A long time ago I read a true crime book about some kids who killed one of their group and the “brilliant” detective who tracked down them and brought them to justice.
But as I read the book I couldn’t help but feel there was a much bigger story here not being told – these kids had been abandonded by their poor, uneducated parents, they’d been living pretty much on their own in squats and on the street and then an older version of themselves showed up with drugs and some vague ideas about Satanism. He got them into prostitution, the paranoia increased and eventually they killed one of their group.
Frankly it didn’t seem like it took much detecting to catch the kids and then dumping them in prison didn’t seem like much justice. But the book was written as though the detective was tracking Ted Bundy or Pablo Escobar.
I think it was reading crime fiction that tipped me to this idea that there was more going on, that the characters weren’t simply “brilliant cop” and “evil murderer.”
And it made me think about the way crime fiction approaches the material, the context and the effects we’re after as writers. Different writers would look at that material and see entirely different stories. We can write about the cops, we can write about the bad guys, we can write about innocent people caught in the middle and about innocent people who take up one side or the other.
Maybe it was Elmore Leonard’s Swag that first got me thinking past the first paragraph of those newspaper stories that said things like, “Grocery Store Robbed, Shots Fired,” and got me wondering who would rob a grocery store? Where they go after that? How would they get caught?
And that was probably the book that first showed me that crime fiction didn't have to have a detectibve (cop or private eye) as the main character.
So, which crime fictions writers have influenced the way you see crime and justice?