Friday, December 30, 2016

Why Not Have our Big Holiday on the Summer Solstice Instead of the Winter One?

Charles Dickens has a lot to answer for. With the publication of his Christmas Carol in 1843, he single-handedly made Christmas our biggest cultural holiday. Before the debut of his (self-published) little novella, celebration of the holiday had all but died out in Anglo-Saxon Christendom. The pen is mighty indeed.
This book re-invented Christmas

A Christmas Carol revived the custom of taking the day off work, gathering for big family feasts and getting generous with gifts—remnants of an ancient pagan Solstice celebration which had been meshed with the Nativity story by some very clever Early Christian Marketers.

It was a great idea in Dickens day. People were stuck in their houses and villages and it gave everybody a chance to gather for some convivial cheer at the darkest time of year.

But I think Mr. Dickens and those early Christians would be appalled to see what the holiday has become. Every year it gets worse: travelers stranded at airports for days...buried in snowdrifts while trying to buy last minute gifts or that extra can of Ocean Spray… imprisoned in grounded airplanes with nothing to eat but rationed packets of Cheez-Its.

All in the middle of flu season.
Why travel at the worst travel-time of year?

OK, Aussies, Kiwis and other inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere: you can ignore this rant or read on and chortle.

But seriously, Northern Hemispherians, what’s up with setting our biggest travel-holiday at the time of year when we can count on the worst travel conditions?

It’s not really about Jesus, is it? There’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus making his fleshly debut in December. And we know for sure this event did not happen in a place with a lot of snow. Or holly, mistletoe, reindeer, or bearded white guys in furry outfits.

the god of Wednesday and proto-Santa
The bearded white guy who was first reputed to reward good children and admonish the bad ones at the winter solstice was a Norse deity called Odin (or Woden or Wotan—whatever you want to call the Wednesday god-guy.) And the rituals involving holly and mistletoe and pointy evergreen trees? Kind of more Druidish than Judeo-Christian.

So do we really need to go through all this suffering to honor a Teutonic war god who slithered down chimneys to put anthracite in the footwear of bad little Vikings?

Not that the Christmas/Druid holiday hasn’t had a good run. But now we’ve got wildly scattered families. And climate change. And sadistically dysfunctional air travel.

So I’m going to suggest a change of authors. Boot Charles Dickens in favor of William Shakespeare. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have our big yearly celebration at the SUMMER SOLSTICE—Midsummer’s Night?
Oberon, Titania and Puck Dancing by William Blake

OK, A Midsummer Night’s Dream isn’t as heartwarming as the Scrooge tale, but who needs warming in the middle of June?

Wouldn’t it be more fun to go home and visit Mom and Dad in the summertime? To barbeque that turkey on a backyard grill? Inspired by the Bard, you could decorate the front yard with inflatable Bottoms, Rude Mechanicals, and any number of sparkly fairies.

Maybe Puck could pop down our chimneys and leave gifts under the potted palm, which could be adorned with little surfboards and beach balls and those lights shaped like chili peppers.

A Summer Solstice Tree!

We could still conduct the same kind of retail frenzy, since that seems to be necessary to the well-being of our economic system, but we could shop on safe, sunshiny streets, with evening light to choose them by.

Or maybe we need another story altogether. What about it, writers? Anybody up for writing some Summer Solstice tales and carols? About Rudolph the Red-Nosed Surfer, maybe? Or Frosty the Slushy Man? Hark the Herald Fairies Sing?

If Dickens could write a novel that created our biggest holiday, maybe one of you can write the book that will give us a new celebration that will fit better with our times.

An awful lot of cranky travelers and flu-sufferers would be very, very grateful.

NOTE: I'll be resuming my Poisoning People for Fun and Profit series in the New Year. But I thought we needed a holiday post that didn't involve killing people. 

How do you feel about family get-togethers in the middle of winter? Would you welcome a change to a more travel-friendly time? 


Roxanna Britton: A Biographical Novel
by Shirley S. Allen

"Jane Austen meets Laura Ingalls Wilder"

Only $2.99 for the ebook at all the AmazonsKoboNookiTunes, Inktera, and Scribd

This novel, by my mother, the late Dr. Shirley S. Allen, is a rip-roaring tale of how the West was won. It also happens to be all true. It's the story of my great, great grandmother, Roxanna Britton, who pioneered the Old West as a young widow with two small children.

