Friday, December 14, 2012

From a Crime Writer’s Library—Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons

“All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.” –Paracelsus

There are many books on poisons, and many are on my bookshelf, but one has complied accurate information in an easy to understand guide on poisons. Years ago the Writers Digest Books published Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons, by Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner. This book breaks down poisons by where they are found and how lethal they can be. They further describe the methods of the administration of those poisons and give case history examples of how that poison had been used in real life. Sadly this book is now out of print, but you should be able to find it in used book stores or at certain local libraries.

One case study in this book still remains in my memory today of how to kill with nicotine. We all have been shown the commercials of how smoking is bad for your health and can lead to cancer and death. Well, the commercials never address how a woman could get rid of her ailing non-smoking bed ridden husband with nicotine. Deadly Doses does. The example that was given was the case of a woman who strained her husband’s drinking water through used cigarette filters. The man couldn’t get out of bed, go for help or anything. The only water he had access to was this filtered water which slowly poisoned him to death.

The ease of this book’s formatting is what drew me to it when it came out. It breaks down the poisons first into chapters dealing with the kind of poison and then gives the details. Here is how it works:
  • There is a chapter on:
    • The Classic Poisons (Arsenic, Cyanide and Strychnine)
    • Household Poisons
    • Poisonous Plants
    • Fragile Fungi
    • Snakes, Spiders, and Other Living Things
    • Medical Poisons
    • Pesticides
    • Industrial Poisons
    • Street Drugs
    • How to create your own
  • Each poison in each chapter has:
    • Names
    • Toxicity levels
    • Forms (how they are found)
    • Effects and Symptoms
    • Reaction Time
    • Antidotes and Treatments
    • Case Histories
    • Notes
  • The Appendices have:
    • Poisons by Methods of Administration
    • Poisons by Form
    • Poisons by Symptoms They Cause
    • Poisons by the Time in Which They React
    • Poisons by Toxicity Rating
If you are planning to write a murder or anything to do with poisons, you will want this book handy for reference.

Thank you for reading and please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.


  1. Replies
    1. You can find the book on or other used book sellers.

  2. I came across this book at the library not long ago. I love it!