Friday, June 19, 2009

I humbly submit, my favorite bad guy is . . .

The moment the fat bastard hit the last step, he was scrabbling the cold basement floor like a stepped-on roach, blood sloshing from Gemini’s blitz attack. When the pain finally broke through the shock, he shrieked. Just like the drug maggot did—girly high, a wheeze almost, hairball strangling a cat, not understanding what just happened, yet there it was all over the carpet. The can opener in Gemini’s hand, with its rusty steel head and “Drink Blatz Beer” on the handle, flayed twenty-seven strips off his father, stopping only when mom said don’t kill him, boy, he’ll haunt us like a vampire . . .

Good times remembered.

Now he checked the rearview, saw nothing but rain and bouncing asses. He pinched out a smile. The runaway, who’d introduced herself as “Kandy, with a K,” was a pleasant way to kill the eight-hour drive from Minneapolis to Naperville, the Chicago suburb where they’d drop their load of narcotics and collect their suitcase of dead presidents. Gemini checked his watch. Not bad. Even with the storm they were moving all right—Naperville by six a.m., rich as thieves by seven. “Not bad for a working man,” he murmured. “Not bad at all—”

Another wail erupted from the back.

Gemini sighed. The teenager was more appealing than he’d expected from a hitchhiker. Polo-shirted, blue-jeaned, and knob-kneed. Loose swingy hair, legs up to her armpits, narrow hips, grapefruit boobs. Creamy face with a smile that made corpses pay attention. Exactly the kind of girl Freddie-Boy should have wet himself to own, the picky pervert . . .

“Enough,” Gemini said.

A moment later he heard the distinctive clack of a forearm breaking a windpipe. It wasn’t loud like in the movies. More like a dry stick across a knee.

“Women,” Cancer said, wagging his finger in mock dismay as she thrashed like a gaffed marlin, trying to suck air.

“Can’t live with ’em,” Gemini said.

She turned blue.

Virgo spread her dancer legs. “One for the road?” he asked.

She gurgled.

“Thanks, baby, you’re great too.”

Five minutes later they were done.

So was Kandy, with a K.

His name is Gemini. It’s his gang nickname; his New Orleans birth certificate reads, “Eric Dettmer.” He’s in his late twenties. His hair is electric yellow. He wears it in a skater cut—buzzed on the sides, long on top. His arms are long, his eyes are green, his fingers are twitchy.

He’s a stone killer.

A multiple murderer.

A maimer and shooter, a knifer and beater.

He loves it.

But he keeps me awake at night.

Because he is mine.

I created Gemini. He’s the bad guy in my next book, MOVING TARGET, which appears next summer from my publisher, Kensington Books.

That’s not why I'm writing about him, though. This piece isn’t for self-promotion.

It’s to remind you that for every nightmarish creepazoid you see in a thriller, there's an author who created it.

And has to live with it.

Seven days a week.

Twenty-four hours a day.

In other words, we sleep with killer scum.

We hang out with face rippers.

Child abusers.

Wife beaters

Widow makers.

They live in our waking and invade our dreams, for the year or so it takes us to flesh them fully and wrap them in a hundred thousand words. When they’re ready to bare their teeth, they vomit themselves onto the page, for all the world to see.

Where they’ll live forever, as your terror. And mine.

For, I gave them life.

It’s a crime writer’s lot, creating monsters that go bump in the night.

I truly love it.

But it does have one big downside . . .

I have to live with the spawn of my over-caffeinated mind.

I’m not complaining. I love the way my mind snakes and coils to produce a monster so vile not even his mother could love him.

I can’t love him either. He’s too cold. Too evil. Too inhumane.

But he nonetheless draws me like a moth to a flame.

With any luck, he’ll fascinate you too.

Let me know next summer.


