Monday, January 3, 2011

The Spanish Steps, A Pius Man, and why do I blow up public places?

The new, better graphic provided by Matt
Happy New Year, and welcome back everyone. I hope you enjoyed your holidays, your vacation time, and in New York, the twenty inches of snow. I'm still digging out.  And recovering from my Christmas Cold.  Yes, my vacation was spent indoors, coughing up a lung. Fun....

Many people who have visited my pages for A Pius Man may have noticed an odd photo. It has an image of an armored SUV driving down the Spanish Steps, in Rome. Why do I have it there, and what does it have to do with A Pius Man?

Not to belabor the obvious, but the latter question is easy to answer: a scene in my novel has the Knight-XV Fully Armored Vehicle going down said historic landmark.

And why?

Because it's fun.

To give a serious answer: public places are common targets in my novels. I've had two running shootouts that went past the New York Museum of Natural History, and ended in Central Park. One of them ended in Belvedere Castle. I had a scene that started in the Hudson River during the Macy's Fireworks display, and ended with two protagonists falling off of the Statue of Liberty. Another book ended at the Cloisters, another museum in New York cobbled together from dozens of different European monasteries.

One novel, which now needs to be rewritten, is especially egregious in public places being blown up, shot up, and otherwise trashed. I had a shootout on New York's Cross Island Parkway, a firefight outside Brennan's of New Orleans, threw someone out of the John Hancock building in Chicago, had a slow, stalking hunt through New Orleans' Bourbon Street, another shootout in a New Orleans City of the Dead, as well as a running chase throughout Boston's Quincy Market.

I had fun with that book.

I suppose I could blame my reign of havoc in public places on Alfred Hitchcock. I grew up with throwing a Saboteur off the Statue of Liberty, and having a blackmailer chased through the British Museum. I had fond childhood memories of Cary Grant hanging off of Mount Rushmore, and Jimmy Stewart saving a drowning woman underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

So, yes, Alfred Hitchcock makes a good scapegoat.

However, public places allow for some great opportunities. Bad guys can grab hostages at will. Fugitive protagonists see every average person as a threat.

And, my personal favorite: the ability to walk the scene.

I sometimes get lazy in my writing. I can only create so many settings no one has ever seen before, and then I start muttering to myself, and I want to just get the Darned Scene Written Now. There has even been the odd sequence that I've cobbled together from video games (fans of Sam Fisher, pay attention).

But, in come cases, public areas, and tourist traps, come in handy. Especially when you're doing a walk-through of Central Park and find places for your running shootout that aren't on any Google picture search. Walking around the Cloisters is the only way to find what the layout looks like near a perfect entry point from the Henry Hudson parkway, after using a bolt cutter on the chain link fence.

And public parks and attractions have a side benefit to them. They're nice and big, and easy to play hide-and-seek in. Granted, in my books, my protagonists hide, and the antagonists are seeking with an RPG.

1 comment:

  1. Very, very true! There's no substitute for firsthand research. I was terribly worried about writing a scene in my own book to be set in Griffith Park at night, because it's illegal to enter the park at night (and kind of stupid--there are few lights, and in the dark it's very easy to walk off a cliff or into a mountain lion). I finally went out of my way to attend a rare nighttime event in the park (the Haunted Hayride in October), and really freaked out my fellow visitors by staring up at the trees and sniffing a lot instead of reacting to the freaks in costumes. "Don't mind me, killer clowns, I'm just here to do research ..."


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