Last week I found myself perched on a typical Hollywood Hills neighborhood overlooking both a slice of the 101 as well as the panorama of Los Angeles framed by the green hills of a canyon. My daughter was with me (15) and I’d warned her that at least one day was going to be “Weird Hollywood Day,” so I could get in some research on my mystery set in Hollywood.

Little did she know.marilynmonroe

I dragged her from one vintage bungalow court to another, up and down Beachwood Canyon and its backroads, and challenged her nerves making a 100 point at the end of a skinny alley behind the Sowden House where one character takes a nosedive into the courtyard. However, the part of the day that strained her patience the most was no doubt our forays into two Hollywood cemeteries.

Cemeteries play a role in my book, a fairly juicy one. I’d been to one in LA on a prior trip, to visit the grave of a silent movie star I was thinking of putting in the book (I wanted to assure him I’d treat him with respect). This time, however, I was there to case the joint. Graverobbing, for better or worse, will have a definite presence in my book–but think more along the lines of the gravediggers of Hamlet than Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Is it weird I got really excited when I saw that there were some shed windows (from a studio backlot, no less) a person could crawl through to get into one of the cemeteries? Or that I pondered for hours afterward how I could get a body through them?  Or that the columbariums were eerily beautiful? Or that I wondered if Marilyn Monroe and Burt Lancaster ever chatted across the garden in the afterlife, and is there any way I could somehow squeeze that into my book?

How dark does dark humor get? I did spare my kid (and myself) from the Museum of Death–grisly is not what I’m after. When I walked through the soft green grass of the graveyards I did not rush. I took great care to tread carefully between resting places, no matter whose. Still…there are days I wonder just how dark my humor will get.



2 thoughts on “Researching the Murder Mystery: Casing Cemeteries

  1. I love the idea of researching in cemeteries for many different projects. I look forward to more “grave-digging”, Deb!

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