Yeah, what George said. Though I have a feeling he used a different word sometimes...
Maybe something’s in the zeitgeist because as I was writing this post on the weekend my friend, Adrian McKinty, posted about the same things I was going to say and said it a lot better than I can in a post titled, 15Things I’d Like to Ban from Contemporary Crime Fiction.
One of the biggest problems, as Adrian says, is, “The violence. Especially violence towards women and children...It's almost impossible to read some of this stuff and it makes me wonder how and why these authors ended up writing it.”
Oh right, of course, we’re all trying to show how awful it is. As if there’s someone reading the books who isn’t sure and needs to be convinced that horrific violence against women and children (and men, there’s plenty of violence against men, too) is terrible. Convinced in great, gory detail. Again and again.
Are we fighting for peace here by fucking for virginity?
Another point Adrian brings up is that, “There's an entirely fallacious belief out there that gets repeated all the time (I heard JJ Abrams repeating it on TV not ten minutes ago) that a hero is only as good as the villain is bad. The hero is supposedly 'defined by the villain.' This is utter nonsense.”
Yes, it’s nonsense. The greatest lesson from the 20th century, I think, and the one we insist on ignoring no matter how many times we see it repeated, is Hannah Arendt’s brilliant insight on, “The Banality of Evil.”
We see it again and again in the cruelty of real-life serial killers. We saw it again last week in Cleveland. Nothing brilliant, just banal. And evil.
Adrian proposed the 15 things he’d like to ban, a kind of Dogme 95 for crime writers and it’s certainly worth thinking about.
I will only add one thing, not something I’d like to ban but something I’d like to see more of, something that gets repeated so often it has become a trite cliche but the older I get the more important it seems.
Don’t pander. Don’t be afraid to offend. Don’t go for the widest possible audience. Write what’s meaningful to you. Treat it as your only chance to say something you think is really important and needs to be said.
Last week I had the chance to read the pilot script for a TV show commissioned by a Canadian network about a cop-turned-professor who specializes in serial killers (loosely based on a true story, in fact). Of course, the script had a scene in which a beautiful young woman’s dead body is found in a dumpster and I stopped reading at that point and wondered how many beautiful young women on TV, in the movies and in books have been thrown out like the trash.
Hell, I’ve written that scene myself.
And who knows, I may write it again someday and I’ll convince myself – yet again – that it needs to be in the story, that it’s important, that... that I’m not just fucking for virginity.