Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

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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.


Odo Yakuza Tokyo (Anton Kusters)

Anton Kusters is a Belgian photographer who spent a couple of years photographing yakuza. Odo Yakuza Tokyo is a collection of those photographs that I just needed to own. You can see some other pictures here [on his webpage].

The man on the cover is called Shojirou, he is the first yakuza that Kusters met, and who carried out the negotiations to allow him to photograph the Shinseikai family. Kusters says that he wants to show a way of life, and not pass judgement, and let me tell you: a bunch of those pics are awesome as hell, others are creepy and even scary. Each tells a different story. I am hoping to get quite a few stories out of them. You know, the moment I’m done flailing XD

Hyakki Yagyō Research

In this post I have compiled a few references that I have used for Hyakki Yagyō. My Japanese is very, very limited, so I’ve been using mostly English Wikipedia people [link], but also a couple of old folklore books provided by the Gutemberg Project [link]. As I worked I also built a map for locations that you can also see in this post.

Hyakki Yagyō has been in the back of my mind for long, but I always thought that the research work would be humongous and did not feel up to tackling it with my level of Japanese, so I kept thinking “not now”. Fortunately for me, Denise [link], doing some research for one of her own projects, found a Wikipedia List of legendary creatures from Japan [link] that helped me organise my thoughts and find out the beings I needed for the story to work. All thanks to her. You can find the summary of this list at the end of this post, or on the printed pdf with the lot of articles I was using.


You can browse them online, download them using the downward arrow on the lower right area, print, share them, anything (just don’t hotlink too much, my bandwith is limited XD).

Collection of Wikipedia articles, for reference [link] (CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported License, I just printed the articles in pdf form)

The Fire-fly’s lovers, and other fairy tales of old Japan (1908), by W. E. Griffis (public domain book) [link]

In Ghostly Japan by L.Hearn (public domain book) [link]


List of the Main Preternatural Beings

Aka Manto (赤マント(?)): A malicious spirit who haunts bathrooms and asks the cubicle occupants if they want red or blue paper [link]

Amanojaku (天邪鬼) A small demon that instigates people into wickedness. [link]

Amefurikozō (雨降り小僧): Child-looking spirit that plays in the rain [link]

Bake-kujira (化け鯨): A ghostly whale skeleton that drifts along the coastline of Shimane Prefecture.

Bakeneko (化け猫) A shape-shifting cat [link]

Basan (波山) / Basabasa (婆娑婆娑) / Inuhōō (犬鳳凰)- A large fire-breathing chicken monster [link]

Chōchinobake (提灯お化け) A possessed chōchin lantern. [link]

Funayūrei (船幽霊): Ghosts of people who died at sea [link]

Inugami (犬神) A dog-spirit created, worshipped, and employed by a family via sorcery [link]

Jubokko (樹木子): a Vampire Tree [link]

Kitsune (狐) A fox spirit [link]

Kiyohime (清姫) A woman who transformed into a serpent demon out of the rage of unrequited love [link]

Komainu (狛犬): lion dogs that guard the entrance of Shinto Shrines [link]

Mizuko (水子) dead fetus or, archaically, a dead baby or infant, their souls [link] or statues [link]

Nue (鵺): A monster with the head of a monkey, the body of a raccoon dog, the legs of a tiger, and a snake-headed tail. Can cause nightmares [link]

Nurikabe (ぬりかべ) A ghostly wall that traps a traveler at night [link]

Obake (お化け) / Bakemono (化け物): Shapeshifting spirits [link]

Onryō (怨霊): The vengeful spirits of the dead. The seeking vengence spirits, yurei up to no good [link]

Samebito (鮫人) A shark-man from the undersea Dragon Palace [link]

Tsukumogami (付喪神): Any 100-year-old inanimate object that has come to life [link]

Uwan (うわん): A spirit named for the sound it shouts when surprising people [link]

Yuki-onna (雪女) The snow woman [link] To be honest, I did not write about the Yuki-onna (that’s why name is not bold), but… but.