Los Angeles’ landscape fascinates me. Sharp ridges, canyons and twisting roads separate Los Angeles from the San Fernando Valley and more mountains separate the Los Angeles basin from the High Desert. So many great places for mayhem. Isn’t Los Angeles great?
Excerpt from Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill
A wide, trodden path ran like a finger along the spine of the hills. Others veered from it like tributaries of a stream, including a fire road that wound down into West Hollywood. This was the eastern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, leading to the Hollywood Bowl with spectacular views of downtown Los Angeles, the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard to the west, and the urban sprawl extending to the Pacific Ocean.
Stone surveyed the entire area where a trail zig-zagged down a ravine on the north-facing slope, toward the San Fernando Valley. “Do you see it?” He squinted at the properties below as Jake narrowed in using binoculars.
“Yeah.” Jake stood off the trail, about knee-high in a patch of brown, wavy grass. He lowered the binoculars. “The crime scene in all its glory. But we have to move east a little more. Man, it’s hard to walk around in this brush. No wonder forensics didn’t find anything last night.”
Crime Scenes are Everywhere
But what if you’re from a small town or live in a home in the woods? The scene for writing the perfect crime isn’t so much the setting but is more about what’s happening inside of a character — the twisted desires and tortured thoughts.
We all know of great scenes that take place in ordinary looking homes or in mundane settings like the woods.
The late Anita Shreve wrote Light on Snow, a novel where a furniture craftsman retreats to the New England woods with his daughter. His bitterness drives him away from the city and they stumble on a baby wrapped in a blanket in the snow.
Very simple. But effective.
In my fourth novel, the upcoming Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill our bad guy — who actually is in anguish over what he does — takes aim on his unsuspecting targets by lying in wait in the many ridges and behind boulders in places where people are relaxing.
I enjoy hiking around LA and I love looking out over the city from so many different vantage points. A trail behind Hollywood inspired the opening of our novel.
All I did was think, “Hmm, what if …?”
And that’s what you need as a crime scene author. The thinking of “what if … ?” danger was lurking in a basement or even a school cafeteria.
Spin those wheels and look at each and every setting with an eye toward the daring and things that make the news headlines.
It’s the setting — and it’s what your imagination uses to create the action in the setting and it’s the tortured characters in that setting. Those are the elements that combine to grip the reader and make them thrilled, albeit scared, to turn the next page.
For spine-tingling reads that will light up your own imagination then sign-up for the Detective Tom Stone reader’s group.