It's got romance, action, cowboys (not always the good guys) Indians (some very helpful ones) the real Buffalo Bill Cody, and a whole lot more!

Widowed as a young mother in 1855, Roxanna breaks through traditional barriers by finding a husband of her own choice, developing her own small business, and in 1865, becoming one of the first married women to own property. We follow her through the hard times of the Civil War to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to a homestead in Nebraska to her final home in Elsinore, California.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit—Part 23: My Past Life as a Poisoner

This poison series was sparked by my research for my WIP, The Queen of Staves, #6 in the Camilla Randall humorous mystery series, which will debut in June 2017.

Lucrezia Borgia
Yes, it was originally scheduled for last June and it's way overdue to my publisher. I'm making progress, but it's slow. I have a terrible habit of taking on new challenges, like learning about the Tarot. And poisons.

Research about poisons led to starting this series. Then I let myself get led astray by all these fascinating ways to get away with murder.

I've been intrigued by poisons ever since I had a bizarre experience under hypnosis twenty-five years ago when I was quitting smoking.

I went through a series of hypnosis sessions, and one involved going back in my memory to recall the first time I ever wanted a cigarette.

But the hypnotist's time machine apparently had a major glitch.

I didn't go back to that time at Girl Scout camp when three of us shared a Parliament pilfered from a camp counsellor's locker and I almost didn't throw up.

Or further back to when my kindergarten friends and I bought a pack of candy cigarettes at the corner market and came home to play dress-up in somebody's mom's old formals and high heels so we could pretend to be grown-up ladies. All the grown-up ladies we knew smoked cigarettes.

The Palazzo Farnese in Rome
No. I somehow I zoomed all the way back to the 15th century. So it wasn't exactly a memory, unless you believe in past lives. Which I didn't, until that moment.

Seriously. I'm not making this up.

The hypnotherapist asked me what I was wearing and I could feel a horrible corset thing constricting my torso and lots of stiff clothing weighing me down. My hair hurt with heavy jewelry and netting.

I was in a smallish room in an Italian palace.

Now I know my Italian palaces because I majored in Art History. Mostly so I could spend a lot of time in Italy looking at all those palaces that used to belong to families like the Borghese, Farnese, Barberini and of course, the infamous Borgias.

And there I was in my hypnotic state, standing in one of those palazzi.

But I wasn't enjoying myself in spite of the gorgeous setting. 
I felt cold. And anxious. Footsteps echoed in the hallway outside. I was awaiting the arrival of a man. My fiancé. He was returning from some battle and I was going to get hurt. So were a lot of other people. 

The man and I were enemies and my side had lost.

He stomped into the room—tall and handsome, with fierce, dark eyes and a thick beard. I gave him a big kiss and offered him some wine from a silver carafe. 

Alfonzo D'Este, Lucrezia's Husband #3

He drank and said something cruel and insulting, then drank some more. He kissed me again. I let him. Then I watched as he sat heavily on a brocade chair. 

I gave him more wine and started to feel less afraid.

I pretended to be worried as his face went pale and he grabbed his throat, which made a choking, gurgling sound.

He called for help, but his voice was weak. I pretended not to understand and started to smile as he tried to get up, but couldn't. My sense of relief was overwhelming.

I realized I was witnessing the last battle of whatever conflict raged between his people and mine.

And I was just about to win the war. 

I laughed while I watched the fury in his eyes turn to fear as life drained from his body.

The therapist brought me out of my trance. She looked distressed.

She said she'd just heard me give the most evil laugh she'd ever heard. The voice she'd heard laughing sounded nothing like mine.

I had no idea I'd been laughing out loud. 

She said nothing like it had ever happened in a hypnosis session and she'd been conducting them for twenty years.

There are people who would say I'd experienced a past-life regression. And that maybe I was somebody like Lucrezia Borgia in that past life.

But, as I said, I'm not sure I believe in past lives. And I certainly don't believe we were all famous people like Cleopatra and Ms. Borgia the way those past-life regression stories always go.

Besides, nobody knows that Lucrezia actually poisoned anybody. It's true that her daddy Pope Alexander VI was known for using poison to get what he wanted, which was pretty much everything in Southern Europe. 

Lucrezia was rumored to wear a poison ring, with a hollow space under the stone just right for a dose of the Borgias' favorite poison, arsenic. The symptoms I saw in my hypnotic vision would have been consistent with arsenic poisoning.
Replica of a Renaissance poison ring

But poison rings were probably something of a fashion statement in Renaissance Italy, so we can't be sure. (They were actually designed to hold holy relics which were thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits.)

