This week I have Fred Limberg with a heartfelt, beautiful post on the meaning of true friendship, and dealing with the loss of two cherished lives. This is a story you don’t want to miss.
I kill people for a living.
My name is Fred Limberg and I write thrillers and mysteries. In every book I’ve written to date, with the exception of a foray into the YA genre last year, I’ve been killing off bad guys, the occasional good guy or gal, unlucky bystanders, and innocent victims for six years—give or take.
I’ve shot ‘em, stabbed ‘em, garotted ‘em, run them over, set them afire, dropped them off cliffs, drowned them, drugged them—you name it—I’ve done it to ‘em.
Yeah, me and Death are old pals. Death is a BFF with pretty much anyone who writes in these genres, and more than an acquaintance with writers in other genres. You can count on Death to add sizzle and mystery to a story. Death will kick start your plot, rev up the action, and get your readers heart’s racing.
Death is the anchor of virtually every whodunit ever written and ever to be written. As a writer you use Death; you manipulate the circumstances, you glorify and goreify it, you tease with it and toy with it. Yeah, as a writer, you got Death working for you…got it in the palm of your hand. It’s putty. Death is clay. Death is what-if on steroids waiting for a plot twist.
Until it’s a real death…
This past month I’ve had to confront real death instead of writing about it.
First…my damn dog died. Actually, we had the poor old guy ‘put to sleep’ after a decade and a half of loyal friendship and service. It wasn’t preceded by a car chase, though there had been a few of them over the many years. There was no misadventure, though we enjoyed several episodes involving squirrels and raccoons and timid neighbor kids. He simply grew old.
Not much of a story in that. Nothing thrilling or heroic there. All Charlie did was help us raise two wonderful kids who are now having kids of their own. It was foretold just shy of fifteen years ago when he was born. Life and death. There are no surprise endings when it’s a real death.
I’ll never be able to write that story.
Then…my damn friend died. I’ve known Chad for thirty years. He was the son of my oldest and best friend. I’d known him since he was 10 years old, watched him struggle through his teens and twenties trying to figure out what he was supposed to be when he grew up. I took mental notes. It helped me be a better father than I might have been.
What he was supposed to be was a great guy, a loving husband…a doting father, proud to bursting of his two young sons and his family. He was a gentle giant—six foot way-bigger than me, 230 pounds, played with swords and martial arts—who was studying nursing so he could further his career with cutting edge heart-monitoring technology that was saving lives. He grew up to be all that and more.
Diagnosed with cancer in November, he died in August.
No mystery there—I saw the scans. Cancer is the yellow, orange, and scarlet blood-red of Doppler radar tornadoes. There was no basement to hide in.
Instead of a thriller it was more like a war story— an unrelenting Blitzkreig…the cancer advancing and invading, conquering organs and systems almost at will. And Chad—fighting back with at first conventional treatments and then more experimental and controversial tactics…never had a chance.
There was no mystery there, and the only suspense was the fervent hope we all hoarded for any sign of remission. There was no gunplay. The experienced swordsman never got to have it out with his formidable foe—fighting and slashing toe to toe with his cowardly enemy.
Chad was murdered by an assassin; the most heartless, ruthless assassin the world has ever known—Code name….Cancer.
That’s another story I’ll never be able to write.
Will real death and the memory of the incredible sadness I have felt recently make a difference in future stories…the mysteries and thrillers yet to come? I don’t think there’s any question that it will, although I have no idea how the sadness and hopelessness and feelings of loss and anger will manifest themselves.
All I know is…I will NEVER be able to write the dog story or chronicle the valiant young husband’s battle with terminal cancer.
I can’t see the screen through the tears.