As is often the case, a real incident sparked a work of fiction—or so was Dahl's recollection more than twenty years later. At that point, he credited James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, a friend from his Washington, D.C. years, with inspiring the 1953 story. Dahl said that Fleming had commented at a Vermont dinner party about an especially tough leg of lamb, saying that whoever had kept it in the freezer so long should be shot. That sparked in Dahl a different idea about a leg of lamb and a murder.
But for all Dahl's retrospective credit to Fleming, Dahl himself had a vivid imagination all his own and generally included the macrabre in his stories. He wrote, for example, "Stairway to Heaven" not long after "Lamb to the Slaughter." In this 1954 story, a woman who has long been subjected to sadistic passive-aggressive abuse by her husband leaves him stranded to die stuck between floors on an elevator.
What makes Dahl's murderous twists palatable, and even often appropriate for children, is...
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