Friday, July 10, 2009

Writer in the rain.

How many times have you painted the scene with streetlights reflected on rain-slicked asphalt as a killer stalks a young couple who walk ahead, close beneath an umbrella, completely unaware that death is near.

Well, as it turns out, the chances of our couple actually making it home are pretty good. Why? Because killers, strangely enough, like to stay home where it's warm and dry, too. Who knew?

According to this story in the New York Times, when it rains, fewer people drop.

(For a totally cool interactive map of homicides in NYC, check this out.)

Back to the cold, stiff, numbers: When the weather's dry, there's an average of 17 people every 10 days who will miss the next episode of So You Think You Can Dance. When it rains an inch or more, 3 of those people get to go home without getting stuck or shot.

As that noted hard guy Elton John tells us, Saturday night's alright for fighting. And it shows in the numbers. In the summer, over the average 10 dry Saturdays, 24 people won't be singing in the Baptist choir the next day. But when it rains, the number of those who go toes up before dawn drops to 18.

Of course, there's always somebody at the party who thinks they know better. In this case, it's Ellen G. Cohn, a professor at Florida International University. Apparently she's studied the effects of weather on crime for more than two decades, suggesting where she spends her Saturday nights.

She told the Times that rainfall was not a good predictor of someone busting a cap in another person's ass, or words to that effect. But then she lives in Florida where it rains all the damn time so, if you want to get your homicide on, you have to adapt.

Back to the Apple. Vernon J. Geberth, a former homicide cop in the Bronx said, “In good weather, there are more people out on the stoops. Somebody bad-eyeing somebody else, and the next thing you know, you have been dissed.”

“It doesn’t take much to get ‘deaded’ in certain neighborhoods," he said. "All you got to do is look sideways at the wrong people, and bingo, something gets set off and it’s crazy.”

But, said our buzz-killer Cohn, murders are rarely between strangers and rain isn't likely to deter that housewife testing the edge of a blade while eyeing her husband's neck. Those homicides usually happens indoors, away from the neighbors.

Steven Messner, a criminology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, agreed with our Florida contrarian. He said, “People adjust to climate. They get umbrellas, they go out. Humans are adaptable.”

Which pretty much proves my point about Florida.

Still want to stage your homicide in the rain? Think about this: Rain washes away evidence, making your murder harder to solve.

“I remember standing out in the middle of a rainstorm with a body in the middle of the street, trying to work out what happened,” Geberth said. “Depending on how hard it is raining, we are losing stuff. We are losing bodily fluids. We are losing shell casings. That exchange of material from touch DNA to hair fibers is dissipated by the elements.”

Something to think about when you're writing a crime novel.

As interesting as this story is, my favorite part is the dialogue from the cops.

“It doesn’t take much to get ‘deaded’ in certain neighborhoods."

Here's another that if I read it in a novel I'd say, "Oh, yeah, now that's a great line."

“Everybody’s out partying, people start drinking, old beefs pop up, and people get their beer muscles out and start fighting.”

Beer muscles. Goddamn, I am so going to steal that.

1 comment:

Joe Saundercook said...

Those are great lines, and, yes, I will consider the impact of weather on residual evidence when I plan my next... uh... novel.

My favorite visual is the last photo. What are the two guys on the bridge saying?
"Looks like McTavish got hisself deaded."