Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Dirty Secret

by Josh

In light of this week's prompt regarding which real life serial killers I would want to meet, I...

Well...

OK.  It's confession time.  Better now than never, right?

Given my Esme Stuart series, many people assume that I must harbor dark thoughts.  I've been complimented - at a safe distance - about the sheer creepiness of my villains.  My usual reply is that the violent antagonists in my work are borne from research...and that's true...but it doesn't tell the whole story.

So here's the whole story.  It's a bit of a secret, actually.  I've honestly never told anyone what I'm about to tell you.

This is sensitive information.  I may need to whisper it.   Come closer, please.

Closer.

Thank you.  

Are you ready?

Here it comes:

I am a pacifist.   

It's true.  I abhor violence.  One of the reasons I've never gotten into football is that, apart from the obvious talent involved in throwing and catching a prolate spheroid composed of polyurethane, the main appeal seems to be watching large men pound each other into flesh-shaped bruises.  Similarly, I can appreciate boxing in theory and I can admire the training that professional boxers go through but I will never enjoy watching two people slug it out.  I'm not squeamish; I just don't get that visceral thrill so many others enjoy.

Now of course I don't judge people who do enjoy football or boxing or hockey just as I don't judge people who enjoy cream cheese or veal chops or the City of Philadelphia.  I'm just not one of those people.

When I teach creative writing, I often advise my students not only to write about what they want to know but also what they can't understand.  Liberals, write about conservatives.  Christians, write about atheists.  Philadelphians, write about happy people.  And so, I interview law enforcement officials and I read books on behavioral psychology and interviews with loathsome murderers but I have no desire - none - to sit down and chat with one of these loathsome murderers myself.  

I'm not naive.  I know that mankind is wired more toward aggression than some kind of utopian tranquility.  There will always be more battles than treaties, but I have no desire to sit down with Omar al-Bashir, as vicious a human monster as Richard Ramirez or Edmund Kemper, and pick his brain.  In making this decision to avoid any theoretical contact with these dregs of humanity, am I depriving myself of a chance to invariably inform and improve my writing?  Quite possibly.  I don't care.  Sometimes principles have to trump progress, right?

3 comments:

lil Gluckstern said...

I am not convinced that sitting down with a sociopath will give you anything near the truth. I like what you have to say. It is amazing to me that so many kind, loving, pacifists write these entreating and violent novels. Talk about sublimation :)

Michael Wiley said...

Okay, that's it: I'm standing up and raising my hand, too, Josh. I too am a pacifist. It's true, and I feel much better for admitting it.

Now, pour me a drink.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I agree with Lil, not sure a sociopath would ever give up the truth if questioned. As for being a pacifist, I'll confess, I keep my options open. While in theory I dislike violence, truth be told, I'd welcome the opportunity to beat the ever-loving shit out of a few people like Ted Bundy, pedophiles, wife beaters, Casey Anthony and Scott Peterson, just to name a few. And, yes, I do write cozy mysteries... go figure.