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Posted on 2004-03-30 11:04:38 by Denver

The Crime Novelist
Last night i went on a date with a woman who writes crime thrillers. I got an email from her last week.

"My friend Wendy suggested I write you. I write crime thrillers. She said you were a writer and we might both have some things in common. I thought perhaps we could meet for a coffee or a drink sometime and discuss our writing." - T. Ellery

I replied that I could meet her for a coffee. I'm broke and I don't like to meet someone for drinks when I have no idea who they really are or or even what they look like. She insisted on meeting at the Coffee Shop on union square, which is not a coffee shop at all, it's an expensive bar/restaurant full of models and aspring celebrity fashionistas. But it was difficult to do anything about this; in my email response i had clearly expressed that i wanted to meet her for coffee, not buy her dinner at a trendy restaurant.
"The Coffee Shop is not a coffee shop." I said on the phone.
"Right." she said. Of course, she was the one who had asked me out to "discuss our writing". Maybe she was going to buy me dinner. She had, of course, initiated this whole thing at the behest of her friend Lori. Lori was one of my bosses at Citibank where I temped. I told Lori I would be happy to meet her friend; I am always flattered when people want me to meet their friends. Plus, what if she was gorgeous and she wrote like Alice Munro? I got excited just thinking about it.

"You're going to love her denver, she's getting her first book published by st. martins press and she's definitely got a faith in religion that you don't find in people our age." Lori waxed effusively about her for a week before we met.

I arrived at six thirty five pm with no real idea who I was meeting except for a brief self description she had given me the day before-

"I'm five foot eleven with dark brown hair. I usually always wear black."

The place was filled with obnoxiously beautiful people. I looked around - everyone was wearing black. It was dark. Every one was tall; models are usually tall. I scanned the crowd and then started to walk out of the restaurant. My cell phone rang.

"I see you walking out the front door. i'm in the back seated at that table in the hallway. I'm waving my hand."

I saw this hand waving in the back, through the silhouettes of the crowded bar. they had her seated at a small cocktail table in the hallway to the bathroom. i plunked down across from her.

"How are you?"

"Good. Yourself?"


She had her hand in front of her face. Two fingers bumping her nose and guarding her eyes. almost like she was playing with her hair but there was no contact with any hair. Brown hair shaped her cheekbones like the outline of the liberty bell. Her black clothes were loose and hid her figure which was folded into the designer seats that forced us to lean backwards into the proper lounging posture. Soft electronic afro dub music washed over us. A waitress came and took our order.

"I'll have an apple martini" she said. I ordered a pint of bass ale. Leaning forward to escape the posture of the chair I tried to get a closer look at her face. I realized my hands were speaking with hers, grasping at my chin, and I forced them to grip the table.
She'd been in the city six months, after five years in LA spent dissatisfactorily working for oliver stone and other hardball types in the film industry.

"How's that Oliver Stone?" I asked. "I hear he's a real maniac."

"He likes his booze" she said, adding "Jennifer Lopez is a real bitch."

I decided not to share my theory that J LO was becoming the Princess Diana of America or that I had a very fond memory of her waving at my taxi from the steps of the Metropolitan Museum while she was on a break shooting "Maid In Manhattan".

"How do you like the city?" she asked. I clicked on my speech about all of its dazzling ethnic and geographic diversity. How many times had I repeated those words? i felt like a travel agent for the outer boroughs of the big apple. Been to the Bollywood Cinema in Queens? Had real Jamaican food in Brooklyn? How about the Bronx Zoo? It's Amaaaaaaazzing! I finished with a bum, bump. bump. thud. The Bronx was not going to make it on to her weekend travel agenda anytime soon.
"What do you do for a living?" she wanted to know. I decided not to talk about scavenger hunting. or transcribing. or proofreading. or catering. or nude modeling. What to say? A little of this, a little of that, I said. Dating. I decided to say say something about that.
"Internet dating?" she asked with alarm. But then, suddenly, exasperated with my earlier answer to "what do you do for a living?" she blurted out-

"But what do you want to be doing in five years? what is your goal here?"

Suddenly she was acting like my old professor. Or an ex-girlfriend. Or the sharp migraine toned voice in my skull that woke me up every morning. I paused. I cocked my head.
"I, uh, what, uh, well, what, gee, what question do you want me to answer? I'm sorry, I was going down one track there, and uh, I,"

I was annoyed, surprised, confused. Like I was at a job interview. Oh, it was the marriage interview beginning...

"The dating!" she said impatiently, with a crime novelist's hunger for the true motivation of the act, "Just tell me about the dating!"
As I explained my internet dating philosophy she finally took her hands away from her eyes. she quickly confessed that she had once used "hurrydate".

"What is that?" I asked.

"It takes place at a restaurant. Twenty five different men come to your table for three minutes each. You can take notes on who you liked and look up their profile on the internet afterwards and send them an email if you're interested. You should do it." she said.

I didn't like the idea of three minute conversations.

"How do you know if you like someone in three minutes? I asked.

"I know if I like someone within one minute flat."


You should do it" she repeated. "You'd do well. You're smart and you're good looking. The women are much better looking than the men. The guys are cheesy. One of them tried to sell me a cadillac."

