Sue Grafton

Journal Notes

"H" is for Homicide

**RB stands for Right Brain in these notes...


Well, here I am, letting it all hang out...starting with a clean slate on "H". I've floppied and deleted all my previous files, plus the two chapters I'd written.

Right Brain kept telling me the story wasn't right. Not complex enough, not the proper chemistry. No visible route to action or tension. I've been arguing the point with myself for weeks, going first this way and that. RB would tell me I should dump the book and I'd agree. Then I'd go back and read my notes, read the two chapters I'd done and decide that it was workable despite my misgivings. Now I've come to the conclusion that it would be foolish to ignore my intuitions when the message has been so strong and so persistent.

Must go back and think about the focus for "H".
Set aside some clippings from my previous go round.

"H" could be for:
Hot Prowl
Hit & Run

This morning RB suggested that maybe Kinsey meets a husband and wife bounty-hunter team on the trail of someone. Both are slain.

Might still play with the idea of someone who was an executioner for the state.

Must find the two page analysis I did on KILLSHOT. That might give me some direction...Found the break-down in my "G" directory. Really useful notes.

The notion of hostages has some energy attached. Kinsey would never be called in on a situation where hostages are involved...they'd have a team of police experts for that...but what if she were held hostage herself. Could I sustain a book for that length of time? Not on the face of it. One location...interior...other people also being held. They could be moved from place to place, but it seems like it would be a trick and a half to sustain tension for any length of time if you couldn't move around some.

I also have an article on what poor witnesses we make. Again, maybe Kinsey & the other could be called on to identify the guys who held them at gunpoint.

But then what? Don't want her stalked again...that would be too similar to "G".

I also have a nice collection of articles on automobile insurance fraud...also car thieves and those who counterfeit papers on exotic autos...Might think about combining some of these.

For ring exposed, 51 indicted. One jumps bail & the bounty hunters are after him.
Husband and wife approach Kinsey Millhone.
Both end up slain.
I met some woman at Annie Stewart's mother-daughter tea whose cousin worked in the DA's office on these auto scams.
Who the hell could that be? Thought it was Annie's cousin or Marnie's. Asked some time after that but neither could remember.

I'd have to find some insurance investigator who looks into fraudulent accident claims.
Or maybe Kinsey looking into what appears to be a routine claim realizes there's more going on than meets the eye.

Like the idea of a hit-and-run auto wreck...window rolled down. Victim dead, but has written license # in spit on the glass. Doesn't show up until Kinsey goes to the impound lot weeks later.

The police would have had to investigate the matter.
No leads, no witnesses, no evidence at the scene.

Thinking about the Elmore Leonard outline.

Still interested in having Kinsey pursued through a darkened ware-house...some big, echoing, darkened structure with lots of interior stairways, etc. Must keep that in mind and be on the look-out.

I like the idea of characters with expertise...that authentic voice that lends credibility.
Must begin to make decisions, choices. Don't have time any more to fool around.
Let me re-read my articles on insurance fraud.


Wonder if there's any material written about bounty hunters. Must ask Jay about material from the survivalist's bookstores. Maybe the back of guns & ammo type magazines.

Thinking about this couple who comes to Kinsey. Looking for X. Can't approach the police...or could they?
Have little information.
She can't help them...or she does what she can without much luck. Or the guy's probably using an assumed name.
Or the couple wants to do it on the if-come. Kinsey's polite but says ix-nay.
Couple slain.
Cops question Kinsey but she isn't much would the cops even know they'd talked to her. Maybe the cops don't talk to Kinsey. Maybe she goes to them & tells them what she knows.
Next day in the mail, she receives one piece of information.

I was thinking about making this a road book, but that's actually pretty dull if you don't have action attached.

She could get a line on this guy...but what's he done?
Then I could build in the hotel room scene.
What's she want from him? What's his real connection to the case? Has the couple lied about who he is?
Is he under a federal witness protection program and his cover's blown?
Why do they say they're looking for him?
Not drugs.

As usual the question is, where does this lead?

What if I start with an insurance investigation.
Medical claim opens out into full-scale insurance fraud.

Is this a second story?
Can I weave this into the other.
Is the other the "B" story & this the "A".
This feels big enough to encompass a book length work.

I want to back up...look at this book as an adventure tale...action, pace, tension...drama...
Don't want a story full of talk, talk, talk.
Don't want to replay "G" either.
Don't want Kinsey least not as the running action line.
This time Kinsey pursues someone else.

Suppose a guy has been involved in this auto insurance fraud.
Kinsey begins to investigate his claim.
He gets nervous and wants out.
Before she can come to a conclusion, he does a disappearing act.
The ring leader gets nervous and wants this guy eliminated.
He knows too much and if he decides to talk, it will bring the whole roof down.

Don't see how I could work the bounty hunters into this.
They're not looking for the same person...they couldn't be.
Maybe they're looking for the hangman.

What if I get into one of those murder for hire schemes.
Husband sets it up.

Insurance increase.
Trying to hire a couple of guys to do his wife in.
Someone else...who wants her dead for a different reason...becomes aware of his plan and kills the wife.
Husband gets nailed, but swears he's innocent.
Kinsey's hired to investigate.


What about there a way to go back to that?


Ah, maybe that's my title.
I like poison as a method...primarily because in the case of a plant, it's available. Roots the most poisionous...sometimes mistaken for parsnips or wild carrots.

The problem with this is it throws me right back into a traditional puzzle mystery and I'd love to do the other kind.

Maybe I'll read the auto insurance scam articles and see if something is sparked from that.

Let's just enter:
as a possibility
I've been rereading all my articles on insurance fraud...phony accident claims. This would be a natural for Kinsey since she works for CF.
I'd like an oblique means for her to enter the case.
Homicide scene.
Twist of metal

Wait, let me see if this will hang together.

Attorney convicted of insurance fraud agrees to cooperate in both the criminal & civil cases.
Given a new identity and is moved to Santa Teresa.

Bogus "bounty hunters" come to Santa Teresa looking for him.
Approach Kinsey who can't or won't help...suspicious.
Actually the "bounty hunters" are part of the same ring, trying to find the guy & put a stop to him before he can reveal too much.
"Bounty Hunters" turn up dead...her card or her telephone number.

Who are these people and how are they identified.
No record of prints.
No missing persons reports.

Cops call Kinsey who spots a twist of metal at the scene.

She recognizes the strip as part of a device to hot wire cars. The guy flees...
realizes his cover blown, witness protection program worthless, maybe has a leak.

Kinsey recruited to go undercover.
The lawyer, wife & two kids disappear without a trace.
Maybe cops stonewall...advised by U.S.Attorney's office to put a lid on it.

Two people pretending to be relatives hire Kinsey to look into it. She goes to the house...finds the wire.
How would that connect?

This would certainly be a nice, complex case.

Kinsey takes the wire to a guy she knows who's in jail for auto theft.

This feels like I'm in the ballpark.
Lots going on.
Potential for action.

She could hire on as someone's maid.
She could break into someone's hotel room.
She could infiltrate this group.
Maybe she gets close...inadvertantly forms a relationship with one of these scum bags...and the cops step in, asking her to do some work for them.
Finds a of the missing family.

This is off, I suspect, but I'm on the right track.
Who kills the bounty hunters?