A real life horror story was the genesis for Blow Up the Roses, a dark suspense thriller published by the small DC area press, Curiosity Quills. I was the managing editor of The Olathe Daily News, a mid-sized paper in a suburb to Kansas City. A family lived in a house that had one of those walk-in basements from the back yard and that is where the two teenage daughters and young son slept. The parents woke one morning to a horrific scene. One daughter was dead the son had been bludgeoned and was unconscious. The older of the teen daughters was missing.
That second daughter turned up dead a few days later. Body found near a lake inside the borders of the city.
No suspect. Evidently the killer was just trying siding glass doors and found that one unlocked. The town was in the grip of a real terror of knowing a monster was in their midst.
Covering the story became difficult. The autopsy on the older teen found that she was pregnant. Should we report that fact or not? In the end, we came down on the side of yes, reasoning that that information known to the public might trigger a recognition that could lead to the killer. The family was not pleased.
The further complication for me was that the family left the house where the crimes occurred and moved into a duplex on a cul d’sac. The same cul d’sac where I had my duplex. Sometimes we would see each other when I drove to work. There were no friendly waves.
The suspect was finally caught and it became evident the police botched their investigation in the early stages. A bond bailsman had tipped them off to look at one of his clients. They didn’t follow up.
I think that event entered a deep part of my psyche and I began to postulate a situation in which a number of bizarre and deadly events occurred on one cul d’sac.
As a fiction writer, I’m a pantster. I have never known the end of a book when I start it. I always felt knowing the end was a fraud upon the reader. Characters should discover their own ends. Outlining never worked for me. In Blow Up the Roses, I didn’t know why Mr. Keene deserted Mrs. Keene. I didn’t know the horrible truth about Mr. Brown, who rented the other side of the duplex from the Keenes. I didn’t know why Mr. Califano had this recurring nightmare of a rose garden blowing up around him. I didn’t know why I didn’t trust Mr. Griswald and his Amway sales program.
When I found out what Mr. Brown was doing in his basement, I almost stopped writing the book. But sometimes characters demand their lives be put on paper. And sometimes it is far easier to create characters than destroy them — until they destroy themselves.
The horror was that these characters had come from inside myself.
Randy Attwood short bio
Randy Attwood grew up on the grounds of a Kansas insane asylum where his father was a dentist and the State provided housing on the grounds. He attended The University of Kansas during the troubled 1960s, getting a degree in art history. After stints writing and teaching in Italy and Japan, he had a 16-year career in newspapers as reporter, editor, and column writer, winning major awards in all categories. He turned to health care public relations and served as director of University Relations at The University of Kansas Medical Center. Attwood finished his career as media relations officer of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Now retired, he lives in Kansas City and pursues publishing his works of fiction and creating new ones. He has six novels and two collections of shorter works available in paperback and 18 works available as ebooks. His publisher, Curiosity Quills, will release Tortured Truths the first of a mystery/suspense series, October 22 and the second, Heart Chants, on Dec. 20.