Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Crime fiction resolutions

Have you broken your New Year's resolutions yet?

They aren't the best way of changing your behavior, but so what? Everyone does it, we might as well join them. I have a list of resolutions I'll keep when writing crime fiction, and I hope you will join me:

Stop typing "cordite"

Unless you are writing about World War One, no. "Gunpowder" is what gunshots smell like. If you've never smelled gunpowder, it's not too far off from firecrackers and the like.

Glocks are now banned.

Just say "pistol" for John Browning's sake. I read one story where "glock" was not capitalized. So Glocks are the new bandaids or kleenex, they are what people who've only seen guns on television call a gun.

The Hayes Code

Crime cannot pay! Sure it does. Ask the President. I am sick and tired of the sheltered, middle-class perspective in crime fiction, where the thieves can't get away with it and anyone who uses drugs that aren't prescribed by a bartender or doctor must be a bad person. It only shows how sheltered you are. Yes, a junkie will steal your television, and then help you go look for it, but look at the statistics on drug use. Find me a teenager who hasn't copped Adderall for finals week. This was on The Sopranos season one, written twenty years ago, but I'm still reading stories where we know someone is untrustworthy because their jacket smells like cannabis smoke.

Police State Fan Fiction

If your sleuth washes their hands like Pontius Pilate once they turn in their suspect, do you read the newspaper? Have you heard about stop & frisk, and how prosecutors pile on charges to force innocent people to plea bargain and avoid serious prison time? There are good cops and justices out there, but unless they acknowledge the widespread injustice, you are perpetuating the Blue Wall of Silence that protects police who are violent toward minorities, and prosecutors who make their careers by railroading people. Chicago police went to prison for running a torture room that coerced black men to confess to crimes they didn't commit. Texas prosecutors have served time for hiding evidence. Show me sleuths who work for The Innocence Project, or at least recognize that the system has serious problems. One darling P.I. character sent the victim of a pedophile to jail for killing his molester, and assured us that a good cop would make sure he was safe in juvenile prison. In Louisiana, where they don't even fund public defenders any more. I threw that book across the room. I train with police, I like stories about police, but if you trade puff pieces for access on ride-alongs, you are a hack.

Classism and racism gotta go

I just read a story where a white guy who loves Japan kicked a yakuza's ass in a fight, and also got a respectful nod from a Japanese native for knowing how to speak the language. Hello, the '30s were over a while ago. Enough with the patronizing Orientalism. This is like those '80s ninja movies where we had to watch Sho Kosugi lose to some white rando. Pardon me while I put the scene where Bruce Lee breaks Chuck Norris's neck on repeat forever. When I wrote Blade of Dishonor I made Mikio the best fighter because I grew up watching kung fu and Jackie Chan movies in Chinatown, and we all laughed at guys like Steven Seagal who never got hit in their movies. My favorite Seagal fact is when he trash talked a real fighter and tried to claim he was the reason for Ronda Rousey's success, Gene LeBell choked him until he pooped himself.

High School BS

Speaking of people taking for others' success... grow up. It's a hard enough road out there, without back-stabbing self-serving narcissists parachuting into the genre and demanding that we recognize their genius. I try to help newer writers when they ask me, and sometimes I miss when they are users who will badmouth people behind their backs, tell lies, and then side with them for personal gain. Reality usually catches up with these guys, after no one will deal with them and they have to start their own press "to keep it real" (meaning: forget everything they said when they were drunk). Unfortunately they often hurt the careers of new writers who don't know better. Here's a hint: if all someone ever talks about is themselves, and claims they love your work but show no evidence of having read it--or anything written after 1940--maybe walk away. Just don't turn your back.

So, happy new year! Write better, not more. This garden's full of roses, just watch out for the pricks.


Christopher Chambers said...

I feel you until the "High School BS" part. Sounds like a personal not a professional beef, and even then, it lacks context, facts...names... Look we may have different visions but we are all on the same damn team. Does this really help, outside of some need to vent in public?

Thomas Pluck said...

Keeping quiet got us here.