So what's Oh! Murder all about?
The ultimate swear word becomes a mystery writing project.
The origin of “Oh! Murder”
My grandmother Esther was a painter, political activist, and product of great-depression-era values. My father once confronted her for wearing “a bit too much perfume” after she’d descended the stairs a second morning while visiting, a cloud of scent hovering around her like Pigpen from the Peanuts comics.
“Isn’t it awful?” she asked. “I’m trying to use it up.”
Beyond these fascinating tendencies, one consistent memory stays with me throughout the years since her death.
When something went wrong, her swear word of choice was “Oh! MURDER.”
This usually involved trying to eat nuts. Upon scooping up a small handful and nibbling on a few peanuts, she’d start to suck one into her lung, and begin coughing wildly, proclaiming “Oh! Murder” until it was dislodged.
Given that she enjoyed painting landscape, my grandmother enjoyed sketching outdoors enormously.
However, given her knee-jerk choice of swear word and the intensity I see in the top photograph, I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps sketching wasn’t the ideal cover activity for being on a stakeout?
I’ve always loved mysteries, and read them ever since I chewed through any book with a puzzle or, as I got older, crime, and finally murder.
Having written book-length fiction and nonfiction, a murder mystery was always the challenge hovering at the end of my mind.
The Pen Name
Having written fiction and nonfiction under my own name, the possibility of using a pen name to write a mystery series was quite appealing. I plan to put these books out independently and want them to have their own reality.
So what name to write under?
In 2016, when I got married, I opted to keep my name. When we moved to Germany in 2018, something very funny began to happen to my husband’s last name. Many names that are quite common in the US, UK, Ireland and Canada as well as other English-speaking countries truly flummoxed the Germans.
When we first opened a bank account, we filled out all the forms (of which there are an unreal number) and waited for our cards to arrive.
A few weeks later and envelope appeared in our mailbox and I tore it open for our first method of payment in Berlin. There were two cards inside. Mine looked ok, but his? His was a bit weird.
“Hmm,” I said.
My husband reached out and took the envelope from me.
“Ohhhh,” he said.
Instead of “Barry McWilliams” he was now a DJ:
Barry MC Williams.
This continued with his visa, residence card, and eventually, our doorbell.
Several years later, as I pondered the idea of a pen name, I shot up in bed and started laughing hysterically.
“What is up with you?” he asked.
“M.C. Williams!” I said.
“What about it?”
“My mystery pen name - it’s M.C. Williams.”
And so… the game is afoot.
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