Many women of Lucrezia's station were known to use poison to get rid of the occasional inconvenient rival or unpleasant spouse. In Italy it was a tradition going back to ancient Rome, when poisonings were rampant. Women passed down poison lore from mother to daughter, and it gave them great power.

At that one moment in my trance, I felt that power. I have to admit it was exhilarating. I don't know when I have ever felt so powerful, before or since.

I have no idea what exactly I experienced. It wasn't as wildly surreal as a dream, but it was far more vivid, say, than envisioning a scene when I'm writing, even when I'm deep in "flow".

There was no control. I could only watch and hang on as I felt the emotions of this person—this psychopath, I suppose you'd call her—who certainly wasn't me. 

It was a little like being an actor achieving that moment when you totally inhabit your role and lose your sense of self.

Only I'd never read the script and had no idea what the character would say or do next. The actor's nightmare in reverse.

A week later, I quit smoking.

Do I have Lucrezia Borgia to thank for the fact I finally stopped poisoning myself with nicotine? I don't suppose I'll ever know.

What about you, readers? Have you ever had a "past life" experience? Do you think you could poison someone if the situation were dire enough? Do you think poisoning an enemy is more evil than shedding blood if you are mismatched as physical opponents?  

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Suddenly-homeless American manners expert Camilla Randall becomes a 21st century Maid Marian—living rough near the real Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaw English erotica publishers—led by a charming, self-styled Robin Hood who unfortunately may intend to poison her. 

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Here's a list of all the posts in the poison series

Friday, October 28, 2016

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit: Part 22—The Myth of Halloween Candy Poisonings

There are lots of things to be afraid of on Halloween. Your kid getting hit by a car while dressed in black as a ninja, a witch, or Severus Snape. Or somebody kidnapping your black kitty and doing him harm. Or somebody eating too much candy and throwing up on the newly shampooed carpet. 

But poisoned candy isn't one of them.  

All of that is completely bogus fearmongering. A lot of the fear was mongered by the advice columnist siblings Dear Abby and Ann Landers. 

Dear Abby and Ann Landers Spread the Panic

According to Smithsonian magazine, on October 31, 1983, advice columnist "Dear Abby" (the late Abigail Van Buren) published a column called "A Night of Treats, not Tricks." In that column, she warned her readers that, on Halloween, "somebody’s child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade."

No child has been poisoned by a stranger's Halloween candy

Twelve years later, Dear Abby's sister, advice columnist Ann Landers, also wrote a Halloween article in which she warned that "Twisted minds make Halloween a dangerous time," echoing that concern. She said, "In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in taffy apples and Halloween candy." She even stated flatly: "It is no longer safe to let your child eat treats that come from strangers." Thus making life difficult for candy companies all over the U.S.

And it turns out these "reports" were entirely bogus. 

And every so often something happens that stirs up the stories again. 

Abby may be forgiven for falling for the drama in 1983. The 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people were fresh in everybody's minds. So the idea of a crazed madman who wanted to kill random strangers was not far-fetched. It was easy to merge them with the myths that were already out there about crazed child murderers handing out tainted "treats" to the trick-or treaters.

Some Poisonings That Weren't

Here are some of the incidents that keep the myths alive, as reported by Snopes. 

In 1970, a boy went into a coma from a heroin overdose and heroin was found sprinkled on his Halloween candy.  It turned out he had got into his uncle's heroin stash and his family had sprinkled the heroin on the candy after the overdose.

In 1982 the police in Detroit announced a boy had been poisoned by cyanide in Halloween candy. But medical tests were inconclusive and later FDA tests of the candy turned up no contamination whatsoever. 

In 1990, a 7-year-old Santa Monica girl died of congenital heart failure while trick-or-treating. The police feared a mass random poisoning sent out an alert. Unfortunately the later retraction didn't travel anywhere near as far or wide as the initial false alarm. 

The Halloween Poisoning Sleuth, Dr. Joel Best

For decades, Joel Best a sociologist at the University of Delaware conducted a study of these stories. His findings: He never found a confirmed case of a stranger murdering a child with poisoned Halloween candy.

He did find one case of a father who murdered his own son with poisoned Halloween candy.

This was awful, but it was a one-off act of targeted murder.