I thought about our conversation. I guessed this was all post-climactic chit chat for her. She already knew she wasn't attracted to me. Or at least she guessed that I probably wasn't very attracted to her.

The truth was, I wasn't sure, but she was probably sure that I wouldn't be talking about internet dating if I was attracted to her. That was probably a good bet. Still, I might be attracted to her and just want to see if she was open to talking about the concept of dating. I could tell by her body language however, that she was nervous, inhibited, tight, guarded, not someone who would be open to a discussion of sexuality and dating on the first date with someone who she was romantically interested in. Which was fine. Because I didn't think I was interested in her. Still, it bothered me that I was already out the door like the cadillac salesman. A couple of drinks and a sudden change in conversation, say, we both loved the comedy of the Marx Brothers, or we both were fascinated by the church of the latter day saints. i didn't want to preclude or make any hasty judgments. She asked me if i had a crush on her friend Lori. I switched the subject to her crime fiction. What was her newest project?
She told me it was a crime thriller set in Manhattan's alphabet city. She thought it had a lot of potential because it was such a destitute crime ridden neighborhood. I didn't object to her calling this gentrified lounge ridden neighborhood "crime ridden" because she'd only been here six months and I didn't know what kind of liberties crime novelists took with their geographical settings. I soon learned that she wasn't interested in theater. She liked television shows (Hawaii Five-O, Law and Order and CSI) thriller movies ("Taking Lives" starring Angelina Jolie) and thriller fiction- she wasn't interested in other kinds of literature or films.

"How do you research your novels?" I asked, "Do you go to the police stations and hang out with the detectives?"

"I don't really do that." she said. "I watch a lot of TV. I get a lot from Law and Order." (wow, I thought, maybe I could write one of these things, if I got an antenna or cable.)

"What is like, the common uh, characteristic of the crime thriller?" I asked, uncomfortable with my meager knowledge of the genre.

"There is always, always a dead body."

"I see," and I could remember the dead body of the museum curator in "The Da Vinci Code". Ah yes, it all made sense. You start with a dead body and you get the detectives from "Law and Order" working on the case straight away.

"Have you read this bestseller called 'The life of Pi?'" I asked. she shook her head. She definitely wasn't interested. I decided to plow ahead anyway. "It's about this guy who gets stuck on a raft in the pacific ocean with a tiger." I continued "and during the raft trip he examines his faith in buddhism, christianity, and islam.'

"I wouldn't be interested in that." she said with finality. I switched the subject again. She said she was a republican from dallas texas. She didn't like bush but she couldn't vote for Kerry because his policies were toooo liberal. (I immediately thought I should probe this to see if she even knew what his policies were, but alas, I wasn't able in the alloted time).

"I'm the only republican in new york city" she said half jokingly.

"I never get to talk to republicans," I said, "this is great."

"That John Edwards is the star of your party." she said. I wondered why she said this, because he was middle of the road? a southerner? a pretty face? a millionaire? the probable vice-president candidate who she had a crush on and who might swing her vote and cause her to doubt her conservative principles she'd had ingrained in her by her upper class right wing parents?

"My father..." she said and looked almost as if she was about to cry, "My father thinks Bush was right to invade Iraq even though they didn't have any WMDs. We got into a screaming match on the phone."

"Well, so you're really having doubts about ole W?" I asked.

"I can't stand the way he's treated the rest of the world." she said.(Clearly, these liberal media sources that mel gibson has been warning us about had been doing a number on her.) She described herself as a news junkie. CNN. Fox. I asked her what she thought about Supreme Court Justice Scalia failing to recuse himself from the sierra club's suit to get Cheyney to stop withholding the transcripts of his secret energy task force meetings with enron and all the other power and oil companies back in 2001 before they raped California by withholding electricity in order to drive prices through the roof. She said she hadn't heard about that. I changed the subject to religion. She said she was a christian and was interested in religion but she didn't go to see mel gibson's passion of the christ and didn't realize it was a badly researched completely incomplete re-telling of a historical episode where the jews and the romans were wholly misrepresented by the script. She didn't go to church and couldn't really explain what she was looking for in a church and she didn't read the old or new testaments. It was difficult to ascertain what she was actually interested in other than apple martinis (that sickeningly sweet cosmopolitan style drink i had to make for the ladies when I catered new jersey and long island weddings).

We spent an hour and a half together. We just kept sitting in that hallway. The waitress asked us if we wanted to move to a proper table.
"Nope" I said. I felt like i was waiting for the arrival of a plane that would take me away somewhere. Anywhere else would have been fine. People passed us going back and forth to the bathroom.

Finally, I asked for the check. Forty bucks for a couple of a couple of pints of beer and two apple martinis. I put it on my newest credit card.

"I don't know why I picked this place." she said.

"I'm glad you did." I replied, "Next time we write a crime thriller where a model gets murdered at her work place, we know exactly where to set it."
She smiled meekly. I walked her to the corner of 14th and Broadway and she turned and shook my hand.

"Thank you, I'm sure I'll see you again." said T Ellelry, crime novelist, as she turned and strode quickly away. She had a very firm handshake.
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