art, art rock, and…

(Okay, I couldn’t think of a third thing beginning with “a” for the title.)

1) Toward the end of my mother’s life, when she was still living at home (she lived in her apartment until she was 96 years old), it was a regular routine for me to visit her on a Friday or Saturday night. We’d order out food, and then watch a movie on DVD, or listen to audio drama.

Even now, when I’m watching a movie or listening to a story, I run it through the filter of figuring out whether she’d enjoy it. It’s just part of how my brain is trained to work now.

After she moved into the nursing home, we didn’t do movies anymore, but I did bring her clippings I thought she’d find interesting. I still do that, too — think about what stories would tickle her, and this was definitely one.

2) I’ve never worried much about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (even having a hall of fame is pretty un-rock-and-roll, let alone how this one works).

Just for the hell of it, though, I went to the website to vote for Roxy Music, who were my favorite band from pretty much the moment they started (or at least when I first heard them) to when New Wave happened. There were a bunch of us in the early 1970s — checking the calendar and wondering what was taking New Wave so long to arrive.

The fan voting has no effect on the Hall of Fame, of course, but what the hell.

3) One thing about writing mysteries, as I’ve talked about before, is that you need a lot of names. Each story has to have victims (at least one), suspects, bystanders, and so on. For one mystery I wrote, I took all the names (or almost all) from Dark Shadows. For another one, it was Resident Evil movies.

For this one, it’s a bit of this and a bit of that.

Marvel Phillips (the victim) is named after a character from a Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar radio mystery. The character there was Marvel Terrence, and she was also a very rich orphan. I’ve had “Marvel Terrence” in my notebook for quite a while. (How I got from “Terrence” to “Phillips” will be clear to South Park fans).

Sheriff Rhonda is named after Sheriff Rhonda Tate from the excellent Big Finish Dark Shadows serial “Bloodlust.”

Oh, and Madeleine Pontmercy? That’s a reference, or, really, two references to Les Miserables (but you probably knew that).

Dr. Wright, the coroner, is an indirect reference to Doctor Doremus, the original grumpy medical examiner. He was in the Philo Vance books, which were written by S. S. van Dine (which was the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright).

Oh, and Doctor Doremus created the “I’m a doctor, not a _____” thing, much later re-popularized by Doctor McCoy on Star Trek.

My favorite was in The Dragon Murder Case, where Doremus arrives to examine a corpse, only to discover that there isn’t one. The DA explains that he and Vance had had a theory that the corpse would be at the bottom of a pool — a theory which turned out to be false when the pool was drained.

Dr. Doremus protests, “I can’t perform an autopsy on a theory! I’m a coroner, not a philosopher!”

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