In 1974, a sociopath named Ronald Clark O'Bryan took out a large life insurance policy on his 8 year old son Timothy a few days before Halloween. On Halloween, he put some cyanide into Timmy's Pixy Stix and got him to eat it before going to bed. He also poisoned some Pixy Stix he gave out to local trick or treaters, so it would look as if his son's murder was part of a random attack on local children.

Luckily none of the other children ate the candy, partly because of quick reaction from local police, and partly because Mr. Clark had resealed the Pixy Stix with staples that were too hard for a child to open.

Mr. Clark was executed in 1984, and maybe stories of his horrible deeds also sparked the rumors that prompted Dear Abby's misguided column.

Dr. Joel Best has tried hard over the years to destroy the poisoned Halloween candy myth, but he hasn't had much luck. "It's the old problem of trying to prove a negative," he says.

He says his favorite story is the one about the kid who brought a half-eaten candy bar to his parents and said, "I think there's ant poison on this." They had it checked and, sure enough, there was ant poison on it—significantly, on the end he hadn't bitten.

It later turned out the kid had put the ant poison on the candy himself. 

What about the Stories of Razor Blades and Pins in Apples?

These seem to be more of the same.

The razor blades were put there by the kids themselves. Nobody got hurt.

According to author Jack Santino, who's written a number of books on the history and folklore behind Halloween, "pins and needles" (and razor blade) rumors began to supplant "poisoned candy" rumors in the mid-1960s, and nearly the reports turned out to be hoaxes: 

He said, "more than 75 percent of reported cases involved no injury, and detailed followups…concluded that virtually all the reports were hoaxes concocted by the children or parents. Thus this legend type seems to have grown out of a tradition of ostensive hoaxes relying on an understood oral tradition, rather than on any core of authenticated incidents."

So poisoned candy is very much the stuff of fiction, but it has only the most tenuous attachment to fact. As writers, we'd do better to to write about poisoned chocolate Easter bunnies or Christmas candy canes and at least be creative about it.

What about you, readers? Did you believe these stories when you were a kid? Did your parents? Did your parents ban trick or treating because they were so afraid of mad poisoners? 

The first book in the Camilla comedy-mystery series is  FREE

And it's only 99c or the equivalent all the Amazons internationally

Also available at Google Play,


It's available in paper at Amazon , Barnes and Noble and Walmart

A wild comic romp set at writers’ conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California. When a ghostwriter's plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with a crossdressing dominatrix to stop the killer—who may be a ghost—from striking again. Meanwhile, a hot LA cop named Maverick Jesus Zukowski just may steal her heart.

It's also available in Spanish on Amazon

Here's a list of all the posts in the poison series

Friday, September 30, 2016

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit—Part 21: Henbane

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) doesn't sound terribly dangerous, does it it? It might be something that would irritate a chicken, but nothing too scary.

But the truth is it's a deadly poisonous plant in the nightshade family (solanaceae.) Smelling it can cause dizziness—and eating it can result in delirium, coma, respiratory paralysis, and death.

Unfortunately others have made the mistake of thinking henbane is harmless, too. In 2008, the British celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson recommended henbane as a "tasty addition to salads" in the UK's Healthy and Organic Living magazine.

Fat Hen, not, Henbane
It turned out he'd confused henbane with fat-hen, (Chenopodium album) a nutritious food, usually treated as a weed, that's related to quinoa.  

The magazine sent subscribers an urgent message telling them that eating henbane is a really bad idea. Nobody died as a result that they know of, but it was a scary moment for all concerned.

Henbane, Hens, and other Farm Animals

But it turns out henbane has nothing to do with poultry. The word first appeared in England in 13th century and probably has Germanic roots.  The prefix "hen" probably meant "death." The word may have been a corruption of a Dutch word "henneblomen" meaning "death flowers."

Death Flowers?

The Greek name Hyoscyamus means "pig beans" from húos, "pig" and kúamos, "bean." This may have been because hogs enjoy eating henbane seedpods. One of the many weird things about henbane is that it is not toxic to pigs, but it will kill most other livestock as well as birds, fish, and people.

Some say henbane was the "hebenon" of Shakespeare—the potion poured into the ear of Hamlet's father to kill him while he slept.

Medicinal and Ritual uses of Henbane

Henbane has a long and rich history in folklore because of its painkilling and hallucinogenic properties. Along with mandrake, deadly nightshade, and Datura it was used for millennia as an anesthetic in traditional medicine in Europe and Asia.

