Thursday, April 10, 2008

Show me the money, and it's mine

One of my many rewarding hobbies is imagining what I'd do if I found a large amount of money in a suitcase. It's also one of the most-used MacGuffins in crime fiction, but that's because it's so effective at driving characters. Think of "A Simple Plan," or, more recently "No Country For Old Men." While those two tales don't end particularly well, I'm sure I could handle a Samsonite full of Benjamins just fine. And no, none of my scenarios involve turning it over to the authorities.

First of all, this is cash in a suitcase, right? And it's just lying there. That suggests an illegitimate origin, and since it's illegitimate anyway, it might as well be mine. Such is the rigorous moral code here at Dave's Fiction Warehouse. Naturally, I'll take care not to leave my driver's license at the scene. And I will never, ever go back for any reason. If you're familiar with the two movies mentioned above, you'll appreciate why that is rule number one for those who discover a whole lot of crooked dough.

Rule number two: Tell no one. Rule number three: Don't spend any of it for at least a year. I'm still formulating the other rules, but basically I've got this all figured out. All I need now is to find the money.

Ever wonder what you'd do if you if you stumbled onto a great load of cash? Here's one guy who recently did. Poor sap. OK, if I had reason to believe the money was lost by a legitimate owner, I'd probably give it back. But I have a feeling I'd always be kicking myself for it.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, I guess the crime novel I've read most recently, Money Shot, by Christa Faust, is a kind of dystopian nightmare, then. Its MacGuffin is a briefcase full of money that disappears.

The crime novel I'm reading now, The Ice Harvest, is set in Wichita, and I think the author, Scott Phillips, may once have worked for the Eagle.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Dave Knadler said...

I liked Ice Harvest OK, but it could have been set anywhere. You don't get any feeling for the Midwest in general or Wichita in particular. Same goes for the John Cusack movie: no sense of place.

Some would say that's because there is no geographic personality out here, but I disagree. It's certainly not as distinct as Philadelphia, say, or Seattle, but the sky and the flatness impart a certain quality. Particularly during tornado season.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Interesting comment. The movie's setting leaves little place for geographic personality to come through, at least not until the final scene, when Charlie and Oliver Platt's character are fleeing. The first seventy or so pages of the book are similar. Everything happens indoors or during short drives between one bar or strip club and another. Maybe the movie's final, wind-swept scene is meant to make up for that in some way. I don't know what the novel's counterpart of that scene is; I'm still 150 or 200 pages short.

Also, the book will describe a strip club or restaurant as set in the elbow of an L-shaped shopping mall or the like, and in one scene, the protagonist bangs on the door of Hardee's, frustrated that the lights are on but the place is closed. Maybe Scott Phillips is making the setting anonymous deliberately: chain fast-food restaurants, strip malls instead of old buildings, and so on. None of this will mean much to anyone who reads or watches with Wichita on his mind, of course.