In a recent interview, we were asked about the enduring popularity of crime fiction. It was one of those simple, straight-forward questions that took us by surprise, because the answer seemed self-evident – who doesn’t want to decipher a puzzle; assess evidence and follow it through to a logical conclusion? Whether you’re reading a mystery novel, doing the Sunday crossword, or trying to figure out why your dog or cat is eating dirt, you are responding to a biological imperative to solve problems. It’s a genetically hard-wired skill that has kept our species successful for millennia. Without it, our race would have perished a long time ago by eating poison mushrooms or mammoth dung.
But the seemingly simple question made us think a little more about the genre, human nature, and how the characters that populate the Monkeewrench series have driven us to keep writing about them. It suddenly dawned on us that there was another component to the popularity of mysteries: secrets. Large or small, everybody has them, and the voyeuristic aspect of the human psyche yearns to read about somebody else’s.
Secrets have always been a set piece in the Monkeewrench series, not just within the plot, but within the characters themselves. COLD KILL, the seventh and latest novel in the series, is absolutely laden with secrets, some that go back sixty years to the dawn of the nuclear age and the Cold War. But what makes this novel different from the others is that some of the secrets between the covers are part of our own family history. It’s a work of fiction, but there are many portions of the book that are based on actual events and personal experiences, both past and present. We hadn’t ever really considered incorporating some of our own secrets into a novel until a spectacular coincidence occurred a few years ago and catalyzed a manic compulsion to record it.
In chapter two of COLD KILL, this coincidence is depicted almost exactly as it happened to Traci on a flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. In the book it seems like a freak encounter between Chuck Spencer and Lydia Ascher — two strangers who discover their grandfather and father worked together on the hydrogen bomb. But in real life it was even more astounding than that – the real “Chuck” was never supposed to be on my flight. It was only a last-minute cancellation and rebooking on a different airline departing from an entirely different airport that brought him to the last remaining spot on my flight – sitting next to me. That single, astronomically unlikely event was the genesis of COLD KILL. Talk about fate dropping something in your lap!