Sleuthing in Casablanca

on August 5, 2011 in Misc

Okay, so one more time I’m delaying writing about self-defense.  Today I just want to tell you about a couple articles that might interest you.

If any of you write mysteries or have novels with a character who’s trying to hunt down an elusive truth, you’ll want to look up “Mourning Columbo in the Arab World,” by Joseph Braude in Huffington Post.

It seems that when Peter Falk recently died, the Arab world took note.  Who knew that years ago Columbo was very popular in certain Arab countries?  I love the reasons why.  As Baude writes, “…the spectacle of a wily yet humble detective probing the secrets of his own society had a lasting influence on viewers that proved to be mildly subversive. Witness my friend Muhammad Bari in Casablanca, Morocco…who read the news of Falk’s death and cried.  “God have mercy on him,” he said.  “Columbo changed my life.”

Wow. A TV character changed a man’s life?  I know you’re wondering what this has to do with writing.  But remember that well-written TV shows (as opposed to the flood of cheapo reality crapola ones that flood the airwaves now) are, like novels, a form of storytelling.  A writer creates a character and, either alone or with other writers, weaves stories around him or her.  And to create a character that people respond to is what all we writers aspire to.  A literary agent once told me that every book can be summed up in one sentence:  What does a character want and how does she go about getting it? Well, Columbo always wanted the truth.

As Baude reports, his Moroccan friend Bari “wears a tattered Columbo-style trench coat dating back to the 1970s.” In 2008 Bari’s…

“…best friend had been murdered, and though the homicide detectives who cracked the case told Bari it was just a robbery gone wrong, Bari did not believe them.  There must be a conspiracy behind the killing and a cover-up by police, he told me privately.  He asked me to help him quietly investigate the crime on his own. “I can’t go on with my life until I know what really happened,” he explained. “And besides, I’ve always wanted to be like Columbo.”

“It was a gesture of extraordinary boldness for a poor man in an authoritarian Arab state… Asking too many questions could get you killed.”

“So we ventured together into the night – Bari in his trench coat, me in a windbreaker — and used some of the gentler techniques we had seen on TV to figure out why his friend had been killed. We traded cigarettes for information. We asked indirect questions of people who were afraid. We played dumb when necessary. We leveraged his deep roots in the community and my privileged status as an American, and nearly always avoided a confrontation.  Four months into our sleuthing, we established that police had indeed been keeping secrets from Bari – and so had the murder victim.”

If you want to read what they learned, you can look up the story here:

The other article I want to mention is much more frivolous, but it made me feel pretty good, middle-aged dame that I am.  Apparently Dame Helen Mirren at the age of 66 has been voted as having the best female body by an L.A. Fitness Poll of 2,000.

If you look up the picture of her at age 63 in a bikini, you’ll see why. Is her body perfect? Hell no. But she’s still obviously in good shape (chesty too, unlike moi) and obviously does ab workouts. Good for her.  Oh, and coming in second was J Lo, who’s 42 and not exactly skinny.

So there. We older ladies can be in great shape too.,0,5857659.story

2 Responses to “Sleuthing in Casablanca”

  1. Ciara Knight says:

    I LOVE action packed adventure but not Mysteries. I’ve tried but I just can’t get into them. My mom was a huge Agatha Christie fan but I could never get into her books.

  2. Helena says:

    Ciara — I know whatchamean. I’ve read a few mysteries and enjoyed them, but I keep wanting more action and thrills and spills. Still, what appealed to me about this true-life story was the image of a poor guy in a repressive society trying to learn what happened to his friend, and he can only do this by turning himself into the low-key fictional hero he loves so much.