Writer's Commentary: Dead Man's Party

On Post: Dead Man’s Party
Date: January 14
This entry owes a huge debt of gratitude to author Ellen Raskin. If not for her writing, I cannot begin to imagine what I would have done with this entry. Probably some sort of zombie thing or other such nonsense. So, I guess you could say all you readers out there owe her some gratitude too, for sparing you from that fate.

Growing up, I was a huge fan of her book The Westing Game. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it tells the story of Samuel Westing, a rich, and recently deceased, man who gathers up his heirs and challenges them to solve a riddle before they can receive their share of his wealth. As the story goes on, it becomes considerably more complicated than that, with people not being who they claim to be, bombs, and the answer to the puzzle not really being the answer. In an odd way, I think my appreciation for stories like Fight Club, The Game, The Usual Suspects, etc, that feature twist endings that actually make sense and strengthen the story upon subsequent viewings or readings comes from reading The Westing Game as a kid.
In any case, when I sat down to write a piece inspired by Oingo Boingo’s seminal hit, a will reading where things are not as they appear immediately occurred to me. I, of course, lacked the time to write as complex a mystery as Raskin did, so I instead went for an atmosphere of discomfort and building anxiety that is eventually punctured by a dead man’s last joke. The tone of the initial notes were, I think, was also probably inspired in part by the film The Last of Sheila, wherein a man brings together friends to love his wife’s murder and gets the whole thing started by revealing their darkest secrets via envelope.
What’s interesting, to me at least, is that Westing Game was such a large presence in this story that I unconsciously gave the lawyer the author’s surname. I had to look up who wrote the book to write this commentary here, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind it must have still been available because there is an attorney named Raskin reading Wilton’s (a same sounding name selected very much consciously) Last Will and Testament.
The piece here, “Dead Man’s Party”, of course, does not compare to Raskin’s novel. But I do think it is quite enjoyable nonetheless
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