The clue’s in the title on this one. The story was inspired by a news report, sometime last year, from America. A man had disappeared several years earlier and had eventually been declared dead by his relatives and/or the authorities. Then he turned up again, alive and well, but the sting in the tale was that he couldn’t be declared alive again because of some obscure, historic state law. In that particular state, if you’re ‘dead’ for more than three years, you’re dead. Period. End of. No resurrection allowed.
I found that fascinating. Not just for the facts themselves (although they’re weird enough in themselves) but in what it meant for that man, and his family. Could he even live in modern America with no identity? Could he pay his bills, get a job, drive a car, get a passport to go abroad, all with paperwork officially stamped ‘deceased’? Would he have to start over, rather like someone on the witness protection programme, and become someone entirely new? Needless to say, the news reports didn’t go into that much detail, so I still have no idea.
It doesn’t matter, because ‘Dead Man Walking‘ doesn’t follow the above story to the letter, anyway. As with most of my stuff, the initial inspiration soon changes into something else, usually darker, often with an even more vicious sting in the tail. That’s what happened here. I took the original idea and chucked it around for a while, watching it bounce off walls and change shape, until this story was born. In my version, Johnny is a thug with a penchant for violent robberies – and the perfect alibi. Because, as he says, you can’t be done for murder if you’re dead. Trouble is, his plans all go tits up. Nothing’s ever quite that easy; nothing ever works out quite the way you expect it to. Just ask that American chap!