Murder Mystery Settings
Places have voices, just like authors do. Places have texture, flavor, smells, and that elusive quality of “feel.” For Erin Hart, it’s the bogland of Ireland. For G. M. Mailliet, it’s the English village, embodied in her fictional town of Nether Monkslip. For Cara Black, it’s Paris. Come to think of it, we should all have at least one book set in Paris. The tax write-off alone would be worth it.
As for me, I seemed to have fastened onto the Hollywood sign as my icon. See? It’s right there on the header. No, I don’t live there, but every time I’ve been to LA in the past few years, I make a point to go there, and when I can, to rent in the neighborhood just below the sign, which is its own village within the Hollywood Hills specifically and LA generally. There are other villages within LA. You could even say that LA is at its best when you are intimately involved in one or another of its villages.
My enchantment with this particular place began when I read that the iconic “HOLLYWOOD” sign used to read “HOLLYWOODLAND” and signified one of the early subdivisions that was meant to beckon the newly minted wealthy of the nascent movie industry. From there, I gobbled up the stories: Humphrey Bogart’s house in the storybook style, Bugsy Siegel’s illegal casino at Castillo del Lago (whose other famous resident, Madonna, outraged neighbors by painting a retaining wall in blaring crimson and yellow stripes), the Garden of Oz, and not least the story of Peg Entwistle’s tragic suicide by jumping off the letter H in 1932, the sets of “secret” stairs dotting the neighborhood. That’s only the surface, the history that’s easy to find. (As are the stories of many residents’ frustrations with sightseers and the ongoing battle to prevent the additional traffic from clogging the already narrow streets.)
There’s still some wild immediately behind where people live, acres of hills and peaks where coyotes and mountain lions still roam. Wild and urbane? Coyotes on secret stairs? A neighborhood full of eccentric people, the famous, the infamous and the reclusive? It’s writer manna.
Where is “your” place? Why?