Monday, March 20, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Three

SINCE EATING IS such an everyday occurrence, readers of crime fiction seldom realize how important food is to the story—not just as the cause of death, but much, much more, as our antipodean authors demonstrate:

"Murder They Cooked: The Role of Food in Crime Fiction."
By Richard Franks, Donna Lee Brien, and Marta Usiekniewicz.
Article, 11 pages, 2013.
Online (HERE) (PDF).
"This paper examines poison’s complex and symbiotic relationship with the culinary, and some of the different ways poisons – and especially poisoned foods – have been utilised by crime fiction writers."

  Classic poisons for crime writers
  Poison and the Golden Age
  Murder, She Wrote
  Food and beverage (and poison) in Murder, She Wrote
  References (2 pages)
  Contributor details and suggested citation

A few excerpts:

   "Poison is a popular choice as a weapon within crime fiction, yet murdering someone by inducing alcoholic or food poisoning is, however, rarely utilised by crime writers. Orches-trating deaths based upon the application of bacteria or alcohol are, unlike other drug over-doses, difficult to execute and such narratives may test the patience of an experienced crime fiction reader. The adding of well-known poisons to food by crime writers is much more common and, traditionally, much more effective."

   "Poison requires both premeditation and access to a poisonous substance, thus the poison of choice changes with developments in technology."
   ". . . [food] helps to establish time of death and provides clues to the crime; while scenes involving cookery or the consumption of meals can add to the suspense of a story, facilitate characters meeting each other or provide the setting for a major plot point. Indeed, crime fiction is a genre with a long history of focusing on food; from the theft of food in the novels of the nineteenth century to the utilisation of many different types of food to administer poison – this trend was firmly established during the genre’s Golden Age (the period that coincided with the years between World Wars I and II) when many writers turned to poison 
to produce foul play."

   "Moreover, poison can also offer a puzzle within a puzzle – expanding upon the traditional idea of ‘whodunit?’ by also asking 'what was it dun with?' Due to these reasons, poison has maintained its strong position within the crime fiction genre – as evidenced in the many poisonings that occurred in the more modern Murder, She Wrote television episodes and accompanying books."
Typos: "food (poisoned or nor)"; "the strong stomach needed [add to] shoot or to stab"

- Here, in no particular order, is a by-no-means complete list of online articles relating to "Murder, They Cooked":

~ Crime fiction and food in general:
    (1) "So if you’re writing a crime novel, and are looking for a different slant, forget about stabbing and shooting, and ask yourself, ‘What’s your poison?’" - (HERE).
    (2) "Anyone today thinking of using Christie as inspiration when plotting a murder, however, should know that they will find it considerably more difficult to obtain poisons." - (HERE).
    (3) "But none of these writers, I think, did more justice to that most famous of homicidal poisons, arsenic, than did Sayers in Strong Poison. The title comes from the lyrics of a 17th century ballad, 'The Poisoned Man': 'O that was strong poison, my handsome young man/O yes, I am poisoned mother; make my bed soon/For I’m sick to the heart, and I fain wad lie down.' But the chemistry is absolutely up-to-date for 1930, the year the book was published." - (HERE).
    (4) "'I began considering what kind of a detective story I could write,' she said. 'Since I was surrounded by poison, perhaps it was natural that death by poisoning should be the method I selected.'" - (HERE).
    (5) "In early-nineteenth-century England, a good way to get rid of your husband was arsenic." - (HERE).
    (6) ". . . poison arguably has a much greater influence on the plot of the story. For instance when someone is stabbed to death or shot, there is not much doubt that it wasn’t natural death. Of course shooting can be made to look like suicides, but I think with poisons, the subsequent detective investigation has to grapple with a number of questions. Was poison used? And if so which one? And then how and when was the poison used? Only then can be the question of who administered the poison be answered." - (HERE).
    (7) "Often the most benign substances can turn deadly in the hands of a knowledgeable poisoner who is acquainted with simple biochemistry or botany or the horrors of anaphylactic shock." - (HERE).
    (8) "Like all crime authors, I’m writing mysteries whose plots lead to whodunit. But in company with many other writers, I see no reason not to offer a few delicious delicacies along the way. In my book, good food and a good mystery will always be a winning combination." - (HERE).
    (9) "But I always end up admitting that – and, yes, this will make me sound a little twisted – I’ve been thinking about poison murders since I was in high school." - (HERE).
    (10) "And you have to admit that it’s a wonderfully geeky solution to a murder mystery." - (HERE).
    (11) "An education in pharmacy not only helped British crime novelist Agatha Christie attend to patients during the First World War, but also aided her creative pursuits in literature." - (HERE).

~ Crime fiction, food, and Murder, She Wrote in particular:
    (12) "The series aired for 12 seasons with 264 episodes from 1984 to 1996 on the CBS network. It was followed by four TV films and an unsuccessful spin-off series, which was produced in 1987, The Law & Harry McGraw. It is one of the most successful and longest-running television shows in history, averaging close to 26 million viewers per week in its prime, and was a staple of the CBS Sunday night lineup for a decade." - (HERE) and (HERE).
    (13) "Professional writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher uses her intellect, charm, and persistence to get to the bottom of every crime she encounters." - (HERE).
    (14) "For me Jessica represented all that was good about middle America and its traditional values. She was very much a part of Cabot Cove where she and Frank had laid down roots, where they had friends, where she had a sense of community. To throw this 
over to become a 'big city' woman [by moving to New York City] violated everything I believed about her. But that's the writer talking, not the network. Obviously the move 
didn't hurt the show's ratings and in television, ratings are all that really matter. Or so 
they tell me." - (HERE).

The bottom line: "I'm at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, 
I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table."
— Rodney Dangerfield

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