Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Long Hot Summer

Sounds like the title of a book, doesn't it? Maybe I'll use it sometime, but this is about the here and now. All these 90-degree-plus days, ad infinitum. Harry Truman said if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I suspect a lot of women are ready to head for the exits about now. Let's consider what it means to various people.

For the older generation, with which I identify quite readily, the simplest remedy is to remain in air-conditioned comfort, read books (hopefully, mysteries) and watch TV. They'll venture out shopping occasionally, maybe stop for a meal out. Some, including me, head for the nearest mall to get their exercise by walking the corridors before the stores open. They can be found around tables in the food court swapping yarns and exchanging gossip.

The downtown worker bees take shelter in their artificially-cooled offices. The problem comes when they have to hit the sidewalks at lunch time. You may find them dabbing a tissue to their foreheads or glancing into a mirror-like store window to check sagging mascara. The commute home brings another tense time, with creeping traffic adding to the problem of toasty temperatures.

The ones who really feel the fury of hot days are the outside workers like those in construction, cops, farmers, and lawn care workers. Unless they have bushy hair, you'll probably find them in hats or caps. And big handkerchiefs are in vogue. These folks may be heard discussing the weather in colorful terms.

The guys who suffer the most, though, are probably firefighters. Others can strip down to cope with the heat, but these people have to don heavy coats and hats before they head into even hotter spots. In cooler times, they can move away from the fire for a breif respite. Not so now. Some days it's not much better near or far.

There's another type of heat making the news these days. Like in Harry Truman's day, it's political heat. There's plenty of it in Washington these days as Republicans and Democrats go at it in Congress and President Obama faces steadily declining popularity.

So what does all this have to do with mystery writing? We toilers at the keyboard explore crises and how people react to them. Weather is a favorite background for mysteries. In The Marathon Murders, I used a sweltering August as a backdrop to the story. How the characters deal with the season adds to the realism of the book.

How are you coping with the current heat wave? Are you getting hot under the collar? Enough to, you wouldn't do that.

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