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Anne Louise Bannon on Life With a Mystery Writer

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Old Los Angeles series and the Operation Quickline series. You can find out more about her on her website, or by clicking here, see her last post here, and buy her books here.

My husband, Michael, is both amused and appalled by my body count. I know he’s amused because when he’s asked what his wife does for a living, he replies, “Oh, she kills people.” And I can see why he’s appalled. Most guys, when they come home from work, aren’t usually regaled with which character bit the dust that day.

“How was your day, Honey?”

“I killed Ordonez!” I squealed. “It was a sympathetic death. And I wiped out a whole family from cholera.”

Hey, I write a series set in the Nineteenth Century. They were dropping like flies.

Benzi kitty on my desk

Michael will sometimes joke that he lives in fear for his life, and I point out that he’s the safest human on the planet because I’m such an obvious suspect.

“But I’d still be dead,” he’ll reply.

He fails to note that the whole point of murder mystery is that the killer doesn’t get away with the deed.

In most households, when one spouse sets, say, clean dishes on a dirty surface, and the other spouse objects, there are usually cross words spoken. In our household, my husband gets Locard’s Principle thrown at him. Locard’s Principle – every contact leaves a trace – is what most crime scene investigation is based on.

I wasn’t quite as bloodthirsty when we got married. I was a newly-minted journalist focused on profiles, theatre and television reviews, and whatever other stories I could score. Michael knew I liked to read and write murder mysteries and knew that I had written a few. But I wasn’t quite as focused on that part of my career as I am now.

But late in 2014, that changed. Michael and I had been married nineteen years, and since the non-fiction part of my writing was fizzling, I decided it was time to focus on my first love. Writing mysteries. It wasn’t so bad, at first. What I think really got him was his lecture on the zanja system in Los Angeles.

Michael is the archivist for the City of Los Angeles – all the city government records are in his care. And from the Mexican era all the way to the early Twentieth Century (when Mullholland raped the Owens Valley), the city was irrigated with a bunch of ditches, or zanjas. Zanja is Spanish for ditch. The people in the city had to subscribe every month. In his talk, Michael told about how you’d go to the Zanjero (water overseer) at the end of the month, go back to the office the day after for your receipt. Then the Zanjero’s men would come out and open the sluice gate into your zanja. Michael, being an expressive public speaker, told how the water would rush in, and…

Come on. I write murder mysteries. Of course, I was thinking what a great time for the stiff to show up. Which eventually became Death of the Zanjero, book #1 in the Old Los Angeles series. Michael was non-plussed to say the least. After all, I had just dumped a stiff into the middle of his lovely lecture. But he got me started on my research, anyway, and has been enormously helpful.

Of late, he’s been hearing endlessly about cyber crime, thanks to my latest release, Running Away to Boston, which is a tech thriller. This, by the way, has worked in his favor. He’s now safer online than he was before. So it’s not all stiffs all the time in our household. Just often enough that he can say that his wife kills people for a living.

Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Loved this post, Anne! My husband and the wife of one of my author colleagues have long said that writers’ spouses need a support group. And I believe mystery writers’ spouse do especially!

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      I’ll have to put him in touch with my husband, who says the same thing.

  2. Avatar

    Yours is a great marriage! I can tell because you spend a lot of time laughing!

  3. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Very cute post. When I’m with writer friends in a restaurant or setting where people are listening in, we do have to be careful sometimes because we’re plotting knocking off people and such. Dead people with the soup or salad course doesn’t go over well with some. At home, we love the jokes about what we do.

  4. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    HAH – no matter how the deed is done, you are still someone who imagines how to get away with murder! Make sure your husband knows that you’d never axe a worthwhile source of information, so he should continue researching Old Los Angeles!

  5. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Anne, I loved your creative, amusing post! As a children’s mystery author, I can’t kill off characters in front of kids. The dead bodies in my books have already been carted away before page one. But they linger, usually tied in with why the detectives are hired for a case. Murder, soft-pedaled!

  6. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    A perfect reflection of your personality and humor. How fortunate you are to have a supportive spouse who is cool with the rising death count.

    1. Avatar
      Mike Holland

      We’re pretty casual about the body count around here. The only ones who complain are the chickens that I keep for eggs. I have to remind them when I’m grilling some poultry “Relax – It’s nobody you know”

      1. Tracey Phillips
        Tracey Phillips

        How funny, Mike! I know several people who raise chickens, and I wondered how that worked!

        And about that support group for husbands of crime writers . . . I know a guy-

  7. joyribar

    I love your writing style and how you describe interactions with your wary husband. I read Death of the Zanjero and learned so much. I’m sure your research is a boon to your marriage. Can’t wait to pick up Running Away to Boston.

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      It’s true that Michael and I have a few “routines” that we do. Thank you for the kind words.

  8. Avatar
    Jacqueline Vick

    That is hysterical. And I would love to hear one of your husband’s lectures. It sounds fascinating. (As does the body that comes through the sluice gate.)

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      Check out the Los Angeles Historical Society website. They’ve got several videos of him moderating and doing some lectures.

  9. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    How wonderful to have such extensive files so accessible! What a fascinating era. And I would like to plug Running Away to Boston – non-stop action!

  10. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    Hilarious! Happy wife, happy life…keep on killing it!

  11. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Anne, I love your sense of humor! It shows up in your fiction writing, too. The light moments make your work shine. And probably help your marriage! Sigh, too bad I write dark psychological suspense. I think that’s why my Mike would benefit from a support group. He can’t always tell if I’m joking, or seriously deranged!

    And I’ll plug Running Away to Boston, too. Fab!

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