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The Sirens of Suspense




Craig Faustus Buck is a novelist and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. He has also been a journalist, a photographer, a nonfiction book author, a writer-producer for network television, a multi-award nominated short-story writer and a professional limerick writer. His short story, "Honeymoon Sweet," was an Anthony Award nominee.

His novella "Psycho Logic" was published by Stark Raving Press in 2014. It is the continuation of his short story "Dead End," which was an Anthony nominee as well. His debut novel, the noir mystery "Go Down Hard", was published by Brash Books in 2015. Before that it earned First Runner Up at Killer Nashville for the Claymore Award. currently working on his third book.


Find Craig on Twitter and Facebook.



What enter and exit points and what trajectory would be required for a bullet to pass through a man's skull and rob him of his sense of smell without killing him? We crime writers often spend hours researching such details to portray our crimes. But what about the minor details we sprinkle throughout our stories to enrich the ambiance, open up a long string of dialogue, inject humor, give color to a character or enliven a setting? The smell of a bakery. The color of a coat. The sounds of a subway platform. They're all choices we often make in passing, without giving them much thought. Or so it seemed to me until my eyes were opened by a recent query from a woman who writes a column for a dental journal, of all things.

The columnist was collecting dental references in novels and a mutual writer friend had told her about two such references in my novella Psycho Logic, which was published last year. I had no recollection of these references and assumed she was mistaken, but she produced citations. Our mutual friend's memory was clearly better than mine (no great feat).

When the columnist asked me about these dentalisms, my first inclination was to attribute the choices to chance. But after some thought I was surprised at how misguided that inclination turned out to be. Here is her first question:

1. On P. 36:  "But then he fell in love with that dental hygienist. Summer had no choice but to follow him everywhere just to keep him away from the bitch. And when that didn’t work, she’d had to run them off the road. Unfortunately, the tooth slut hadn’t died, but she did dump Ronnie."

Why have him fall in love with a hygienist? Thank you for that. I loved the tooth slut part. [Yes, she really said that].

I hadn't given any thought to this relationship until the columnist asked. It had seemed to be a throwaway line in passing. But on reflection I remembered something that had not occurred to me when I had written it.

When I was about twelve and just discovering girls, I had a crush on my hygienist. Not that I was into pain or other masochistic joys, but that was in the day when hygienists wore no protective glasses or face masks, and she was an attractive young woman with the sort of hypnotic eyes that could singe a boy's heart. Being saddled to the chair, unable to move my head, I was forced to stare into those pools of passion for what seemed like hours. Naturally, as pubescent boys are wont to do, I fantasized about her.

This unrequited attraction was one I hadn't thought about for decades, but in dredging it up I realized my ostensibly random choice of a home-wrecker was anything but random. While I'm no longer the letch I was as a teen (I'm now a completely different sort of letch), I still harbor some bizarre residual attraction to hygienists, as torturous as their ministrations may be. Thus, when I needed someone sexy to lure my stalker's boyfriend away, a hygienist rose to the surface of the viscous muck of my unconscious.

On a more cognizant level, I figured having a character run off with a hygienist would, frankly, be funnier and more original than, say, the standard cliché of running off with a secretary.

The dental columnist's second question was:

2. On P. 30: "'Then I’m falling through the air, and I’m surrounded by these giant teeth, like garbage-truck-sized molars,' she said in her sweet Southern accent. 'And I start screaming because I’m afraid of hitting the ground but there is no ground, only more air and more teeth and then I wake up and my alarm is going off so I get up and take a lovely warm shower, though it is a pain since I grew my hair.'"

Why the tooth dream?

This also took me back. In college I was struck by a letter to Sigmund Freud, penned in 1914 by his associate Sandor Ferenczi. According to Ferenczi, "A patient who has already been cured of impotence, who now has to live in abstinence owing to gonorrhea, delivered to me an important contribution to the regression of the genital to the oral. He has since often been preoccupied with his teeth; he constantly has to bite or gnash his teeth. I now think that even biting makes a libidinal contribution to the genital (see the analogy of rhythm while biting and during coitus), and that tooth symbolism finds its last source therein."

Though I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning, Firenczi's absurd logic stuck with me all these years. A cured impotence dive-bombed by gonorrhea? The drumbeat of biting during coitus? This stuff is custom tailored for noir. So it came as no surprise that when I needed a noir dream, Ferenczi's musings resurfaced. A dream was born.

Until Les Klinger writes The Annotated Craig Faustus Buck, I'll never know whether these invisible conduits to my unconscious make the reader's experience any better or worse. But the more attention I give to them, the more I'm convinced they can offer veins of writing gold. So the moral of this story is: do sweat the small stuff. Maybe it's therapeutic. Or maybe it personalizes your voice. But you're fooling yourself if you think your minor details are all random. The Devil's in the details for a reason.




HAS A STRANGE OR RANDOM FACT STUCK WITH YOU? Tell us or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of GO DOWN HARD! (U.S. only please.)



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