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The Sirens of Suspense




Dianne Emley is a Los Angeles Times bestselling author and has received critical acclaim for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (including Love Kills) and Iris Thorne mysteries (including Pushover). Her standalone paranormal mystery, The Night Visitor, was published in September 2014. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies including Literary Pasadena. Her books have been translated into six languages. A Los Angeles native, she lives in the Central California wine country with her husband. She’s a pretty good cook and a terrible golfer.

“Emley masterfully twists, turns, and shocks.” —Tess Gerritsen


Find Dianne on Facebook and Twitter.


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I’ve collected “graffiti money,” paper money that has been written on, for decades. These bills are like messages in bottles, cast upon the sea of cash transactions. Who will read them? Where will they end up? Defacing money is a federal crime, but that doesn’t seem to deter anybody from doodling on their dollars. I’m not alone in being an avid collector of graffiti money. There are websites devoted to it. I’ve asked to trade clean bills of the same value for graffiti bills that I’ve glimpsed in cash drawers or that I’ve seen people receive as change, also receiving bewildered looks along with my treasure.

I don’t find as much graffiti money lately. Personally, I rarely use cash anymore, mostly paying with debit or credit cards. That along with the rise of smartphones, texting, and social media has tamped down occurrences of people seeking to write on paper.

I’ve amassed a cherished collection of graffiti money through the years and thought you might enjoy seeing some of it. The messages tend to fall into categories.

The first category I call “The Rant.” Folks who penned their rages on money in years past can now be found spreading their venom in the comments section following news stories or blogs. This $20 bill is my favorite piece in my collection. In the scanned image below, I’ve erased a man’s name that’s written at the top.


Then there’s “The Chain Letter.” This one has a scary threat, but I wasn’t scared enough to do as commanded. It’s hard to read the message on the scanned bill so here it is: “Anyone who receives this bill will have the worst luck unless they write on 10 other bills. Good luck.” After that, she closes with “good luck.” Seriously?


A lot of graffiti money has stamped messages. I find this one especially interesting.


Then there’s “Where’s George.” I have several of these bills, either stamped or handwritten with www.wheresgeorge.com. If you receive a bill marked this way, you can go to the Where’s George website, enter the bill’s serial number, and see where the bill has traveled. I checked out the bill below. It was printed in 1999 and was first registered in wheresgeorge.com in Grover Beach, California, about 160 miles from where I obtained it in Pasadena, California, probably in 2000 when I retired it to my collection.


The $20 bill below seems to be another example of an attempt to track money, this time by noting what the bill paid for. Looks like someone used it to buy pizza on 12/28/2000. I have no clue what I bought that put the $20 in my hands.


Here’s another favorite from my collection and an example of a “Love Declaration.” This is sweet. Two shy souls coming together on a dollar bill. If you look closely, there’s another Shygirl in pencil on top of George Washington’s head which makes me think that this treasure is the work of Shygirl. I wonder if their relationship lasted as long as this dollar bill has in my file folder or even if there was a relationship. Maybe it was Shygirl’s wishful thinking.


Finally, I call this category, “Call Me Maybe.” In the texting era, this type of communication has certainly gone the way of the buggy whip or even Whip ‘n Chill. I miss Whip ‘n Chill. Still, there’s something hopeful about putting your contact info (note: no email addy below) on a document that likely won’t end up in the garbage. Do you think he called her? I doubt it given that the bill ended up back in circulation. George’s orange shirt is lovely touch.


Hope you enjoyed this look into one of my hobbies. If you collect graffiti money or happen to find some, let me know! You might also enjoy my new mystery, The Night Visitor, that’s just out. It’ll only set you back a few bucks!


WHAT IS THE STRANGEST THING YOU'VE EVER FOUND? Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a a copy of THE NIGHT VISITOR (U.S. entrants only, please.)



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