Re: RARA-AVIS: Cell phones in crime novels

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 11 Apr 2003

John wrote:

"For me, the most important change is that it makes it too easy for someone in danger to call for help. How many times can writers use the ploy of the cell phone running out of juice?"

That gimmick -- actually, it was the related being out of range (in the deserts in Mexico) -- was used quite efectively in the movie Way of the Gun, becoming something of a running joke. But, yes, I could see the idea getting run into the ground.

The other cliche in the making (already made?) is the person in hiding whose phone rings and reveals where they are.

However, as with anything else, I think it depends upon the writer's skill. The first time I remember seeing cell phones used extensvely was in the movie Trespass, allowing the drug dealers to communicate with each other while combing the abandoned building for witnesses. Walter Hill used it very effecively to heighten suspense.

GM Ford also used cell phones, and tons of other surveillance equipment, well in The Deader the Better, allowing the various confederates to communicate (and harrass the targets) while exposing a dirty town scam. Of course, there is one dead spot, but it was not overused, just planted for one later use.


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