The Case of that Dude Who Won’t Stop Writing “Butt Stuff” on Doors and Dustbin Lids*

You know what would be brilliant? Mystery novels about everyday crimes. Petty theft mysteries. Scofflaw mysteries. Who the fuck ate my Froot Loops mysteries. No-stakes whodunnits with resolutions that have nothing to do with the crimes, because really, who cares?

I made a computer game, back in the 80s—Agent Orange and the Case of the Missing Dentures. I made it in GW-BASIC. I wish I still had the code. It was ahead of its time. Like, I used the PLAY function to simulate a dentist’s drill, something like…10 PLAY L64 T255 O6 ML CC#DD#EFF#GG#AA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BA#BBBBBBBBB…uh, it made a high-pitched whine**.

Anyway, you could play for hours, wandering around town, talking to all sorts of suspects, even solving an unrelated murder. You could skip the investigation and have a new set of dentures made, which took about twenty minutes. But the most efficient way to win the game was by typing “look in your mouth,” because your dentures were there the whole time.

As games went, it was terrible. It didn’t have graphics, not because the technology didn’t exist, but because it took me a week to do one screen, and my father made fun of the results. It didn’t have a scoring system, because I didn’t know how to implement that. What it had was a huge variety of endings, three of which were win screens (solving the murder counted as a win, even if you didn’t find your dentures), and three of which were deaths. The others were mostly, well, you only got a day to find your dentures. If you spent your day doing other stuff, the sun set and you got a screen describing how you and every character you interacted with spent the rest of their lives, based on the choices you’d made.

That was once my dream, making computer games. I stopped wanting to do it around the same time text parsers stopped being a thing. I don’t know, man. It’s not as immersive when you’re not using words, when you’re not really part of the story.

Why am I talking about computer games? This was about mystery novels, and me being tired of the murder part. Here are a few titles I’m considering:

The Mystery of That Guy Who Ate My Lunch on Friday, But Not on Monday, Which is Weird, Because on Monday I Brought Pizza

The Night of That Double-Parking Pillock on Front Street: A Constable Murray Mystery

To the Prat Who Nicked My Microwave: The Quick-Minute Button Doesn’t Work

The Neighbourhood Watch Files: I Know You Took My Amazon PackageAgain

And Then There Were 40 Pink Flamingoes on my Lawn, And I Know You Put Them There, Mrs. Miggins

How am I doing? Pretty good, eh?

Maybe I’ll stick with sci-fi.

* This is an actual dude. I don’t know who he is, but I believe he operates in Seattle. He writes “Butt Stuff” on stuff, in rather elegant script. I’m a fan.

** I’m sure a bunch of nerds will show up to tell me I did that wrong. Screw you, nerds. It’s been thirty years.

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