“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” ~Sherlock Holmes
I’m totally with Sherlock on this one…especially when it comes to the improbable. I’m drawn to the weird, odd and bizarre. I’m fascinated by the oddities in life that shouldn’t happen. It appeals to my imaginative sensibilities. Blame Roald Dahl and Rod Serling for making me believe in the crazy. It’s the reason why I’m a rabid fan of the show BANSHEE but not LAW AND ORDER. BANSHEE is crazy, intense and over the top and only works when the universe’s cosmic tumblers are off, whereas LAW AND ORDER is rooted in the now and the real, which makes it totally mundane to me (sorry Dick Wolf). If I want mundane, I can pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news. I want it weird. I’m an escapist! What can I say?
That’s why one criticism of my stories is that they push the limits of believability—and that’s true. They do. But for all that limit pushing, they don’t go outside the realm of the possible. I go out of my way to pay attention to for the strange happening in the real world. I think I have a fascination with the strange because I possess a small talent for calamity myself. I have many firsthand accounts of how my life went off the rails. One example was when I had a near fender bender on a roundabout which then developed into someone filing a fraudulent insurance claim against me. That led to me being charged with half a dozen driving offenses and was topped off by the police handing me a confession they’d written for me to sign. Seems a little unlikely but it happened to me…which you can read the complete account here.
So if it can happen to me, it must happen to others.
I’ve discovered some tragic and cruel twists of fate such as a Sacramento motorcycle cop who responded to a fender bender caused by an elderly man who pulled out of a turn and tee-boned a car. The cop felt bad for the elderly man and let him off with a warning instead of citing him. The following week, the same elderly man did the exact same thing at the same intersection. This time he struck and killed the motorcycle cop who’d let him off. The weird what-if game that plays out in your head after that is what inspires my stories.
Things like this have been the inspiration for several of my books. The trade of life insurance on the living which is the backbone for ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN is a real thing. Private security firms being involved with workplace violence claims which is the foundation for TERMINATED came from something that was happening with one of my wife’s employers. The disturbing series of suicides in WE ALL FALL DOWN were inspired by similar ones that happened between coworkers in the UK in the 80’s.
And while THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, PAYING THE PIPER, NO SHOW, etc. don’t have any direct link to an actual event, they are inspired by a way of thinking. Namely, how can a seemingly mundane event get its strange on?
Now I know this outlook might not be to everyone’s liking but if you’re willing to go off-piste and embrace the improbable, then I think you’ll enjoy the ride.