Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
We humans are experts at reinventing the wheel. And, while all the newfangled gadgetry tends to provide an easier style and quality of life, progress could make the present-day mystery writer’s job much more difficult.
How? Well, take the automobile, for example. For as long as horseless carriage has been around writers have used it as a means of creating tension in their macabre tales—cut brake lines, deflated tires, stuck accelerator cables and linkages, etc.
However, what was once made of a handful of basic working parts and steel construction, the automobile of today is basically a rolling, plastic- and fiberglass-encased computer with seats and cup holders. Even the gas pedal is a computerized “thing.” That’s right, what used to be a handy little lever and cable system is now a complex set of controllers, sensors, magnets, and transistors that “talk” among themselves while we, the drivers, “think” we’re still using our right foot to push and pull a cable attached to something on a carburetor, which, by the way, has been replaced by computer-controlled fuel injection systems.
Back in the day, cut brake lines were a great means of causing a good guy’s vehicle to suddenly careen out of control while traveling down a serpentine mountain roadway on his way to save the current damsel in distress. Not so in today’s world of “safety first” technology.
Car brakes operate on a hydraulic system (pressurized fluid), and the system(s) must maintain a certain pressure to effectively stop the vehicle (a cut line causes a reduction of pressure). Today’s automobiles, however, feature split braking systems, which means that even if one of the brake lines is cut, the second system will provide some ability to slow or stop the car.
With a cut brake line on modern automobiles, the driver would need to press harder on the brake pedal to activate the secondary system, but he/she should be able to bring the vehicle to a stop. By the way, current braking systems are under an extreme amount of pressure, therefore, cutting the line could result in the bad guy receiving serious injuries.
Writers would be much better off having their villains hacking into the computer system that controls the good guy’s car. In fact, the bad guy could easily install a computer chip into the car’s diagnostic port (the place where mechanics hook their computer to diagnose troubles). FYI – all cars manufactured after the mid to late 90′s must have this diagnostic port located somewhere inside the passenger compartment, within three feet of of the steering column, and users must not need tools to access it.
For example, the diagnostic connector on a 2013 Lexus RX350 is under the lower left dashboard. Diagnostic ports look quite similar to the multi-pin plug-in ports on computers where monitors and other devices attach.
Using a computer chip manufactured by a high-tech bad guy, a villain could take control of the vehicle’s electronic systems (basically, every system in the car). No need to cut messy brake lines. No fooling around with cables and linkages. And no digging around under the hood or crawling beneath the car. Yes, today’s villain can remain clean, neat, and tidy while committing his dastardly deeds.
By the way, there’s nothing secretive about using the OBD (on board diagnostics) port for purposes other than to diagnose car troubles. In fact, companies such as Sears sell GPS trackers that simply plug into the diagnostic port. Then, using readily available software, you can track your kids while they’re out for the night, follow the path of your spouse, or companies can track their employees as they drive to and from jobs.
An interesting topic popped up on my Facebook page last night. It all started when someone on James Spader’s latest series, The Blacklist, said a fertilizer warehouse had been robbed (at night when no one was there). Well, that can’t happen (robbing an inanimate object) unless the warehouse had hands to raise and felt threatened when the gang of masked bad guys arrived and aimed their weapons at it.
Anyway, I thought today might be a good time to address this topic in more detail…again.
HOUSE ROBBED WHILE FAMILY AT MOVIE
Cordite, South Dakota – The home of I. Will Fillemfullalead at .357 Revolver Circle in Cordite, was robbed last night between the hours of 8pm and 11pm while the family was away enjoying a movie at a local theater. The robbers took everything from the home, leaving the Fillemfullalead’s with a single blanket and two rubber chickens. Both the Red Cross and the NRA have offered their assistance.
“When we got home, we saw that our house had been robbed. They took everything, right down to to the kid’s handguns and reloading kits,” said Mrs. Fillemfullalead. “The robbers had better hope the police catch them before we do, or there’ll never be a trial.”
Police spokesperson, Captain I. M. Overwait, says investigators have no leads at this time. He vows, though, that his department will catch the robbers.
Okay, how many times have you seen headlines similar to the ones above? Well, once is one time too many if you ask me, because a house CANNOT be robbed. No way, no how. A simple definition of a robbery is this – To take something (property) from a person by force, violence, or threat.
From a PERSON. Not an inanimate object. From a PERSON. Not a building.
You cannot threaten a house or business. You cannot intimidate a house. Nope, there has to be a person present to constitute a robbery. And he/she must have felt threatened and/or intimidated by the robber when the goods were taken. Otherwise, the Fillemfullalead’s home had been burglarized, and their property stolen. Besides, a crook who approaches the front door to your home and says to the house, “Stick ‘em up,” well, I’m thinking a larger dose of medication for him would be a fantastic idea.
You know, many people have asked me to review books on this site, and I’d resisted for a long time. Well, a while back I finally caved in and, as luck would have it, the first book that came my way featured both “the odor of cordite” and a house being robbed. Needless to say, I won’t be reviewing that one, not on a public blog, that is. I certainly wouldn’t want to “rob” the author of any sales by posting a bad review. Of course, the writing matched the level of research, so it’s best that I keep my thoughts to myself…this time.
A couple of other misuses of terminology are:
1. Someone using the term assault when they’re actually describing battery. Assault is an unlawful ATTEMPT, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another. Battery is any unlawful beating, or other wrongful physical violence or constraint, inflicted on a human being without his consent (yes, there are people out there who ask, and sometimes even pay good money to have others batter them).
2. Homicide and Murder are not always synonymous.
3. A crime scene may or may not be the scene of the crime.
Remember, the secret to writing good fiction is “writing believable make believe.” Doesn’t mean it has to be true…you’ve just have to make us believe it is.
Finally, not every mask-wearing, property-invading creature is a robber, and any seasoned investigator will quickly be able to spot the bad guy(s). This young lady (she’s a mother now) is a regular visitor, coming and going as she pleases, and she’s not the slightest bit intimidating nor is she easily intimidated. She recently brought her little one over to meet us.
And, not every “bird” behind bars is a jailbird. Some are there because they needed an intervention and were placed in protective custody to heal. This beady-eyed fellow lives within a stone’s throw of our house. I think his parole hearing is coming up in the very near future, though.