Please welcome my guest blogger, Chris Formant!
One evening, I was walking through my rock memorabilia gallery, with The Doors music in the background, and I stopped to study my latest addition: a two-page article in the Record Mirror from 1964 announcing a hot new band: The Rolling Stones. What struck me the most was how young they were; a fresh-faced Keith Richards, a teenaged Mick Jagger, and Brian Jones, the founder of the Stones. Hanging right next to Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison memorabilia.
Jones, Hendrix and Morrison all died at the age 27 under cloudy circumstances. Urban legends and conspiracy theories have swirled around their deaths for almost 50 years.
An idea got in my head at just that moment that I couldn’t shake and kept haunting me for days. What if they didn’t die by accident? What if they all were murdered?
That is how Bright Midnight got started. A fictional murder mystery that re-imagines the deaths of iconic late 60s and 70s rock stars, not as accidents but as murders.
Creating the original story line was the easy part. More difficult was crafting a sophisticated investigation that would be intriguing to a 21st-century reader.
A former editor of Rolling Stone magazine helped provide unique insight into the personalities of many of the stars. While gaining access to the archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including original editor and reporter files on each rock star, brought the era vividly to life.
Additionally, former FBI and NYPD investigators, helped me understand the forensic processes and modern cold-case investigative techniques that could apply. Lastly, a top neurosurgeon and researcher from Johns Hopkins Medicine helped interpret the autopsies and suggested alternative means by which the stars could have died physically and chemically.
That set the stage for a creative reimagining of the deaths, seen through the lenses of modern forensic practices and with the application of the latest technology. But even the latest technology couldn’t bridge some of the investigative gaps.
So, being a technologist, I imagined new technologies that are not currently in existence or considered highly experimental. The joys of fiction!
One of the technologies I created was a digital fabric analysis via photo analytics, not unlike the technique used when actual clothing fiber is found at the murder scene. In Bright Midnight, this allowed the FBI to identify the fabric type, the manufacturer, and the possible retail outlet and time period.
Another imagined technology was the use of a virtual crime scene simulator that created life-size holographic murder scenes from the original crime scene photos. Extremely graphic, these allowed a unique 3-dimensional recreation of the murder scene that could be simulated and alternative scenarios tested. Both technologies sound like they could be possible in the future, so their application in Bright Midnight seems realistic.
One thing that proved key to creating unique murder delivery vehicles were actually the autopsies themselves, combined with the limited forensic techniques used at that time. That combination allowed me to envision a much wider set of possible murder options and allowed me to engineer possible chemical causes of some of the murders that would leave consistent chemical traces to the original autopsy.
The result of this melding of modern forensic techniques, imagined future technologies, and advanced analytics with old fashioned investigative gut instincts created a unique, fictional rock-and-roll murder mystery that brings the craft of thriller writing to the genre for the first time.
About the Author
CHRIS FORMANT, who got his start in rock and roll in his early “garage band’ days, never dreamed he would one day hold a seat on the Board of Trustees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Today he is still a student of rock and roll and an avid collector of rock memorabilia. As an executive in a leading global company, running a multi-billion-dollar business, Formant is the unlikeliest of authors of a murder mystery. However, the continued unanswered questions surrounding the deaths of our most iconic rock legends led Formant to first speculate and then re-imagine what would happen if cutting-edge technology were applied to these famous cold cases. By conducting exhaustive research into the archives of the Hall of Fame, studying advanced forensics techniques and gaining creative insights from top doctors, FBI investigators and a former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, Formant crafted what is being referred to as the “The DaVinci Code for Rock and Roll Fans.”
11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
BRIGHT MIDNIGHT by Chris Formant. HighLine Editions; New edition edition (October 27, 2016). ISBN 978-1941286920. 275p.