Monday, December 30, 2013

Did you ever notice how many mysteries feature a dog?

I thought I was adding a warm, tender touch to my medical mysteries and thrillers when I add Bug, a Japanese Chin to my novels. Then I started to think.

Dogs are featured in lots of mysteries. Most readers will immediately think of the title character (a bloodhound/mastiff mix) in The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Dashiell Hammett wrote Asta as a schnauzer in The Thin Man, but a wire-haired fox terrier played the role in the movie.

Here are a few examples of dogs in recent mysteries.
Ignore the Pain by J.L. Greger. Bug, a Japanese chin, regally keeps epidemiologist Sara Almquist on track.
A Pointed Death by Kath Russell. A biotech consultant Nola Billingsley depends on her shorthaired pointer Skootch.
New Tricks by David Rosenfelt. The golden retriever Tara helps attorney Andy Carpenter find the evidence to defend his clients in court.
Dogged Pursuit by Lee Charles Kelley. Kennel owner and ex-big city cop Jack Field solves a murder with the help of a dalmatian named Daisy. A different breed of dog is featured in each book in this series.
A Blast From the Past by Lauren Carr. What would Mac Faraday do without his German shepherd sidekick Gnarly?

Why do authors include dogs in mysteries? Your guesses are as good as mine, but these reasons seem likely.
·      Authors can give readers a chance to breathe in a fast-moving mystery or thriller by adding an anecdote about a cute or funny dog.
·      Dogs are easier to fit into a plot than children.
·      Writers can use dogs to show (not tell) the soft, warm side of protagonists who otherwise appear to be rather hard-edged characters.
·      Authors love their own dogs and can’t imagine a realistic story without a dog.
·      Dogs are some of the nicest characters most of us know.

Now it’s your turn to suggest reasons for including dogs in mysteries.

About JL’s medical mysteries and thrillers: Three novels chronicle the adventures of epidemiologist Sara Almquist and her more reserved sister – physician Linda Almquist. In Coming Flu, Sara, while tracking the spread of the deadly Philippine flu, identifies a drug kingpin trapped in a quarantined community. In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Linda Almquist must discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or one of old-timers in a medical school with buried secrets is a killer. Sara finds it hard to consult on public health issues when leaders of the coca industry threaten her in Ignore the Pain. In all three, Sara always comes home to her Japanese Chin Bug.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Science behind the Title IGNORE THE PAIN

Miners in the silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia carry little food or water into the mines. In order to endure the pain caused by thirst, hunger, and heavy exertion at a high altitude (13,000 feet), they chew coca leaves.

The active ingredients in coca leaves and its derivative cocaine are not analgesics; they do not dull pain. They are stimulants that raise extracellular concentrations of neurotransmitters, which in turn increase transmission of other stimuli along nerves. The net result is users of coca leaves can ignore pain better.

Hence I titled my new medical thriller Ignore the Pain.

In Ignore the Pain, Sara Almquist, the heroine, agrees to leave her home near Albuquerque and be an epidemiology consultant for a public health mission assessing children’s health in Bolivia. Such an assignments is realistic because 6.5% of the children born in Bolivia die before five years of age. That’s a big improvement; in 1990, 12.5% died before five years of age.

Now back to the story. Soon someone from Sara’s past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market and across the roof of Iglesia de San Francisco in La Paz. Unfortunately, she can’t trust her new colleagues because anyone of them might be under the control of the coca industry in Bolivia.

But that’s not all the pain in Ignore the Pain. Sara’s quieter sister Linda, besides worrying about Sara, is managing problems in the newly created Pain Management Center in the medical school in Albuquerque.

So ignore the pain of eating too much and generally overindulging during the holidays and read Ignore the Pain