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Humankind has been lucky.
The effective means for an undiscovered, perfect murder is illusive. The bottomless fear of discovery has kept most of us from the real life dastardly deed. But what about authors who need to craft a believable plot?
Help in planning a poisoning is on the way for mystery writers with this handbook. Those who kill 'fictionally' will find this book a valuable resource.
Poisons have been part of man's life, or to be more precise, death, for eons. It seems man has had the ability to kill and has no compunction not to do so, especially to his own kind.
For centuries man has bludgeoned, stabbed, shot, drowned, choked and used other nefarious means to kill. Some time ago, in the dark reaches of history, man discovered that certain plants and other things were not good to ingest and would kill the person who did so. Most likely this was by trial and error. Persons who held the knowledge of the first poisons were regarded with both fear and respect.
Poisons, over time, became the choice of women, academia and spies. Some of the first recorded uses of poisons were by the Romans, at about the time of Christ. Much of the empirical knowledge came about during the late dark ages and the Renaissance, thanks to the Popes and Princes.
This became the basis for modern pharmacology. Drugs such as digitalis, atropine and others owe their existence to the scientific investigation of plant preparations used to kill humans and animals. For example, in 1805 Bernard Serturner isolated morphine from opium. In 1815 one of the first books on toxicology was penned by M.J.B. Orfila, Traite des Poisons onToxicologie General. Poisoning was raised to a fine art in the 1800's and the use of poisons has been found in every culture around the globe. Today the use of poison is still an excellent means of dispatching a person into the afterlife.
For the purposes of this book for writers, we will define a poison as any substance that if taken by a human it will make them extremely ill or kill them. And for the record, all chemicals and all drugs are poisons. The only thing that makes some substances more poisonous than others is the amount required to achieve the specific results--poisoning is dose related.
The ability of a substance to kill a particular person depends on the amount given in relation to their sex, body weight, amount of body fat, and their own sensitivity to the poisonous substance. For example, the amount of cyanide required to make the average man sick may have no effect on another--such as the author of this book. A doctor weighs you when you go to his office because drug doses are based on milligrams of the drug per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg or parts per million.) What may be fine for one person could make someone weighing less very ill, or kill them.
A book that covers all types of poisons would be the size of an encyclopedia, and is not needed by the mystery writer in search of a believable method for their criminal to dispatch their victim. This handbook will discuss poisons a 'normal' person could get with little or no trouble, and if done right (like not using a credit card to buy it) will leave little or no trace back to the murderer.
We will, with a few exceptions, not discuss drugs because you need a prescription to get the really good ones. We won't discuss most industrial chemicals except in broad terms, and with a few exceptions, because again there are too many to list, and you would most likely leave a trace back to the criminal. We'll talk about poisons your book's criminal could readily obtain in the United States without much trouble (we've omitted the numerous poisons available in other countries.)
Get ready to plan your perfect fictional murder by poison.
Posted May 29, 2010
David Ciambrone's Poisons Handbook for Writers is a clever guide to all sorts of poisons, both natural and manmade. It provides useful information for writers who are trying to decide on an interesting way to dispatch the victim in their new mystery novel. The 72 page volume includes a brief description of the poison, a chart with the amount of time various poisons take to kill, and some information on how much of the poison is necessary. Ciambrone also provides some limited information on symptoms the victim might experience for a few of the poisons. The main reason I liked this book is Ciambrone's quirky sense of humor sprinkled amongst the poisons.
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