Oops

Oops. I’d completely forgotten I was supposed to be writing a 1920s murder mystery for a dinner in February, and it needs to be done by the middle of January.

When I agreed to do write the mystery, I had plenty of time, but I frittered that time away on . . . well, on living. So now I’m trying to catch up.

I sort of have an idea of who will be the victim, who the killer is. I know where all this takes place: one night at a speakeasy. I know an Italian dinner will be served. I know there will be a representation of at least some of the iconic elements of that 100-year-old decade besides the speakeasy: jazz, gangsters, flappers. Other than that, I haven’t a clue how to go about concocting such a mystery. Obviously, the first part of the dinner is about laying the background for the characters and why someone wanted to do the dastardly deed. Then, even more obviously, there needs to be a dead body. And finally, at the end, there needs to be a way for everyone to figure out who did it.

I’m not sure how to lay the clues. Or what the clues should be. I could write this as a mystery story, and then extrapolate the guessing game from that, but considering how long it takes me to write fiction, it might not be done until next year, especially since they want it to be funny, and funny takes longer.

Still, that’s not a bad idea, writing the mystery as a story. Once I have the whole story, I could possibly work backward. More importantly, it would give me bits of dialogue to hand out to guests, because it’s hard to tell people what they need to be saying if I don’t know.

All done in less than a month? With Christmas coming? Yikes!

Maybe I can start tomorrow. But no, I am helping with a fundraiser at the museum. Maybe Monday? But Monday I am going to the big city (or what passes for a big city in these parts) with a friend who has a doctor appointment. Maybe Tuesday? But Tuesday, I am going to a meeting to help brainstorm ideas for AARPs Livable Communities program.

It’s beginning to look as if the mystery will have to write itself.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

The Roaring Twenties Return with . . . Murder!

In just a few weeks, the twenties will come roaring back. (You knew that, right?) To celebrate, the local Art Guild is going to be doing a murder mystery dinner with a nineteen twenties theme. And guess who has been elected to write this mystery?

I knew you’d guess it was me, so there was no reason for the mysteriousness except that I need to start cultivating the habit of finding mystery in small things. Otherwise, how am I going to come up with an appropriate story?

The challenge of the murder scenario I wrote for the museum was to offer clues that prove someone didn’t do the dastardly deed. (It’s easier to offer clues that they did, such as blood on a cuff.) The challenge here is to . . .

Well, to be honest, I don’t know what the challenge will be since I haven’t yet started developing the story. I do know who will be the victim. I know where all this takes place: one night at a speakeasy. I know an Italian dinner will be served. I know there will be a representation of at least some of the iconic elements of that 100-year-old decade besides the speakeasy: jazz, gangsters, flappers. (Am I missing an element? Prohibition, of course, but a speakeasy would include the idea of prohibition since without Prohibition, there’d be no need for a speakeasy.)

The main things I need to figure out are: why would anyone kill the doomed one? How does the setting fit in? How will the story unfold? Why would the killer do it in such a public fashion? (Other than the needs of the story, of course.) How will it be done? A gun would be obvious, and would add the startle factor, especially if it came from outside the room, but poison would make for a more mysterious death — the victim could be acting normally, then slip to the ground midst loud gasps of shock.

There’s no need to worry about alibis since the suspects are all in the speakeasy when the murder happens, so that’s a beginning.

There will be four to six suspects. An appropriate 20s theme or thread that holds the story together. A hook for the murder. A surprise ending. But what any of those things are, I have yet to figure out. Luckily, I have a few weeks until the end of the year. And I just have to come up with the story. I don’t have to write a book (though there is a possibility that eventually a book will work its way out of me).

Necessary characters: A flapper, the boyfriend, a gangster (who could be the boyfriend), a waiter, and . . . .?

Besides the characters themselves, I need reasons why all these folks wanted the victim dead.

Feel free to add your two cents if you wish, or even your twenty cents.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep you informed about my progress whether you want me to or not.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

More Murder Mystery in the Museum

Thanks to everyone who has contributed ideas to the murder mystery game we have planned for the local museum. Although I was able to use only one or two of your ideas for the game, I will keep the rest to help me with the book. (I’m thinking that my next book should be based on this museum experience, though instead of a fake body, we find a real body.) The book will be in the present, so I should be able to make use your ideas such as time zone variances and medical conditions; unknown twins, seamen, and parrots.

Meantime, I’ve been researching Clay Allison, and I found suspects in the history of the times. (After all, it is an historical museum event.) I’ve figured out how to present the clues for everyone except Colonel Mustard and Mrs. Peacock, but if I don’t, I don’t suppose it matters. In the end, it could come down to a guessing game. This, then, is what I have written so far:


Spur of the Moment Murder Mystery

It is Monday, March 5, 1877. Rutherford B. Hayes has just been publicly inaugurated as the nineteenth president of the United States. Hayes lost the popular vote but won the most electoral college votes after a ferociously disputed ruling by a Congressional committee. Citizens of the town are out late, some celebrating the victory, some drowning their sorrows at having a Republican in office.

Revelers discovered the body of Clay Allison outside the jewelry store at 9:00pm. There is no lack of people who want Clay Allison dead.

Mrs. Peacock, born in 1842, is the married sister of Deputy Charles Faber. Clay had gunned down the deputy after the deputy had demanded Clay and his brother relinquish their guns. Mrs. Peacock is not only grieving the loss of her brother, but is fuming that Allison went free after the judge ruled Clay Allison’s actions self-defense. She claims to have been home alone with her husband.

