By Kels Mejlaender, Senior Copyeditor
In dim lighting, the last few notes of the previous radio show’s song fades away as I snap on headphones, ready to introduce myself as a guest to the listeners of “Call Me Ishmael” on Lute Air Student Radio.
This show will be different though. Instead of just playing music and discussing an array of subjects with the DJs, I’m reading a chapter of my novella, “The Ace of Spades.”
Last spring, my friend and now housemate, junior Richard Olson, asked if I would be interested in writing a story to read over the course of a few months on the radio show, “Call Me Ishmael,” which he hosts with junior Katie Ayres.
As a fiction writing major, I eagerly agreed, only to spend the next several months debating what to write. In the end, I settled on a murder mystery.
To make things more interesting for us, I made my housemates — Richard, Katie and junior Malena Goerl — main characters. I did the same for a former housemate, senior Jessica Welch, and myself.
In “The Ace of Spades,” we become Dick Olston, Katherine Arys, Melanie Garelle, Jessy Walsh and Chels Laender. I invented a few purely fictional characters for the story too — rich college kid Cole Mitchell, his stepbrother Kent Saville and the caretaker of the family’s new mountainside mansion, Pete Paulson.
During the first chapter, the seven college students arrive at the mansion for a vacation. But a winter storm leaves them isolated, cut off from Internet access and upending the already weak cell service. When they get bored trapped inside the house, they decide to play the game Murderer.
While playing the game, which involves hiding throughout the dark house as one person with the ace of spades card tracks everyone down and “kills” them, someone actually kills Kent Saville.
In the second chapter, the panicked friends realize the murderer must have either been one of them or the caretaker, Pete. They try to develop a buddy system and collect evidence for when they are able to contact the police.
However, the murderer manages to corner Chels Laender — who took the pictures of the crime scene — and kill her as well as destroy her phone and the evidence on it.
In the third chapter, which Richard, Katie, Malena and I will be reading on tonight’s “Call Me Ishmael,” the characters gather together to determine which of them has the most motive and means to be the killer.
There have been many unexpected challenges and pleasant surprises going through this process. Reading the story out loud has been both a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience.
The challenge lies in needing to voice multiple characters, since we don’t have eight different people to read. Making the voices sound different is certainly not one of my specialties, and it doesn’t help that I’m also the narrator.
Scheduling has also been crazy, because for five busy college students, saving that one hour every couple of Fridays to meet and read a story together is next to impossible. Indeed, Jessica has only been able to attend the first reading.
Regardless, I’ve never had more fun writing a story. The research has been fascinating. I’ve learned a few mundane things, like how generators operate, but I now also know the complicated history of society’s obsession with murder mysteries.
The rather gruesome murder of a little boy named Francis “Saville” Kent — yes, that name should sound familiar — in the 1800s captured public attention through the press.
The story sprung a wealth of murder mystery games and novels, leading to classics like Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” and the many Agatha Christie mysteries.
My novella may be a more humble addition to the rich history of the murder mystery, but it’s certainly been fun to write, read and have others hear.
Incorporating the various quirks of my friends into the characters and sharing this experience with them will make “The Ace of Spades” one of the highlights of my senior year.
Listen to “Call Me Ishmael” Fridays at 7 p.m. on http://www.plu.edu/lasr/ and like “Call Me Ishmael” on Facebook for updates. 🅼