Sure, the Bible sequel didn’t pan out. Seems the church wasn’t willing to sponsor the project and adamantly refused to do weekly readings from the new “good book.” Fine. I can live with it. Also, editing the new book with a million covers and titles has proven disheartening, and the publisher is prepared to just call it Swill and release it without my approval. You know what? That’s fine, too. Cause I’ve concocted my surest firest success yet.
Yep, I’m going to get into the world of crank-‘em-out mystery novels. You know the kind – woman in her forties goes into a bookstore, says to herself that she’s looking for something that “looks like something I’d read.” They hit upon the mystery section – bingo! – find a book that seems to have a pattern in its title, almost guaranteeing an extended trip with the same characters down non surprising roads for many books to come, and next thing you know, this slightly pre-menopausal lady is out on the back porch, reading about some taxidermist getting himself stuffed in a department store, populated by wacky employees, and bringing in a wacky detective with wacky neuroses, making for interesting reading and light, fluffy evenings of enjoyment.
How hard could it possibly be? I’ve never even considered writing a mystery novel, but honestly, it’s gotta be ridiculously easy. I’ve read a few of the cheesy variety and you don’t even need a twisty plot. All it requires is a quirky enough detective and a catchy title. So let’s formulate this strategy.
Titles, titles…letters have been used. A is for Algorithm, B is for Bacchanalia, C is for Zebra. Numbers have been used. One and Done. Two Screws. Three Cheery Beers. That won’t work. A running animal theme is passé, too. The Cat Who Almost Won the Derby. The Dog with No Hind Legs. The Gerbil Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down in Cheyenne. That’s out.
So what’s a running gimmicky title theme that will ensure my early retirement? Lines from songs by one band? Done. Misheard song lyrics? Done. Mishead quotes from politicians? Done. These hack mystery writers have used everything up! No, wait, not everything – I’ve got it! Groceries! Fruits and vegetables! And the detective can be…a grocer! A grocer? What is this, the 1950s? Who’s a grocer anymore? That snotty kid who stocks boxes of cereal? He’s the detective? Nope! Clearly we have to set it in the fifties, though.
Okay, so the first book, Sunday Banana Sundae, will deal with the murder of the local milkman behind the Woolworth’s, across the street from Horrigan’s Grocery Store in (somewhere very quirky, and believably fifties….um….) Endicott, New York. The milkman, who we find was delivering more than milk to Edna Farmscrabble, wife of town psychotic drunk Felton Farmscrabble, is found by Sparky (the newspaper boy with one webbed foot) with two frozen bananas jammed in his eyes. The local constable, portly curmudgeon Beefswellus Cod, can’t make head or tail of it, and so the assistance of the one former FBI agent in Endicott is required.
Dash Horrigan quit the agency over some bureaucratic haggling – getting passed over for extra rolls at dinner, being denied overtime pay for undercover work in the kennel, etc. – and so he moved to Endicott, opened a grocery store, and settled down, dating the local librarian, Enid Pageturner, ever since and forgetting crime and murder and that tax season is around the corner.
Horrigan never removes his apron, it’s his trademark locally, and it is filled with all manner of useful gadgets in the detection and prevention of rotting produce. He brings this quirky fruit-saving sensibility to the milkman’s murder, which has more suspects and clues than are entirely necessary in a killing this obvious. The milkman, Johnny Curdle IV, had left many an empty bottle under many a bed in town, and some of the local gents (all lunatic alcoholics and bear hunters) got wise, and it looks like one of them did him in.
Or did they? Beefswellus Cod heard rumors that Curdle was tied up with some kind of illegal importing of Burmese dairy products, and those tough Asian bastards were coming to collect their due. He also heard that the haberdasher, Henry Blox, had a terrific argument with Curdle at the Slippery Liver the Friday before about what the birthmark on his wife Euclid Blox’s left thigh resembles.
Horrigan has the solution to the crime immediately, but to indulge his mystery obsessed girlfriend, the bookish but by all accounts stunningly hot Miss Pageturner, he goes through all the suspects and facts and speculation and puddles of milk and banana peels until the culprit is revealed. Horrigan strings this little caper along like he strings along his long suffering, mind-shatteringly sexy librarian mate. In future books, we see their relationship progress incrementally, with never any variance, until finally they are wed in book twelve, 14 Carat Carrots.
This is clearly the best idea I’ve ever had, and I hope to have a good rough draft in the publisher’s hands by next Wednesday. Wish me luck!