Wednesday, May 10, 2017



The play’s the thing, but it’s the star-studded after-party that sends sparks flying

Thrilled that their friend’s Broadway debut was a rousing success, Nic and Nigel Martini, along with Nic’s college pal Harper, are trying to enjoy the exclusive after-party. Unfortunately, all the champagne and repartee in the world aren’t enough to overlook the churlish behavior of Harper’s husband, Dan. Nic is shocked the next morning when she learns that Dan’s been murdered. Nigel thinks the world may be a better place without him.

Still, Harper’s their friend and they’re intent on helping her any way they can. The Martinis will stop at nothing—with the possible exception of cocktails and walks with their bull mastiff Skippy—to see that the killer ends up behind bars.


“Come, come, Mr. Bond. You disappoint me. You get as much fulfillment out of killing as I do, so why don't you admit it?” - Scaramanga

I was recently re-watching the movie The Trip and came across the scene in which the two main characters argue over who does the better James Bond imitation. The argument eventually shifts to Bond villains, and the men take turns repeating the above line with varying degrees of silky menace. It’s a great bit, especially when it devolves into the two trying to maintain the quiet evil of the delivery all while drinking from a glass of wine. 

Villains, as we all know, are bad, nasty people. They cheat, steal, lie, and kill with nary a bit of remorse. Many times this reprehensible behavior can be traced back to an abusive upbringing, such as the one experienced by Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil: “My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon ... luge lessons ... In the spring, we'd make meat helmets ... When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds — pretty standard, really.” In other cases, their evil stems from trying to play God by altering their human form, such as Voldermort, Dorian Gray, or any of the villains from the Marvel Comic Books.

But no matter what their childhood woe or genetic tinkering, all villains seem to share one important trait and that, to paraphrase Martin Blank, is that their psych profile fits “a certain moral flexibility” that lends itself well to killing.

Personally, I think it would be a blast to write over-the-top characters like Dr. Evil. How could you not enjoy writing for a character who says things like, “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?”

Although my books are humorous, my villains aren’t in the same category as Dr. Evil.  Very few could be. However, I do have fun with my bad guys because I can make them say and do all the sorts of outrageous things that one can’t (or at least shouldn’t) do in real life. And up until the killing part, I think we all have moments when we’d just love to let loose on someone. Another benefit to writing a villain is having my protagonist respond to them in kind. And since most of the time my villains are composites of annoying people that I’ve encountered over the years, it’s somewhat therapeutic to tell them off and have them hauled off the jail.  

Over the years, however, I’ve realized that I can only deal with a certain level of evil. While in college, I read Thomas Harris’ The Red Dragon, and I didn’t sleep for at least a week. Harris’ character, serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, had me lying in my bed at night staring at the doorknob in case it began to turn. It took me a week to finish the book, but the unspeakable evil of embodied in the character of Dolarhyde messed with me for months afterwards. I don’t know how long it took Harris to write his book, but I’m certain it was longer than a week. I can’t imagine having to sit down every day, month after month, and put myself in a brain that demented and devoid of humanity.
So, while I enjoy my villains, I can only take them so far down the path of evil. To paraphrase Jane Austen, I’d say of them that, “of some delights a little goes a long way.” 


Tracy Kiely is a self-proclaimed Anglophile (a fact which distresses certain members of her Irish Catholic family). She grew up reading Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, and watching Hitchcock movies. She fell in love with Austen’s wit, Christie’s clever plots, and Hitchcock’s recurrent theme of “the average man caught in extraordinary circumstances.”

After spending years of trying to find a proper job that would enable her to use her skills garnered as an English major, she decided to write a book. It would, of course, have to be a mystery; it would have to be funny; and it would have to feature an average person caught up in extraordinary circumstances. She began to wonder how the characters in Pride and Prejudice might fit into a mystery. What, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? What if Charlotte snapped one day and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? Skip ahead several years, and several different plot ideas, and you have her first mystery Murder at Longbourn.

While she does not claim to be Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, or Hitchcock (one big reason being that they’re all dead), she has tried to combine the elements of all three in her books.

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