters who are otherwise indistinguishable distractions; (They buzz around like mosquitoes.)

7. Reliance on classic mysteries for decoration; (Let Ms. Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle RIP.)

8. Shallow characters, self-centered, jealous, and/or insecure; (The bimbo is often well-known in her community for her crime-solving rather than for her quiet, generous   contributions to society.)

9. Static series characters who never learn not to open the cellar door; (Or the closet, the shed, the garage, wherever that gun-toting, axe wielding baddie might lurk.)

10. Empty dialog that fills the word count but does nothing to advance character development or plot. (Blah, blah, blah.)