Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Not Just a Stogie by Alan Orloff

Alan Orloff's upcoming release, KILLER ROUTINE, is the first book in the Last Laff Mystery series (April 2011, Midnight Ink). He's also the author of DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, which came out last April, also from Midnight Ink. 

DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

For more info, visit his website:

Not Just A Stogie
by Alan Orloff

Somewhere between all the math, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, chemistry, vibration analysis, and physics classes I took in college, I managed to squeeze in a Psych 100 class. I’m pretty sure that single survey class provided me with more motivation/ideas/useful info than the other classes combined, at least when it comes to writing fiction. (Not too much material science finds its way into mystery novels, thank goodness!)

I remember being fascinated by all the experiments we learned about: salivating dogs (Pavlov), blind authority-followers (Milgram), changing conditions (Hawthorne effect), and deviant behavior (Pee Wee Herman). It wasn’t so much the conclusions I liked. The best part for me, I think, was the deception involved in the studies. The researchers told the subjects one thing, and measured something entirely different. Deception in the name of science—how sneaky! And how cool!

I’ve always been a fan of “good-natured” deception (I know, the people in the Milgram experiment probably weren’t having much fun). That’s one reason I loved Candid Camera so much. Where else could you see people being deceived and then watch them laugh about it?

On more than one occasion, I have considered the fact that I am a little warped in this regard (For the record, let me reiterate, I’m a fan of good-natured deception, not deception with malicious intent). But that never stopped me from engineering my own practical jokes. I haven’t perpetrated many, but I have pulled off a few whoppers. Like the time I fake-proposed to my then-girlfriend (now wife) right in front of two good friends and she turned me down, much to their jaw-dropping amazement. (A classic, but maybe you had to be there.)

It’s likely that my love of deception was a prime reason I found myself writing mysteries. I mean, where else is deceiving people one of the goals? Red herrings, buried secrets, double-crosses, evil twins—it’s not just fair game, it’s expected!

In mysteries, a cigar is rarely just a cigar.

Thanks for inviting me to your wonderful blog today, Kaye. I hope you are enjoying your retirement!

I don’t really have a pet, so here’s a picture of me with my favorite cat


Mason Canyon said...

Kaye, thanks for hosting Alan.

Alan, you make a good point - deception and mysteries do go hand and hand. I can see where an episode of Candid Camera could be turned into a mystery.

Thoughts in Progress

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh gosh, I was on the other side of one of those psych class experiments! I was told it had something to do with left handed vs right handed, but it had something to do with testing frustration, I believe...which I apparently express well. :)

Wish I could have been there to see your friends' faces when your wife turned you down!

Anonymous said...

Alan - No doubt about it; deception is an important part of a good mystery. When they're done right, that's part of the enjoyment we get out of reading crime fiction. My then-fiancé (now husband) and I conspired to pull a bit of deception once, too, on a life insurance agent who was getting on our last nerve and would not leave us alone. Each of us pretended that the other was the one who would have to make the decision, so we had him going back and forth until he got so frustrated with us he finally left us in peace.

And hey, I love that 'photo!

Alan Orloff said...

Mason - The title can be "SMILE! You're Dead"

Elizabeth - Those psych students are devious, indeed.

Margot - I am so going to use that strategy sometime!

jenny milchman said...

Your favorite pet is a pretty good liar--guess you knew that, Alan ;)

I'm with you, by the way. And I actually find lies and liars fascinating. Figuring out when they're doing it is kind of a hobby of mine...

Neat post!

Peg Brantley said...

Congratulations on your nomination, Alan.

(And there is absolutely no deception involved.)

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi, Everyone! Thanks for stopping by.

Alan - this was terrific, thank you!! (and I had to laugh at Jenny's remark about your favorite pet being such a good liar. True enough! But what a GREAT picture).

And congratulations on your nomination - Yay, You!!!!

Alan Orloff said...

Jenny - Thanks! My cat was an instigator too! Lying and instigating, the perfect combo.

Peg - Thanks!

Kaye - Thanks so much for hosting me--I had a great time. And thanks to all your blog readers, too, for stopping by. (No fooling!)