My first book, One Death at a Time, opens with Jack Strayhorn, Vampire Detective extraordinaire, standing over two dead bodies “like an angel of death.”
One is a woman and the other is a man. The man is dressed like Jack Kennedy -- reddish brown wig and a vintage suit from the sixties. The woman is dressed like Marilyn Monroe with a blond wig and the iconic white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch. They’ve both been shot through the head.
Jack quickly explains that the woman is his latest missing persons case.
This scene was the first I wrote for the book and it was a lot of fun to write. Not only did I get to sink Jack into his first crime scene and imagine all the gory details – brain matter splattered all over the bed; the smell of death and sex that Jack picks up; the sight of gloved technicians swarming around the room – but I also finally got to use one of the strangest LA dating tales I've ever heard.
Back in her single days, my sister went on a lot of dates with various and consistently odd characters. We lived together in an old apartment building in Hollywood at the time so I’d always get the post-date debriefings over coffee the next morning.
Most of the stories were typical LA nonsense – the actor who wanted her to ask him questions about his resume; the DVD “marketer” who turned out to be a porn distributor; the guy who tried to pick her up by throwing his number into her car window.
But every once in a while, she’d run across a true kook.
At a fundraiser in downtown LA, she met a local city assemblyman – a real young, up and coming politico. They hit it off and she agreed to go on a date with him.
And that’s when things got strange.
Because the very next thing that happened was that she got a call from his campaign manager who vetted her, asking her detailed questions about her past, current associates, anything about her that could spell scandal for the assemblyman.
She took all that in stride, went on the date and then went home with him after dinner for what she thought was an innocent post-dinner cocktail.
Instead of offering her a drink, the assemblyman came out of his closet with a familiar looking blonde wig and a white dress.
He asked her to put it on and play “Marilyn” to his “Jack Kennedy.”
She said no thanks, turned around and left.
When she told me this story the next morning, I cracked up and immediately went and wrote it down in my notebook. I knew it would come in handy one day.
And when I sat down to sift through all my ideas and characters for my first book, I couldn’t resist pulling this story out of the files. I knew I would have a special story to tell about Los Angeles through this character.
Only in Los Angeles could a small time politician have such cinematic delusions of grandeur and such a specific Hollywood power fetish. He saw women as props he could switch in and out of wardrobe changes in his various Kennedy and Hollywood fantasies.
This is why I love writing about my city – with so many hidden layers beneath its shiny surface, this place is a magnet for a special kind of crazy.
When I threw this guy into the supernatural world of Twelve Stakes, he immediately became a Fae: Matt Torres, superstar city councilman who uses his office for sex, drugs and power plays. He's obsessed with the Kennedys and he's the dead body next to Jack's missing persons case. And his death is the opening salvo in what turns out to be a battle for control of the supernatural world.
I have no idea who the assemblyman is – my sister’s kept her word and never revealed his name.
But wherever you are and whoever you are, distinguished gentleman, thank you for the rich material.