by Paul D. Marks
Since I answered this week’s what are you reading now question on the SinC blog hop a couple of posts ago and it hasn’t changed all that much, hope no one minds if I respond to last week’s question instead: Is there a type of crime you won't write about? Why?
Being obsessed with crime and murder is a pre-requisite for a mystery writer. My wife and I often joke that if I was being investigated for a crime that the cops would take a look at our bookshelves and internet searches and have a field day. God forbid anything should ever happen to her... Those internet searches will put a needle in my arm. As crime writers, we tend to focus on corruption and evil, so there probably aren’t a lot of subjects we won’t explore. But sometimes there are crimes that are so heinous that they turn our stomachs and topics that are so controversial that we wonder how people can do what they do.
There used to be certain types of crime that I thought I wouldn’t write about, mainly because I didn’t want to give anyone any ideas—mostly things having to do with terrorist/terrorism type stories. But it seems that the real world has far outpaced anything I can think of in terms of horror and cruelty so I don’t think I would be giving anyone any ideas anymore.
Just look at some of the horrific things people do to each other on the various Investigation Discovery shows. Then look at the beheadings in the Middle East. The planes flying into the World Trade Center. I never thought of that one exactly, but I did have ideas for “terror” stories that I never pursued because I didn’t want to give people ideas, as if they needed me to give them ideas. And, like I say, most of it’s already been done at this point anyway—in real life. Watch the news tonight and you’ll see. Besides, Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn have that area covered pretty well. And the George Clooney-Nicole Kidman movie The Peacemaker (a “breathless thriller,” I might add—see pic) and Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, respectively deal with the stealing of Russian nukes and a virulent disease epidemic.
At the same time, I don’t think we’re responsible for other people’s actions. And we shouldn’t shy away from uncomfortable or topical subjects. My novel, White Heat, deals with the ugly subject of racism via the plot and characters of a mystery story. And the N word is used several times by the characters. I debated a long time whether or not to use that word, but ultimately I felt it was part of who those people are. I didn’t want to compromise the story by putting a pretty face on it or wiping clean all the offensive language that might show some characters in not the best light. But I think I also tried to show the flipside of that too—how people can sometimes say or think the wrong things, but do the right thing. Or how we can have people in our lives who we love despite their weaknesses and faults. I try to show moments of humanity where I can. And the reality is that the world is not black and white, but shades of gray, as are most of the people in our lives, including ourselves.
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And please check out my new post, “Words and Pictures: Short Stories, Novels, and Screenplays,” on Ellery Queen Magazine’s blog site: Something Is Going To Happen, on the differences between the three forms of writing. http://somethingisgoingtohappen.net/2014/10/22/words-and-pictures-short-stories-novels-and-screenplays-by-paul-d-marks/