The Compleat Kepler: Just Like Suicide

cover-smallerJust Like Suicide

After I wrote the first three Kepler shorts, I needed a means to come up with more short stories. There is an old writer’s trick of using song titles, place names, works of art, etc. to generate a story idea. I decided to pick a song off every studio album by the band Deep Purple.

“What a minute. ‘Just Like Suicide’ is a Soundgarden song.”

Well, actually, the Soundgarden song is called “Like Suicide.” The title actually comes from the chorus. But I’ll get to that in a moment. I went in order of Deep Purple’s albums, starting with 1969’s Shades of Deep Purple, with their cover of Billy Joe Royal’s “Hush.” Why would a Nick Kepler story be called “Hush”?

These are crime stories, so “Hush” might refer to hush money. What is is someone wants Nick to hush about? What if a client asked to find someone, and Kepler discovered, too late, that the job was a setup for murder? That worked. Who’s hushing him up? How about the dying (if not dead at that point, 2001 or so) Cleveland Mafia family? Naturally, they wouldn’t communicate with him directly. They would use their lawyer. I remembered California Congressman Bob Dornan, the ultraconservative fiery-haired (and fiery tempered) representative from Orange County. Dornan had a flair for the dramatic. And the offensive. I modeled my mob lawyer on him, only I made him about 5-foot-2″. That turned lawyer Virgil Pescik into what Kepler describes as “a mad, grinning gnome.”

Nick, of course, wants nothing to do with the mob, something he fails miserably at in Second Hand Goods. The hit, however, has just enough evidence to implicate Kepler. I didn’t want to have Kepler’s buddy Frank Windsor (whom I hadn’t used in a story yet) to suspect him. So I came up with Bertkowski, Windsor’s obnoxious, mob-obsessed partner. Bertkowski sees an in to crack a major organized crime case. Never mind that Bertkowski is a city homicide cops. He sees himself as Eliot Ness (who once was Cleveland’s safety director). Bertkowski applies the right amount of pressure to Kepler to get him to smoke out the real killers. This leads to a showdown at Cleveland’s Edgewater Park near the abandoned fishing piers.

By the time I finished the story, the title “Hush” no longer worked. Since the hit was made to look like a suicide, I took the Soundgarden title instead. This would happen with later stories, such as “Full Moon Boogie,” “Cold Coked,” and “Roofies.”

Plots With Guns took this one, my second story with them. It had guns all right, including Kepler disarming Pescik only to discover the gun was a rusty Saturday night special.

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