¶ Just finished one of the best crime novels I’ve ever read. It’s ONCE WERE COPS by Ken Bruen. Ken hails from Galway, Ireland, and he’s created an Irish cop Michael O’Shay. The cop is a sociopath who walks a knife-edge between sanity and all-out mayhem, and now he’s on the NYPD, part of an two-country exchange program. I was utterly fascinated by O’Shay, and even more by his new NYPD partner, a nasty piece of work named Kebar. In my opinion, this is Ken’s best work yet, and that’s saying a lot.

¶ Got an advance copy of JUGGLERS AT THE BORDER, the new book from Los Angeles writer Robert Fate. If you haven’t checked out his “Baby Shark” series, of which JUGGLERS is the fourth, please do. It’s set in 1950s Texas, and you can practically smell the smoke of the bars and joints in which action takes place. Kristin Van Dijk, the protagonist, is a young female pool shark turned private eye, and she’s as hard-boiled as a twenty-minute egg. I’ve loved Fate’s work from the first book, and you will too.

¶ Coming to ThrillerFest in July? Me, too. Please stop me in the hall and say hello, I’d love to meet you. And please look up the rest of the Criminal Minds gang, many of whom will be there too. (Fun fact: our own CJ Lyons was the director of the very first ThrillerFest in Phoenix, and she did a crackerjack job.) If you haven’t signed up yet, check out the conference at: Then sign up and come have fun.

¶ Finally, to leaven all the homicide and mayhem in this little ditty, I present one of the most inspiring videos I’ve ever watched. It has nothing to do with writing, but rather, spirit. To call this a jump-rope video is to call the Sears Tower a high-rise—it just doesn’t fit the towering reality. These kids are the Kings Firecrackers, and they’re a performance jump-rope team from the Kings Local School District around Cincinnati, Ohio. The team is made up of 4th through 8th graders, and their talent will take your breath away. Here, they’re performing at the U.S. Naval Academy. I wasn’t this good at anything in grade school except eating bologna-and-cheese sandwiches for lunch, were you? Anyway, check them out at:
If anyone knows who’s singing the opening song—a way-jazzy version of the Wizard of Oz—let me know. I want to download it to my iPod.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week.


P.S. Our June contest is still afoot--just post to this blog and you're eligible to win a bunch o' Criminal Minds writers' books PLUS a Barnes & Noble gift certificate. And be sure to start thinking about next week's topic. We'd love to have you back to visit.


CJ Lyons said...

Wow, Shane! I got shivers reading that!!! What's a nice guy like you doing with snakes like Gemini nesting in your brain????

Can't wait to read all about his exploits!

Eileen Key said...

Do you have a nightlight? I think I'd need one! Good post. Great site. Thanks!

Kelli Stanley said...

Whoa, Shane, that is one scary psycho!!

(Of course, as an actual Gemini, I kinda wish you'd named him Aries or something ...) ;)

Great post!!!


Sophie Littlefield said...

Shane, I'm thrilled with this introduction to your dark guys.

We've all got a deep hidden well, and if you can examine, magnify, embellish, and adrenaline-fuel it, I think you create the greatest villains. I don't care how heinous and irredeemable a bad guy's actions, there is some spark in our lizard brain that goes "yeah....yeah, i recognize that" - otherwise you get a cartoonish flat un-scary monster.

Like bread made from an ancient sponge cultivated by the kitchen hags, a character whose core is also your core will fascinate far more than the guy you just make up from nothing.

Shane Gericke said...

Sorry it took me so long to get here today ... power outage in the neighborhood. Or maybe it was just my house cause the power company doesn't like me. Anyway ...

Thanks, CJ, for the compliments. Most of me is nice. Some of me is dark and snake-y, though. I suppose it has to be that way to come up with serial killers. Good news is it also lets me deal efficiently with telemarketers when they get snippy and rude.

Thanks, too, to Eileen, Kelli, and Sophie for the nice words about the writing. They're all greatly appreciated. Sadly, I have no nightlight. My Snoopy one broke when I was little, and I've yet to replace it. Gemini keeps this up, though, I might have to get one.

