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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Where do you get your ideas?


From time to time I give presentations to mystery fans and I always allow a few minutes at the end of my talk for questions and answers. By far, the most frequently asked question is, "Where do you get your ideas?" I touched on this subject in one of my past columns that I titled "Thinking like a writer." The ideas are endless and theyíre everywhere you look, you just have to be paying attention. The seed can be very small and, if properly nurtured can grow into a very big story. Iíll give you some examples from my own experience.

Many years ago I read a short article in a Detroit newspaper about a 91 year old man who thwarted an armed robbery by taking the guns away from the two 25 year old bandits and then beating them into unconsciousness before calling the police. The old man was pictured in a fighting stance. It seems that he had once been the Canadian heavyweight boxing champion. About five years later I saw the same photo in the paper only this time it was attached to an obituary. But the whole story immediately came back to me and I remembered every detail. I decided that, if a story could have that kind of impact on me, it could serve as the germ for a full length novel. It became, The Unreal McCoy.

My parents were both in show business and so I more or less grew up in that world... well, at least I was an observer. And one of my many lifelong passions has been motorcycling. My second book, Turn Left at September, deals with a young lady in show business being pursued by the leader of an outlaw motorcycle gang. I guess you could say I drew that story from personal experience.

The third book had a very different inspiration. Some recent research into my family tree uncovered the fact that an uncle of mine who went missing in action during the Second World War had, many years later been declared killed in action and posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. The family never knew about this heroic award. I couldnít figure a way to make this type of situation the centerpiece of a murder mystery so I made it the back-story and built my mystery, The First Domino around it. I was amazed at how easy it was to write a story, "upside-down."

I have other tales as well. Iím working on a book right now based on the treasure of Poverty Island, a Michigan legend about four hundred million dollars worth of gold bullion at the bottom of Lake Michigan that was once featured on Robert Stackís Unsolved Mysteries television series. Treasure hunters have been searching for this prize since the Civil War... But I know where to find it.



2009 Past Columns


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