It also played a part in rituals because of its hallucinogenic properties. The oracle of Apollo in ancient Greece took henbane and Pliny the Elder talked of henbane being "of the nature of wine" in achieving a buzz.

It was also used in Germany until the 16th century to give some of their beers a more than usual kick.

The Anglo-Saxons thought henbane was especially useful for treating toothache. This was because the seedpods of henbane are shaped like a jawbone.

Anglo-Saxons thought henbane good for toothache

This is an example of "sympathetic magic," which can still get confused with sound medical research today. This is the way the sugar industry did such a great job of convincing us all that
eating fat would make us fat

Henbane was considered something of a cure-all in the middle Ages. Besides its use as a pain killer, it was said to be good for asthma, cough, nervous diseases, and upset stomach.

Today it can still be obtained by prescription in some places. It's used in massage oils, and a bandage containing a small dose of henbane oil, put behind the ear, is supposed to cure sea-sickness. I think I'd rather take my chances with Dramamine.

Did Dr. Crippen Murder His Wife with Henbane?

In 1910 London, Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was executed for murdering his wife with henbanethen carving up her body, burying it under his house and attempting to run off to Canada with his lover Ethel Le Neve. The two were apprehended just as they were embarking on their ship by a new-fangled wireless communication device invented by one Mr. Marconi.
Dr, Hawley Harvey Crippen

The case was the super-trial of the era. The mild-mannered homeopathic doctor insisted that his wife Cora, a flirtatious music hall performer with the stage name Belle Elmore, had run off with another man and that the body under the Crippen house was not hers. 

But the fact he possessed henbane seemed enough to convict him. Many thought he was innocent, and had been tried and convicted in the press.

Recently, forensic scientists have examined the evidence anew, because it seemed so odd to them that a poisoner would dismember a body. The point of poisoning is generally to make death appear an accident. 

It turns out they were right about Dr. Crippin's innocence. Not only was the body found under the house not poisoned with henbaneit wasn't even a woman.

Dr. Crippin's descendants have petitioned the British government to pardon the doctor and clear his name.

Endangered Species

You can find henbane at the poison garden at Alnwick Castle

If you're writing a contemporary mystery your villain would have trouble getting hold of henbane. It's not something you can go out and pick in the wild. Although it once grew all over Europe and Asia, henbane is now an endangered species. But you can see it in the famous poison garden at Alnwick in the UK.

What about you, readers? Have you run into any stories about henbane? Have any good ones to share? Do you have any opinions on Dr. Crippin's guilt or innocence?

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"In The Gatsby Game, Anne R. Allen blends a perfect combination of witty, sharp narration, a plot that won't let the reader go, and nuanced characters that evoke our caring. A genre novel that artfully transcends its genre.”- Catherine Ryan Hyde, NYT and Amazon #1 best-selling author

THE GATSBY GAME (Romantic Comedy-Mystery) When Fitzgerald-quoting con man Alistair Milborne is found dead a movie star’s motel room—igniting a world-wide scandal—the small-town police can’t decide if it’s an accident, suicide, or foul play. 

As evidence of murder emerges, Nicky Conway, the smart-mouth nanny, becomes the prime suspect. She’s the only one who knows what happened. But she also knows nobody will ever believe her. The story is based on the real mystery surrounding the death of David Whiting, actress Sarah Miles’ business manager, during the filming of the 1973 Burt Reynolds movie The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.

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And available in paper on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble

Friday, September 2, 2016

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit: Part 20—Thallium

Thallium is especially popular with evil assassins since it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, slow acting, and its symptoms can be mistaken for a wide range of other illnesses. Poisoners can slip it to their victims and make a clean getaway before anything is suspected. 

People can be poisoned by ingestion, inhalation, injection or even simply by touch. The touch thing makes it awfully easy to administer.
That may be why it's called the "Poisoner's Poison."

It is a metal: a chemical element with symbol Tl. It is a bluish metal that oxidizes to gray and resembles tin. It is only found in trace amounts in nature.

It was discovered by two chemists independently in 1861 as a byproduct of sulfuric acid production. It emits a green color when produced, and the name "Thallium" comes from the Greek meaning "green twig or shoot."

It has been a murder weapon of choice in many classic mysteries.

