Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The best case scenario ends in a jail cell… the worst in a body bag - Washed Hands by Jonathan Charles Bruce

Published: October 14th, 2014 


Breaking up can be one of the hardest things a person can do, something that the dedicated team at Washed Hands, Inc. thoroughly understands. Whether one’s soon-to-be-ex is manipulative, violent, or anything else that makes a clean break difficult, the company’s rejection counselors ensure that the split is established and maintained in no uncertain terms. And in the toughest cases, no one’s better at this than Monica Deimos.

Brought in on what appeared to be a relatively straight-forward domestic nightmare, Monica realizes all-too-late that she has been set up to take the fall for the murder of a wealthy socialite. 

As the police close in, Monica needs to discover who she can trust, who wants her out of the way, and why she was framed.

She’s no fool, though. The best case scenario ends in a jail cell… the worst in a body bag.


I’ve pretty much always had an inkling for storytelling, which is probably what eventually pushed me toward schooling in history. It may seem obvious, but I do feel that a good storyteller is going to have a strong sense of historical connection—between events, people, ideas, etc. The simplest way I can actually describe the historical research process is that it’s like watching and trying to explain a long line of dominoes falling. How far back do you start? When is it okay to stop explaining it? Where did these other lines of dominos come from? And oh, god, why are they starting to weave together and apart and HELP ME I CAN’T DO THIS. 

If you had asked me in high school whether or not I would have continued on the path of being a historian, I would have snorted derisively before ignoring you (I was a bit of a jerk; feel free to punch past me in the face, if you so wish). High school history was a sequence of rote memorization: names, dates, and events. They told no story, held no moral, existed in the distant and useless past. 

It was in college that history took on greater and far more entertaining significance. Instead of a sequence of dates and personalities to be learned for later regurgitation, historical philosophies and precedents needed to be parsed. It began to take the shape of those fallen dominoes, only every domino had countless, smaller lines weaving into and around them, contributing to the collapse. A historian’s job wasn’t to just state “this happened”, but to look at the chips going into and out of a solitary fallen piece and figure out what the hell happened, why, and why anyone should possibly care. 

I’ll admit that this is where the whole “line of dominoes” metaphor really begins to break down. 

In any case, the transition from high school to collegiate-level history also helped to hone my writing skills, which were already, as many of my previous teachers had mentioned in hasty scrawls at the top of my papers, “good”. But I wasn’t necessarily so skilled in other creative endeavors. Despite forced participation in choir from first through sixth grade, I have never been good at music. 

If it seems like a jarring transition, I apologize. But if we’re going to be talking about my process, it would be remiss not to mention the fact that I almost always write with music driving me in the background. It adds a certain pulse to my writing, pushing it along with melody and beat and… um… other musical terms. Tenor? Timbre? 
You see, I can make videos, I can manipulate photos, I can write… but music was always the unachievable. I still try, of course—I have software for mixing and utilizing loops—but I’m sure everything winds up a discordant lump. And I’m actually fine with this. I love music, but I don’t understand it. I can’t talk about it other than “I sure do like that Kesha,” or “Boy, howdy, those Beatles sure were keen.” 

So what does all this have to do with Washed Hands? Well, my final history paper for my master’s degree (not my thesis—this is entirely different) was a cultural genealogy for the film Die Hard. My research took me to reading Roderick Thorp’s The Detective, the 1966 prequel novel to the novel that Die Hard was based off of. While not the fastest paced book, it put the idea of a historical thriller right smack dab in the middle of my imagination. 

As time went on, though, I realigned the idea to make it a more modern homage to the classic hardboiled/noir genre. There were still historical elements, though they are understated. Monica is not just an actor in a single event, but a part of the grander movements of humanity. Acknowledgement of such things helps set the fatalistic tone of the traditional detective novel—one person against a corrupt world. 

And once I started really getting into it, the soundtrack to the game Gunpoint—with its jazzy, 40’s crime thriller themes—helped me set the mood in my head as we dove into the world of Washed Hands. Hell, even the main theme—Melancholia—brings to mind the kind of rain-slick, moonlit streets that noir seemed so insistent on exploring. I don’t think that there could have been better companion music without creating it myself. 

And we all know that would have ended in tragedy.

About the author:
Jonathan Bruce began writing what amounted to terrible Star Trek: The Next Generation fan fiction when he was four. Although the original manuscripts are lost (or perhaps destroyed), we can rest assured that his prose has improved significantly since then. After high school, he began writing and directing plays which gradually improved depending on whom you ask. He discovered his love of a good fight scene after writing a Dracula knock-off which took a 19th century classic and made it less about Victorian yearning and 300% more about stabbing things in the jugular.

And yes, this means he wrote vampire fiction before Stephanie Meyer made it cool to sparkle in the sun.
He has a Master's Degree in History, thanks largely to his thesis focusing on MUSIC, a Milwaukee-based school desegregation campaign during the 1960's. He also enjoys discussing/making fun of pop culture of the 20th century and reading books of a non-historical nature. In his off moments, you can catch him writing for fun or making inane movies about nothing in particular. He also occasionally provides work for Twenty Four Pages a Second, a pretty keen website you should totally check out.

No comments: