When Polite Conversation Turns to Murder

italian_foodLast night I met up with friends at DeNicola’s, an old-style Italian restaurant that’s known for its hefty portions of spaghetti and meatballs, and cannelloni, and lasagna. My friend, L, who organizes this post-Christmas outing every year is from Brooklyn, New York, and I suspect that DeNicola’s reminds him of the Italian places from his youth.

We were 20 strong, bottles of red flowing, antipasti and bread up and down the table, taking our time. The fact that I’ve got a novel out came up with a travel agent I’d never met before. Which is fine, of course. I don’t like to go on and on about KILMOON, but I don’t mind answering questions either. I guess the novel is the most interesting thing about me these days, and that’s fine too.

A nice conversation, truly, but I wanted to ask the travel agent’s friend, S, about being a pharmacist. Think about it, pharmacists know us intimately. My pharmacist recognizes me when I come in, and he knows that I have a thyroid condition. He knows that I’m prone to depression. He knows when I’ve got something new going on and need pain meds (bad tooth earlier this year).

As things do when I get going, the conversation devolved from the niceties about S’s profession to me asking about drug addicts — how she deals with people who are trying to con the system for painkillers — which naturally led to murder. Seemed like a natural progression to me anyhow.

S was a font of information. I got so excited — as in clapping my hands excited — that I pulled out a pen and paper scrap. She had much to say about how you can kill people if you know about drug interactions. At first, the travel agent was taken aback by this turn in the conversation. Imagine it from her viewpoint: She’s just met a woman who seems perfectly sane and who write mysteries, who suddenly claps her hands like a kid and says, Oh my god, this so cool … Wait, wait, I need to write this down … What was that about grapefruit?

The men I sat between, R and G, didn’t bat their eyes. People who know me well don’t bat their eyes anymore. Most of the time, they laugh at me.

At one point, a woman sitting a few people away asked what we were talking about. R said, Oh, murder, in a tone that said, Oh, nothing much. Let’s just say the woman turned back to her other conversation pronto-like.

About then, R got me clapping my hands again. Apparently, he studied biology in a previous life, so he, too, knows all kinds of interesting ways to kill people. Double the excitement!

What a great dinner. And the food tasted good too even though I forgot to eat and packed half my meal in a doggy box.

It’s not like I only talk about murder. I’m a font of conversational topics not fit for polite company. You name it, and I’ll probably have no trouble diving in — religion, politics, sex, whatever. In fact, I get bored with civilized conversations, which is probably why you’ll rarely find me at classy cocktail parties. Yawn.

What about you? Do you shy away from the so-called taboo topics — or go for it (depending on the occasion)? And how does the current focus on political correctness factor in?

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5 thoughts on “When Polite Conversation Turns to Murder

  1. I try to be tactful about murder and mayhem when I’m not in my writing tribe, but if even one of my crew is at the table, all bets are off. Recently I went to two holiday parties in one day – one was the Sisters in Crime group, and one was my barn group. By the last group, I was laughing that, at SinC we discuss bodies and forensics over our lasagna and it’s okay, and at the barn party we shared stories of horse poop, all without batting an eye.

    1. Gayle, hi!! I’ve been meaning to continue a conversation with you from Bouchercon. There was something I was going to follow-up with you, wasn’t there? (That’s the problem with B’con — becomes blurry.)

      In any case, yes — I totally get that — all bets off if there’s even one person who’s interested. Granted, most of the folks at dinner were my tribe, so it was a-okay. (Not sure if I would have cared anyhow.)

      And horse poop? Yep. I get that too! I love horses, but since I have a dog, I talk dog poop with fellow owners — no biggie. I mean, tracking it is part of tracking their health, right?

  2. I tend to be low-key in conversation, but my stuff tends to be pretty basic in terms of method anyway (knives, suffocation, arsenic, the occasional pistol — I’m a traditionalist), so pharmacists are probably pretty safe from me.

    What I think about more is when I do research online. If somebody is watching, or checks back later on, and sees some of the things I’ve looked up on Wikipedia… šŸ™‚

    1. Anthony! I so hear you about the online research. I’m sure we appear to be raging psychopaths. Or just really really twisted. šŸ™‚ Either that, or a complete nitwit — for example, last week I looked up “A Very Brady Christmas.” Sad but true, hehe.

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