Monday, October 24, 2011

"Cleaning Up Death is Becoming Popular" by guest blogger, Caleb J. Ross

I am thrilled to have guest blogger, Caleb J. Ross, here at Le Salon Annex. He is the writer of the wonderful collection of short stories Charactered Pieces, which I reviewed here and the terrific novel Stranger Will, reviewed here. Thanks, Caleb, for visiting my humble virtual abode and welcome.

Cleaning up death is becoming popular

This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross (also known as Caleb Ross, to people who hate Js) as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: Friend him on Facebook:

Before Stranger Will, the only knowledge I had of human remains removal—and what would become the impetus to the novel—was a short posting in some forum about a professional crime scene cleaner which described the smell of a body, baked by the summer heat to a kitchen linoleum floor. I was just morbidly curious enough to turn that short image into a novel. This was back in 2000.

Jump ahead 10 years to Joshua Chaplinsky’s review of

The Dead Janitor’s Club: Pathetically True Tales of a Crime Scene Cleanup King by Jeff Klima, which contained the phrase “...there was a whole crop of books dedicated to the people who sop up the blood and bits of brain in the wake of heinous acts of violence.” Apparently, morbid curiosity had become more prevalent over the years. During drafting and re-drafting, all the way to the final version of the novel in 2010, I had researched appropriately, finding a few books on bioremediation, but never sensing a growing popularity of the subject matter. I must have been on lock-down or something. Seriously, look at this list:

Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After C.S.I. Goes Home by Gil Reavill (non-fiction), 2007

Mop Men: Inside the World Of Crime Scene Cleaners by Alan Emmins (non-fiction), 2009

The Dead Janitor’s Club: Pathetically True Tales of a Crime Scene Cleanup King by Jeff Klima (non-fiction), 2010
The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Houston (novel), 2009
Sunshine Cleaning (movie), 2009

Love Like a Molotov Cocktail to the Chest by Scott C. Rogers (novel), 2010

Bioremediation: Principles and Applications by Ronald L. Crawford and Don L. Crawford (non-fiction), 2005

Bioremediation: Applied Microbial Solutions for Real-World Environment Cleanup by Ronald M. Atlas and Jim Philp (non-fiction), 2005

And that’s just a few. All published/released within 5 years. And don’t forget National Geographic’s Youtube series on crime scene cleaners. Investigation Discovery has one, too.

What is with the seemingly sudden (to me, anyway) popularity with bioremediation? I’m the type to look at most trends as reactions to cultural shifts. So, what has shifted within the culture? I understand the temptation, and ignorance, associated with commenting on one’s own culture, without any temporal distance, but I will: I bring it back to war, but more specifically, to the unfiltered access many civilians have to the deaths that occur as a result of war. We’ve always had wars, but we’ve never had Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and 24-hour news cycles during a war. People see more and more death, so people get more and more interested in the practicalities of death. Mix that with a shift toward everything eco-friendly, and of course people are going to wonder how bodies disappear.

And in keeping with Kristin’s New Orleans feel, here’s a clip specifically addressing the humidity (re: quick decomposition) inherent in a Louisiana climate: