By David Handler
TLC welcomes one of our favorite mystery writers, David Handler. If you haven’t read his Mitch Berger and Desiree Mitry novels, you’re missing a treat. We’re looking forward to his new thriller, "Click to Play."
Winter is the official off-season here on Connecticut’s Gold Coast – home to my series of mysteries about the romantic crime fighting duo of pudgy New York film critic Mitch Berger and the alluring black Connecticut State Trooper Desiree Mitry. The Berger-Mitry novels take place in a fictional historic New England seaside village called Dorset. In so-called real life, I live in a historic New England seaside village called Old Lyme. Its residents are a fascinating mix of old money, new money and no money. Everyone seems to know everyone and/or be related to them. The layers of interconnected family histories make for deliciously naughty murder plots. Or at least I think so.
Old Lyme’s winter population is half of what it is during the summer. The snowbirds jet south to Florida. The city folk slink back to New York or Boston or wherever. Those of us who remain here tend to be cranky geezers, dotty dowagers and a somewhat skeejie assortment of swamp Yankees, cheeseheads, plow boys and weird, muttering shut-ins -- among them Old Lyme’s resident mystery writer. That would be me.
Winter is actually my favorite time of year here -- especially when we get snow. And this year we’ve had a ton. A mondo-blizzard just before Christmas dropped 18 inches. More snow has fallen just about every three days since then. Most people over the age of twelve are starting to get surly. Not me. I grew up in sunny Southern California. Snow falling from the sky is still something magically fantastic to me. I run around in it like a four year old.
Plus winter happens to be the greatest time of year to be a mystery writer. Nothing, but nothing, gets my creative juices flowing like a good old-fashioned Nor’easter. Other people, normal people, approach blizzards with dread. They do, after all, have to commute to work. Or try. I’m lucky. I just have to commute downstairs. I build a big fire in the fireplace, make myself a pot of good, strong coffee, sit myself down and – grinning from ear to ear -- dream up new and exciting ways to kill people.
Mind you, killing people on paper is good therapy all year around. Mystery writers are very lucky that way. If anyone screws us over, dumps us, bones us, hoses us, lies to us, annoys us or is rude, hostile or so much as gives us a dirty look in line at the supermarket, we have a coping mechanism that most people who function outside of the federal penal system don’t have -- we can bump them off. I just published a thriller last month called CLICK TO PLAY (Severn House) in which I offed at least a dozen people. I mean, everybody dies.
When my new Berger-Mitry, THE SHIMMERING BLONDE SISTER, is published by St. Martin’s this fall I’ll have written fifteen murder mysteries and two thrillers so far. Hell, I’ve probably bumped off 40 or 50 people by now. I’ve shot them, stabbed them, poisoned them, drugged them, run them over, drowned them, shoved them off of balconies, cliffs. My all-time favorite murder was in one of my Hoagy and Lulu mysteries, THE MAN WHO CANCELLED HIMSELF, when I electrocuted a TV star by hot-wiring his urinal. In so-called real life, an actor on a sitcom I was writing had really, really been getting on my nerves.
Mystery writers know how to deal with such annoyances.
I keep saying me and I. I should mention that I don’t work alone. For the past ten years I have benefited hugely from the help of my two live-in literary assistants, Ed and Fred. I call them my assistants. Other people think of them as cats. Eddie passed away last summer – stoically, calmly and without complaint. He will always be my hero.
Freddie is doing fine but he misses snuggling with his bud now that it’s winter -- my 220-year-old carriage house can get a bit drafty. So lately he’s taken to curling up in my lap whenever I sit down in front of the computer to write. He’s here right now, purring away, as the snow falls outside our windows. Every once in a while Freddie stirs and paws at the keyboard as if he has an idea he wishes to share with me. I encourage him to go for it. I’m always happy to take creative input. But I’ve also made it clear to him that if he’s itching to do away with anything larger than a field mouse that he can just back off.
When it comes to the simple art of murder I slay alone.