Gerry Boyle here, just back from having a cup of tea in a local cafe, where I read emails from my literary agent and an editor (the business end of the book business), and wrote out plot notes for the next Brandon Blake mystery, PORT CITY KILLSHOT. And then I finished my tea and went out onto the street and did something really important.
The subject was a wig shop/hair salon that has been in an otherwise vacant building for many years, and it’s been many years since I’ve seen anyone inside the shop. But the wig mannequins are in the window. And they caught my eye.
They are eery. Haunting. A little creepy, even, at least to me. I could have sworn that the eyes of one of the silver blondes moved with me. As I stared at them, they stared back. A dark brunette looked vaguely disapproving. The redhead had her eyes closed, pretending to be asleep.
I smiled. It was fascinating, intriguing, energizing. What a wonderful piece of small-town texture. The draped fabric in the display. The palm fronds in vases. The necklaces carefully draped around the models’ plaster necks. The dim and silent shop where they stood (can you stand when you have no legs?) sentinel. The shelves of their bewigged companions, the backs of their heads facing the windows.
The sandstone downtown building has been for sale for years. Who owns the wig shop? Who dressed the mannequins? When did they do it? In the middle of the night, like the shoemaker’s elves? Is the business still in operation? Do you style a wig like you do hair? Who gave the redhead her curls? Who let the strawberry blonde’s hair sweep mysteriously over one eye? Do the mannequins come with lipstick or does someone do the makeup as well?
Standing there on the sidewalk I took out my phone and snapped a few photos, a few of which appear here. And I filed this little encounter away in the trove of photos that I save for possible inclusion in a future book. It might just be a paragraph. A few sentences. A character might own the shop. Or a body might be found there. Wearing a wig. Makeup carefully applied.
Or something like that.
When I run into people I know when I’m out and about, they sometimes ask: “So are you doing research?” I reply, “I’m always doing research.” And you never know when something will catch your eye. And your iPhone.
So here’s the point. Keep your eyes and ears open. The stuff of crime fiction is all around us. You just have to know when to stop and stare.