Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Taste For Bones

Murder One: A Writer's Guide to
Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino

I realize I have a morbid taste for bones--a guilty pleasure, to be sure. I find myself fascinated with the way evidence forms a code to be deciphered in order to understand the horrible, the devastating. In trying to develop believable scenarios of homicide for a possible novel, I needed texts that describe complicated forensic material in accessible language, suitable for the writer/criminalist wannabe. Murder One is a great resource in that regard.

Written by two investigators for the Monmouth County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office, this text gives a clear cut overview of different kinds of homicide, appropriate investigation techniques and evidence collection. Both Corvasce and Paglino have been in law enforcement since 1978, and have an excellent handle on presenting information to the general public. The chapters of the book are organized into the following sections:

• familial murders, usually triggered by simmering feuds
• gang murders, from contract hits to drive-by shootings
• organized crime hits, and the psychology and code of behavior within crime families
• business and financial murders, directed to silence whistle-blowers
• the rising trend in vehicular murder • crimes of passion, their triggers and underlying motivation • cult murders, serial murders and the details of real-life investigations

The authors also delve into legal definitions, forensic terms and definitions and the basic structure of initial homicide investigation; allowing reader/writers to explore opportunity, motive, use of weapons, and details at the scene of the crime. Interspersed throughout is the authors' commentary, reflecting their own case files experiences. Since I plan on describing more than one unholy execution,
I was excited to get the corporeal goods necessary to get the right take down on paper.

Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries
David W. Page

Dr. David Page has extensive trauma surgery experience, and is currently an associate clinical professor of surgery at Tufts' Baystate Medical Center. In Body Trauma, what happens to organs and bones maimed by accident or injury is the subject matter of this detailed, yet easy to read book. This text reveals in simple, but descriptive language the following:

• The four steps in trauma care
• Details of skull and brain injuries
• What the Glasgow Trauma Scale is, and why it's important
• Specifics of both penetrating and blunt injuries, especially as it relates to head and neck trauma. • The "dirty dozen' dreadful, but survivable, chest injuries
• The effect of blunt trauma, puncture and bullet wounds on abdominal organs

While at some level, this kind of immersion seems like overkill, (no pun intended) I feel like I have to capture a large amount of information to best make the story hold together and seem believable. Mind you, I'll have to edit and delete passages because there's too much information, that's how much I was able to glean from these resources.

I'm fascinated by my own ongoing interest in this kind of take on mortality and the reductionist perspective that certainly is bound to it. It's a seeming contradiction for me, whose own poetry tries to focus on spirit and its power to animate and heal.

I think it has something to do with embracing the concrete aspects of mortality--the frailty of the body, the effects of violence. As I write fiction with these themes, I make a certain sense of them that may be a crime novelist's conceit--to make sense of the irrational, the terrifying, the unspeakable.

Lisa Alvarado

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