Can you cut someone’s throat on the downtown B train at 96th Street and get rid of the body before you reach Columbus Circle, four stops away? Absolutely. I guarantee it. Even better: you can do it faster than if you were at your desk.

I made this discovery while banging my head against the brick wall of a particularly bad case of writer’s block. I’d tried all the usual tricks: getting up from my desk and staring down into the street to watch the garbage trucks, checking the fridge to see if the cold pasta was still there, eating the cold pasta. Nothing worked. The problem I had at the time was not the throat-slash-and-body-dump mentioned above (a task now laughably simple), but a more basic and intractable problem. I needed a diamond thief, but I couldn’t nail it. Then suddenly …