I think the question I get asked the most is, "How did you come up with the title, 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY?
It's a fair question (I'd ask it). When I pitched my first book to my first publisher, this dark comedy about a family of assassins was called DEATH IN THE FAMILY. My publisher hated that title, because it said nothing about the fact that this was a comic mystery. I thought I was so clever (which should've been a red flag) to come up with DITF.
So, I sat down with a few martinis and came up with a list of possible new titles. Somewhere around the third martini (which should've been another red flag) - I mangled Jimi Hendrix's lyrics as a joke (actually, I have a long history of mangling song lyrics - much to my husband's endless amusement). Of course my editor would hate it, but it might get her attention long enough to realize I was an idiot and she'd have to come up with a title for me.
Imagine my surprise when my publisher loved it. Which was good and bad - because then I had to come up with more appropriate mangled lyrics. And I did with GUNS WILL KEEP US TOGETHER (btw - millennials have no appreciation for the genius of the Captain and Tenille), STAND BY YOUR HITMAN, I SHOT YOU BABE, and more. It was not easy. I won't even show you the list of rejects I've brainstormed, because that would be considered torture in most cultures.
So, I got to wondering about unusual mystery titles. Was I the only weirdo out there (don't answer that)? Turns out I was not.
Harlequin - now known for romance, used to publish mystery. And they had a strange way of naming books. A novel's title is supposed to reflect what the book is about, and grab the interest of your target readers. It's an important step in the marketing process.
Which makes me wonder what exactly Harlequin and its authors were thinking with these:
In my experience, sandwiches only 'dance' when they've been left out in the sun way too long. And then the 'dancing' is what your insides do to you as you 'dance' off to the bathroom. But I might be missing something here. Maybe back in the 1940's, sandwiches were quite terrifying...
Considering that the corpse is a dead stripper, it seems a little mean to give her applause when she's dead and can't enjoy it. Although, this does explain what kind of book this is with the word, 'corpse' and with 'a great big hand' that it has something to do with the entertainment business. So they score some points there.
Basically - this is true, except that I thought at first this was a book about a sad ghost who has no friends. Turns out, it wasn't.
Why are there seven sneezes? Is this a case of lethal allergies? Did the murderer give himself away by sneezing or did the victim sneeze herself to death? Okay - this just proves that I really want to read the book, even though I'm a little worried though that it has nothing to do with sneezing. Which would be disappointing.
This is just plain old, sensible advice. Santa does have a 'naughty' list, you know.
I have absolutely no idea what 'kiss your elbow' means. Must be some kinky, 1950's metaphor for something murdery.
How can you look at your own skull? Was this guy surprised to find his own skull in a desk drawer? And is he a killer who finds out the lady he's supposed to kill is a killer? I'm not sure I can wrap my skull around this one, but maybe after a few martinis I could figure it out.
My personal favorite - I love the look on the man's face as he stares in horror, and the smug look on the woman's face as she casually holds the bloody knife. I'm convinced that the victim must be a man. And that he definitely had it coming.
If I had to guess, I'd be willing to bet that these titles came from those famous, three martini lunches that authors and their publishers had back in the '50's and '60's. From my experience with three martinis (that I consumed alone, in my kitchen - which seems sad) and writing titles, I'd say it's a safe bet.
Leslie "3 Martini" Langtry