Colonel Mustard, the blacksmith, born in 1832, was at the garrison at Gainesville Alabama when Clay and the others in his Confederate unit surrendered at the end of the Civil War. Clay claimed he’d been pardoned, though Colonel Mustard maintains that Clay had escaped the night before he was to go before a firing squad. Twice Clay had escaped justice, and that does not sit right with the Colonel.

Mrs. White, schoolteacher, born in 1824, was overheard telling a friend that Clay Allison deserves to be shot for mangling the English language. Clay had bragged that he was a shootist. “Shootist?” said Mrs. White. “He just made up that word.” Mrs. White claims to have been at a suffragette meeting that evening at the schoolhouse. The suffrage referendum had just been defeated in Colorado, and she and other women in town knew they’d have to form a political coalition to work on getting suffrage for women in Colorado.

Professor Plum, a professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, born in 1878, is writing a book about Clay Allison. He came to town to talk to Clay, though Clay seemed disinclined to tell him the truth of his life, which enraged the Professor. Professor Plum was seen in the vicinity of the jewelry store around the time of the murder, though this seems to have been a nebulous sighting at best.

Miss Scarlet, dance hall girl, born in 1860, hated Clay Allison for promising her marriage and a life of respectability and then reneging on the deal. She claims to have been with Mr. Green when the incident occurred.

Mr. Green, bank teller, born in 1847, says he was not with Miss Scarlett, had never even met her. He claims to be an upstanding citizen with pretentions to being bank president one day, though he does admit that Clay Allison tended to play fast as loose with the ladies in town, and should be shot on general principles.

Rules:

Look for clues in the above history, in the various exhibits, by talking to the characters. Check off the characters as you learn they didn’t do the dirty deed. Whoever is left, then, must be the killer.

o Mrs. Peacock.
o Colonel Mustard
o Mrs. White
o Professor Plum
o Miss Scarlett
o Mr. Green

So who killed Clay Allison? How was he killed? Why was he killed?


And there you have it (as of right now anyway), my murder in the museum scenario. It’s subject to change of course, if I come up with more history or better ideas.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

A Murderer at the Museum

I’ve been trying to figure out how to set up a live murder mystery evening sans dinner, sans skit, just a simple game similar to Clue. The best way I’ve come up with so far, is to finger six or seven suspects, tell why they hated the victim, and offer alibis for each. Visitors will be given this brief history, along with a check list of suspects so they can cross off those they know couldn’t have done it.

I spent the afternoon at the history museum trying to find a mystery and decided to kill off Clay Allison, a self-proclaimed shootist, ten years before he actually died. (He died at 45 when he fell off a wagon —literally — and a wheel ran over his neck.) Considering that Allison killed a deputy in this county and was never prosecuted (the killing was considered self-defense though the deputy had been doing his job as a lawman at the time of the gunfight in the saloon), I figure a lot of local folk back then would have liked to dispatch the evildoer.

Or maybe he did himself in — after all, he’d once shot himself in the foot as evidenced below.

Although it’s easy leaving clues and red herrings, the difficulty comes in proving which of the alibis are correct. (It’s much easier proving them wrong.)

At the suggestion of one writer friend, one of the suspects will be out of time/place (he will have been born after the shoot-out), and the only clue of his innocence will be his date of birth. One woman, a dance hall girl, will say she was with the local chiropractor, and though he will deny it, a photo of the two of them will be hung somewhere in the museum.

And that’s as far as I’ve got. One suggestion I considered was to use the time zone change. Although today it would work since the dateline is only an hour or two away, back then, it would have been a couple of days hard ride, so I haven’t been able to make that work.

Since this is more of a scavenger hunt than a live Clue game or skit, the clues to who didn’t do it need to be visual so they can be scattered around the museum. Luckily, I still have a couple of weeks to figure this out.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Murder at the Museum

The local historical museum is hosting an open house at the end of the month, and they want it to be more than simply a viewing event, so they’ve decided to use a murder theme. And I’ve been coopted to help figure out how to do create the mystery.

This is not a murder dinner (that will come in February instead of a Valentine’s celebration), nor is a skit. It will basically be just people visiting the museum and . . .

The “and” is where I come in.

My idea was to give people photos of certain exhibits as they were pre-murder. Then people need to find those exhibits, discover what is different, and so learn what the murder weapon was, or the time, or anything else I can figure out.

We will have a body. (In fact, the very first time I roamed the museum, I turned a corner and for just a second thought I saw a dead body.)

People will easily be able to figure out the weapon and time of death because of the photo evidence. But I can’t figure out how they can guess whodunnit. There will be people in costumes of the period, and one of those folks will be the perpetrator. I could leave a clue somewhere, I suppose, that would indicate one of the people. I could give them alibis, I suppose, and have visitors decide which one is lying. I could give a handout, I suppose, with all the motives.

As you can see, I am doing a lot of “supposing.”

I could set up the game where motive isn’t necessary to figure out who did it. I don’t remember, was motive a part of Clue, or was it more, “Colonel Plum in the library with a candlestick”?

If motive isn’t necessary, we could give a small prize to anyone who figures out how the mannequin was killed and who did it (that way it’s not a race, and the museum won’t be destroyed in the process), and then give a main prize to the person who comes up with the most intriguing motive.

If you have any suggestions how I can go about putting together this murder at the museum, please feel free to leave a comment. As you can see, I need all the help I can get.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.