Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Research book review: DEADLY DOSES: A writer’s guide to poisons

deadlydosesTitle: DEADLY DOSES: A writer’s guide to poisons (The Howdunit Series)
Author: Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Pages: 298
Year: 1990
ISBN: 0-89879-371-8


  • Chapter one: A short history of the dreaded art
  • Chapter two: The classic poisons: arsenic, cyanide and strychnine
  • Chapter three: Household poisons
  • Chapter four: Poisonous plants
  • Chapter five: fragile fungi
  • Chapter six: Snakes, spiders and other living things
  • Chapter seven: medical poisons
  • Chapter eight: pesticides
  • Chapter nine: Industrial poisons
  • Chapter ten: Street drugs
  • Chapter eleven: create your own poison
  • Appendix A: Poisons by methods of administration
  • Appendix B: Poisons by form
  • Appendix C: Poisons by symptoms they cause
  • Appendix D: Poisons by the time in which they react
  • Appendix E: Poisons by toxicity rating
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I’ve had this book for a few years, and I think I left the review for ‘when I had read it’ because I never got around to doing it. This book is a very useful resource for me, but it is not a book ‘for reading’. It is built as a ‘think of [symptom], [method of administration], [time], etc… and look for the right poison. It is fun, I had completely forgotten that I had not reviewed it until I recommended it to someone else. Funnily enough, I was planning on using a poison in Secrets, and now when I reached the scene related to it, I just grabbed the book and decided to just write the review.

As I said, it is not a’ readable’ book, since it is a compilation of poison information. Each substance has a header with the mainstream name, followed by a small introduction. Then a few epigraphs: name, level of toxicity, form, effects and symptoms, reaction time, antidotes and treatments and notes. For living things other data, like location or deadly parts are added. The appendixes make search very convenient and even for the Age of the Internet it is a very powerful research tool.

This book is recommended for anyone who wants to poison characters. It promises to cut the research time in half and does not exaggerate.


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