Agatha Christie used it in her 1961 mystery The Pale Horse, one of her Ariadne Oliver novels. 

In 1977, a nurse named Marsha Maitland was able to diagnose a sick child who had been accidentally poisoned with a pesticide poisoning containing thallium. The child's disease was a mystery to her doctors, but Nurse Maitland had been reading The Pale Horse and correctly diagnosed thallium poisoning and saved the child's life. 

Don't ever let anybody tell you that reading mysteries is a waste of time.

The first telltale symptom of thallium poisoning is hair loss, followed by damage to peripheral nerves, which can give the victims the feeling of walking on hot coals. 

It used to be a more common household item than it is now, since thallium sulfate was used as a rat and ant poison from the late 19th to mid-20th century. It was banned for use as a pesticide in the US in 1975 and has not been produced in the United States since 1984, but is imported for use in the manufacture of electronics, low temperature thermometers, optical lenses, and imitation precious jewels. It also has use in some chemical reactions and medical procedures. 

The Thallium Craze

In the 1950s, especially in Australia, there was a spate of murders that became known as the "Thallium Craze". It was chronicled in a 2011 documentary Recipe for Murder Between 1952 and 1953, five women in different parts of Sydney were convicted of poisoning over a dozen family members with thallium. The city had a serious rat problem at the time and the poison was readily available at any market. 
A plague of rats in Sydney led to lots of rat-poison murders

In 1971, a man named Graham Frederick Young, known as "The Teacup Murderer" poisoned 71 people in a village in Hertfordshire, mainly with thallium. A film was made about him in 1995 called The Young Poisoner's Handbook.

In 1988, a family in Florida was murdered by a neighbor, who served them Coca Cola laced with thallium.

Thallium is Very Big with Evil Tyrants

Thallium continues to be popular with bad guys all over the world.

Saddam Hussein was said to have poisoned dissidents with thallium before "allowing" them to leave the country. Because it is slow-acting, they would die soon after arriving on foreign soil, so he could claim no culpability in their deaths.

In 2007, American citizens Marina and Yana Kovalevsky were poisoned with thallium while visiting their native Russia. In fact, Thallium seems to be one of Russia's favored ways of dealing with dissidents, and anybody else they don't happen to like that day.

And as most journalists in Russia know, publishing anything the Kremlin disapproves of often results in a mysterious deaths due to "unknown causes." Thallium is often suspected. But never proved, because, hey, they're in Russia. 

Thallium is also Popular in Fiction.

Besides the famous Agatha Christie novel, The Pale Horse, many classic mysteries make use of thallium.

I think I first ran into it in Ngaio Marsh's 1947 novel Final Curtain, where a thallium compound meant to combat lice is substituted for the victim's heart medicine. 

And it's still quite popular in film and TV scripts today.

In the 2015 James Bond film SPECTRE, the bad guys kill Mr. White by coating his cell phone with thallium.

In the NCIS episode "Dead Man Walking" a man is killed with thallium-laced cigars.

In Season Three of Royal Pains, the Larson brothers' mysterious benefactor, Boris, is poisoned with thallium in his pool water.

Treatment of Thallium poisoning 

According the the Center for Disease Control, the antidote to thallium poisoning by ingestion is Prussian Blue, a synthetic iron compound (yes, the one used for painting) which binds to the thallium in the intestinal tract and removes it. 

If someone has inhaled it, oxygen needs to be administered ASAP. 

What about you, readers? Have you read any mysteries or thrillers recently where thallium plays a part? Have you used it in your own work? Have you heard of any other incidents where a novel provided the diagnosis that saved a life?

Here's a list of all the posts in the poison series

NOTE: I have been having way too much fun with this blog, so I am going to have to back off to once-a-month posts while I work on my already-overdue WIP, Camilla #6, which has the working title THE QUEEN OF STAVES. I promise there will be poisons. 

Meanwhile, you can always find me at my other blog,, where I hang out with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris. 


This week you can enjoy the first three Camilla comedies for only 99c or the equivalent in all Amazon stores.

1) Ghostwriters in the Sky—set in NYC and Santa Ynez, CA 
2) Sherwood Ltd—set in San Francisco and the English Midlands. 
3) The Best Revenge (the Prequel)—set in 1980s NYC and San Diego

The Camilla Randall Mysteries Box set is also available at
Perennially down-and-out socialite Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but she always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way. Usually with more than a little help from her gay best friend, Plantagenet Smith.