Friday, February 09, 2007

Crime and punishment

[Posted on Friday, 9 February 2007.]

First, a thank you to Grace, an American reader, for her recommendation. See yesterday's comment. I have added the book to my library list.

Yesterday, a friend who has a stall on a rastro, came to pot-luck lunch bringing two plastic bags of paperbacks, some of which she thought we might like to read before they appear on her stall. We selected 13 and I wrote down the titles as a safeguard against any getting mislaid among our own books.

Last night I started reading The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner. [See photo] This opens with the execution in Texas of Russell Lee Holmes. When asked by the sentencing judge what he has to say about kidnapping, torturing and murdering six small children, this man's reply was, "Well, sir, basically, I can't wait to get me another."

This morning, when Mr Bookworm switched on the light, I told him about the execution scene in which the murderer's eye sockets are taped so that there would be less mess when his eyeballs melted. Later there's a description of his skin turning bright red and beginning to smoke. "Abruptly his feet blew off. Then his hands."

Mr Bookworm said he had never heard of that happening to people condemned to die in the electric chair and he couldn't see why their feet and hands should blow off.

However, at the beginning of the book, the author acknowledges help from "Bob and Kim Diehl, former corrections officers for the Texas Department of Corrections. Not just anyone will answer e-mails from a total stranger, particularly a stranger enquiring about proper protocol for the electric chair." So one must conclude that Lisa Gardner has her facts right.

In the Q&A at Ms Gardner's website, she is asked, "Do you use real events?" To which she replies, "I am routinely inspired by true crime. The basis for The Other Daughter is the real life story of Ted Bundy, who fathered a child while on death row. That made me wonder what it would be like growing up as the child of a notorious serial killer. The Third Victim, of course, is based on the string of school shootings we've had in the United States. That research was very sad for me, but I also needed to do it. Like most Americans, I wanted to understand what would drive kids to perform such heinous acts. Many of the answers surprised me."

A book called Hide, which came out at the end of last month, is Lisa Gardner's 22nd novel. She didn't start out as crime writer. "A funny thing happened my junior year of college. The novel—rewritten several times now—actually sold to Silhouette Intimate Moments. They gave the book the title, WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT, and me the name Alicia Scott. It was pretty exciting. Then I got the check in the mail. Three thousand dollars. Not much for three years of work. I bought a computer for my new nom de plume, then went out to get a real job."

Unfortunately her website designer has used white text on a dark blue background which is always harder to read than black text on a white or pale ground.

More comments about this book when I've finished it.


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