All in a Day’s Drive

Dorothy Cannell: Had a wonderful Malice Domestic spending time with old friends and hopefully making new ones.  My husband Julian and I set off in the car 5 AM on Thursday, April 27th.  We always leave at that inhumane hour so if traffic is relatively merciful we can fetch up in Bethesda by 5 PM.  Why don’t we fly instead?  Julian’s reply has remained the same over the years: “It gives us time alone.”   This made sense when we had four children, but now that it’s just the two of us humans at home it doesn’t pass the credibility test and has to be hurtful to our dogs Teddy and Watson.

The truth is Julian finds the mammoth drive emotionally fulfilling, especially when mentioning it to our sons, both of whom wilt at the thought.  When talking to people at Malice who have driven in from Pennsylvania or New York, he gets a self-deprecating smirk on his face.  Unbecoming, but we all have our small vanities.  A more convincing response would be that it provides Dorothy with a great environment for working.

No, I don’t pound away on as laptop as the miles slip by under the wheels, but I do some scribbling, usually on whatever scrap of paper I can root out from the bottom of my purse.  More often than not a Hannaford’s shopping receipt.  My creative source – highway exit road signs.   A few years ago I noted one for Lamorna and thought great first name for a female character.  And so came Lamorna Blake, a beautiful but vapid young woman in Murder at Mullings. 

Dorothy and Margaret Maron at Malice Domestic

Here are some of my name notes from this trip and the images they provoked:

Havre de Grace – readily converts to Grace de Havre, an aristocratic woman struggling to maintain the appearance of wealth.

Rochele Pelham – attractive career titian haired woman.

Leona Teaneck – a tall, thin middle aged woman lacking a sense of humor.

Perth Amboy – a short, rotund young man wearing round gold rimmed glasses.

Hackensack – last name of a tall, rangy, bookish man.

I also, though less frequently, pluck out names for places.  On this occasion I also noted:

Churchman’s Crossing – area on the outskirts of a village.  Picture body found in a car on the verge.

Larchmont – a large country house with lovely gardens, possibly home of Perth Amboy.




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9 Responses to All in a Day’s Drive

  1. Julie Hunter says:

    What a playful way to do research!

  2. C.T. Collier says:

    I enjoyed your name notes! What a fun way to stay engaged through a long day.

  3. Julianne says:

    When we traveled with my nana on the trips to Ottawa or Cleveland or up the east coast, she always had us read street signs, billboards, towns. She would then write down the names in her little notebook. There was never any regularity or rhythm to it. But even years later it was amazing how easily those noted names would remind us of where we were at a specific time. I love your character visualizations!

  4. I love some of the names you come up with this way, Kate. Lamorna is a beautiful choice. However, having grown up in New Jersey, I have strong negative connotations associated with Perth Amboy (home of a bossy daughter-of-mom’s-college-friend) and Hackensack (well, just about as ugly as its name). On the other hand, since I lisped as a child, some of my friends thought I was trying to say “Purse and Boy,” which became a pretty good joke on them when I showed them the map.

  5. Art Taylor says:

    Great seeing you at Malice, Dorothy—always! Hope the rest of your trip was fun, and look forward to chatting again soon.

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