Gemini is one nasty son of a gun, but he does have a redeeming quality--he loves his fellow gang members as if they were family. Cause in many ways, they are--they all got kicked out of New Orleans when Katrina destroyed their customer base--i.e., people to rob, cheat and beat up. Along with a child trafficker and his sister, who runs big bro's trafficking business, which Gemini supplies in his spare time. Kinda like Manson Family Values. They headed for Chicago to plant their flag. Just we need here, more criminals. Like we don't have our own homegrown knee-breakers.

I really enjoy creating these characters, because good guys in books deserve only the creepiest, nastiest bad guys to come up against. A protag is only as good as his or her antag.

Kelli, I'm an actual Gemini too, so I sympathize! But I figured I should saddle myself with the collar, so the eleven other poor zodiac souls don't have to suffer. Be brave with me, darlin'.

"Like bread made from an ancient sponge cultivated by the kitchen hags . . ." Sophie, that's a remarkably cool sentence. Sophisticated, and evocative. I love it. It shouldn't be hanging out with sentences like "flayed twenty-seven strips off his father, stopping only when mom said don’t kill him, boy, he’ll haunt us like a vampire," though. It'll catch a social disease :-)

Talk to y'all later today, if the power holds ...

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Shane - that is some really scary nasty guy! brrrrr.

I've been following Criminal Minds every day this week and this has been some pretty terrific stuff here - I've enjoyed it immensely, and look forward to many more weeks.

Sophie? I'm with Shane - I LOVE that sentence!

Kelli Stanley said...

Shane!! Fellow Twin!! Happy birthday, sweetie!! When was it??

And I agree, Sophie's sentence was incredible ... made me look at Rachel Ray in a whole new way ... ;)


Kelli Stanley said...

Kaye, darlin', thanks for stopping by and letting us know how we're doing!

This is a kind of experiment and we're all sort of feeling our way--and having a great time doing it!! :)

Thanks for commenting, sweetie--it's always a treat to hear from you!!


Rebecca Cantrell said...

As scary as Shane's bad guy is, I don't know but what Sophie's kitchen hags could take him down.

Jen Forbus said...

Well now I know how the writers manage to imbed the characters in my brain for so long after I've finished a book...if you're living with them 24/7, that must be how you make them so memorable...good or bad!

Shane, I think I'll have to read your book with the lights on...all of the lights on.

Kelli Stanley said...

Sophie's hags are damn scary, Becks. Make me never want to eat bread again! ;)

Kelli Stanley said...

Jen, thanks for stopping by! :) Shane's area is experiencing power outages, but he should be back on grid soon.

Scary stuff, to be in the dark--especially after reading about Gemini! A truly memorable criminal mind!!


Shane Gericke said...

Kelli, my birthday was May 23, but shhhh, don't tell ANYone ...

Shane Gericke said...

Hi, Kaye, great to see you in our humble new home. Thanks for the nice thoughts on my creepiness. Well, Gemini's creepiness, anyway. I try to avoid being a creep when I can :-)

Y'all should check out Kaye Power's back, life is good again. A bunch of nasty thunderstorms are sweeping the area today, playing hod with traffic, airports and moi's power. But it looks good for now, so here I am again.

Barley's Musings and Meanderings blog--it's great, and deals with a huge range of things, both in writing and in life, not just thrillers and mysteries. She's a gifted writer in her own right, so take a look-see.

You're right, Becky--the hags would beat even Gemini in a one-on-one.

Jen, it's good to hear from you. Imbedding our characters in your brains is our goal, so thanks for confirming that happens! Think of us as the Alec Baldwin character on those cool new Hulu commercials--"We're aliens. That's what we do." Don't worry about it being too scary, though: there's also cop jokes!

Unknown said...

That sounds like something to be read with the lights on, in daytime! Not sure I could, or would want to,sleep after that.

Bobby Mangahas said...

Nice post Shane. And I have to agree with you. Once Were Cops is absolutely one of the best crime novels.

Shane Gericke said...

Me,I can sleep through most anything, Boots, so I humbly volunteer to sleep FOR you :-) Thanks for writing.