Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Guest Post: A Quick Note About Ransom Notes by Peter DiChellis

It has been awhile, but SMFS member Peter DiChellis is back today with some thoughts about ransom notes in this technological age…..

A Quick Note About Ransom Notes by Peter DiChellis

Mystery writers scrutinize every angle of all types of dastardly crimes to research their stories. And after giving it a little thought (some might say too little), I’ve decided composing the ransom note would be the toughest part of a kidnapping.

You know the notes I mean: pUT tHe MOney iN a PLaiN Paper baG

Think about this from the average kidnapper's perspective: You create ransom notes like those by cutting up magazines and pasting different letters together. I suppose this prevents linking your handwriting or printer to the crime, but who has magazines lying around the house any more? So now you’ve got to make a special trip to a newsstand? And then what? You flip through every magazine in the place to see which ones have the letters you need? Seriously?

And after you buy magazines with all of the right letters in them, you still need glue. Who the hell has glue? Not the newsstand, right? So now you need to hump down to the drugstore for glue? (Fine, maybe you could have bought the magazines at the drugstore too, but who knew?)

Okay, let’s say you’ve already got scissors at home and a sheet of paper to glue the letters onto. You still have to flip through the magazines again, cut out the letters you need, and glue them onto the paper.

Sound easy? No way! First off, there’s no spell-check or auto-correct, so you’re on your own to get the spelling right. And what if some of the letters are so big there’s not enough room when you get to the end of a line? Now you’ve got to dig through the magazines again to find a hyphen? And don’t get me started on other punctuation! What if you need a semi-colon or an accent aigu? What kind of magazines do you buy to find those?
Also, if you’ve got any taste at all you have to consider how different letters’ fonts and colors will look together. Otherwise, the note becomes a disjointed eyesore and an FBI profiler will construct a really embarrassing evaluation of you: “The unsub is probably a sloppy, colorblind loser who has an unhealthy obsession with grammar and composition, knows nothing about desktop publishing, hangs around in newsstands, and has fingers covered with glue residue.” Not exactly flattering.

Sure, the movies want you to think picking up the ransom money is the toughest part of a kidnapping because the cops can stake out the pick-up spot. But think about this: The people who make movies have assistants who can put together the ransom notes for them. Ordinary kidnappers need to do it themselves.


Finally, I’m happy to announce two new stories. My double-twist crime story “Eternal Love” starts with a ransom note and ends with a tragedy. The story appears in LA-based noir standout Switchblade: Issue 4, available at discerning Los Angeles-area bookstores and on Amazon too. And my humorous mystery yarn “Listen Up” is the cover story and free to read in the new issue of Derringer rockin’ online ‘zine Flash Bang Mysteries.

Peter DiChellis ©2018

Peter DiChellis concocts sinister and sometimes comedic tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. He is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at


jrlindermuth said...

Good stuff, Peter. Sounds like the ransom would be small payment for all the work the poor kidnapper had to do.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I don't know. I still get magazines delivered by mail.

Peter DiChellis said...

Thanks for commenting, Jack and Kevin. BTW, I think most SMFS members are aware of Flash Bang Mysteries, but Switchblade is a relatively new and excellent paying flash market as well

Peter DiChellis said...

Ooops! Need to correct myself: Switchblade publishes shorts and flash. Pays $10 plus a print copy. An up-and-coming dark crime market and a great read.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

As it happens while I am sitting here at UTD with my son who has another class, I am working on my review of the first issue of switchblade. Hope to have it up in a few days.

Kaye George said...

Love this! Thanks for the hilarious post, and congrats on the stories.

Peter DiChellis said...

Thank you, Kaye!

I hope your review helps spread the word about Switchblade, Kevin. Definitely a crime market to watch.

Earl Staggs said...

Thanks for the tips, Peter. My next kidnapping will go a whole lot better now.

Peter DiChellis said...

Thank you for the comment, Earl. Just saw it today!