That Danged Guillotine

When I was writing Bewitched, Bothered, and Beheaded, book 10 of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, I did as much research as I could on the use of guillotines in magic acts. I soon discovered the inner machinations of a guillotine, at least for that purpose, were a closely guarded secret. Naturally, I surmised this. Nowhere could I find a phrase such as “If you think I’m going to share this info with just anybody after all my hard work, time, and money, you must be nutso.” Or words to that effect.

Ultimately there was nothing. I was so desperate, I finally resorted to watching a weird horror film called Two on a Guillotine, with Caesar Romero, Dean Jones, and Connie Stevens (who was good in her role but could not save this horror of a horror film). I was hoping I could learn something. I didn’t. Mr. Romero plays a former magician who, while doing his final magic act, accidentally decapitated the love of his life, his wife. He goes nutso, which seems to happen to people who deal with guillotines a little too much (I feel an onset of nuttiness coming on, myself). To continue, he sends their daughter away and then pretends to kill himself. The daughter grows up to be a dead ringer for his wife. I would go on but it’s a perfectly dreadful script, badly directed, and badly acted, except for as previously mentioned, Miss Stevens.

Anyway, at the dénouement, they finally had a scene that showed how the wife was decapitated. Too late, too little. What may have worked in 1965 doesn’t work in 2024. Audiences today are far too sophisticated. I suspect they were in 1965, as well, and this could be why this was such a bad movie.

Bewitched, Bothered, and Beheaded book cover

So thinking cap on, I came up with my own method for seemingly decapitating a person while not actually doing so. Because, of course, it has to backfire somehow. Or there would be no story. It took me several months to come up with something that worked. Each step was gone over again and again. While what I have may not be a magician’s favorite method of choice, it would work. In theory. I didn’t build a prototype and cut off a bunch of dolls’ heads. Too gross and not my style.

And not necessary. After all, I write fiction no matter how factual I try to be to ground my stories. There’s a time when the story takes over and you have to just go with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge