Thursday, March 10, 2011

History (and Crime Fiction) in the Making

The world is changing around us. History is happening in Wisconsin right now. In fact, the Smithsonian sent a curator to collect the pieces of this history that's occurring. People are documenting this history on Facebook, on Twitter, on all types of social media.

And one of those other places this will be documented is in crime fiction.

Crime fiction is nearly always the first entertainment medium to use a piece of history in their works.

I remember in the early 2000s when Jim Fusilli's A WELL-KNOWN SECRET debuted. It was one of the first books to comment on New York City post 9/11. It was a heart breaking read, as it documented how the citizens of Tribeca were handling the tragedy.

Many crime fiction novels are also focusing on how the war in the Middle East is affecting soldiers. Reading about this fictional characters can put on a face on what we can only see on the news. We get into the heads of these characters and, hopefully, get a feel for what people who go through this are thinking.

And, heck, even Duane Swierczynski's upcoming FUN & GAMES is pre-dating the entire strange Randy Quaid-hitman situation.

Crime novels are our social conscience. They take what is happening around us and give it context, give it a theme, give it a story and a voice. The best crime fiction carries us through the days we are living while also entertaining us.

And right now, once again, history is unfolding around us. Make no mistake, this is happening in Wisconsin. Then it's going to happen in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana... New Jersey...

So, crime fiction writers are usually ahead of the curve on these things. And the battle over education has been simmering for sometime. Ten years? More? Sooner or later some crime fiction writer is going to jump all over it.

Maybe he or she already has, and I just haven't read it yet.

Or maybe I just gave myself an idea....

1 comment:

John McFetridge said...

I think you gave yourself an idea.

Although crime fiction recently may have some things to say about news events, for the most part crime fiction has been about individual events - fictionalized accounts of serial killers and so on.

Back in the 70's when the attack on the working class really started to take off (once there was enough distance between blue collar workers and their time as WWII heroes) there were a few movies that used the material but few books.

Wisconsin still makes many people think of McCarthy and there's very little crime fiction about the communist witch hunts and the lives they destroyed - well, there's James Ellroy's "American Underworld trilogy," but that can almost be called alternate history. There wasn't even any crime fiction about the Hollywood blacklists.

It will be interesting to see if the middle class gets a different reaction than the working class did a generation ago.

I'm already looking forward to your book.