Mystery Writers Are Like Scientists
No way you say.
Wait! I think I can convince you that writing a mystery novel is similar to conducting a science experiment.
- Writers and scientists both do a lot of sleuthing. Granted, scientists try to quantitate their observations more than writers. And writers’ descriptions of their observations are hopefully more colorful than journal articles.
- They both organize their observations into a whole, which writers call plots and scientists call hypotheses.
- They both test and refine their “whole.” Writers edit their prose; scientists run additional experiments.
- Both require a lot of hard work to gain occasional flashes of insights. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, they’re “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Why did I drag you through this discussion? I’m trying to explain why so many scientists and physicians became writers of mysteries and thrillers. Consider Michael Crichton (a physician by training), Kathy Reichs (a forensic anthropologist), Robin Cook (a physician). I’m also explaining how as a retired biology professor I came to write mystery/suspense novels with tidbits of science. My latest thriller is I Saw You in Beirut.
Through this discussion, I hope you learn how bits of science add realism to a mystery.
Did you know? In the early 1960s, scientists identified zinc deficiency in peasants in Iran. At that time, two to three percent of the villagers in some regions of Iran didn’t pass the physical for the army because of stunted growth. Dr. James Halstead, Sr. who was married to President’s Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna, headed the research team at Shiraz. Surprised?
I created Doc Steinhaus, a fictional character in I Saw You in Beirut, who worked on the project in Shiraz as a grad student. He was a logical way to “show not tell” readers about Iran and advance the plot. Let’s face it most foreign agents don’t look or act like James Bond, but they can be a lot more nuanced.
What’s thrilling in I Saw You in Beirut? A mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days with Doc Steinhaus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape, attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.
Maybe, John Addegio’s comments will convince you that smart scientists make this mystery a real thriller. “Greger writes about international agencies and scientific exigencies with authority, and I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT is a thrilling spy tale with compelling female actors asserting their intelligence in both exotic and domestic, male-dominated, high-stakes political environments.”
Where can I get I Saw You in Beirut?
The paperback at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201 and the eBook from Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-saw-you-in-beirut-jl-greger/1123184446?ean=2940158046957
Bio: JL Greger’s thrillers/mysteries include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Coming Flu, and I Saw you in Beirut. The Albuquerque area is the home base for her stories, but Sara (like the author) travels to Cuba and Bolivia in Malignancy and Ignore the Pain, respectively. Her website is: http://www.jlgreger.com