Friday, March 20, 2009
Too Many Killings? by Chester Campbell
How much killin’ is enough? You expect to find murders in a murder mystery, but do some authors go overboard?
Lee Child is one who knows how to knock ‘em off with abandon. Jack Reacher and his antagonists can be counted on to dispatch up to a dozen or more in every book. Reacher does it with a bit of flair, killing in just about every way imaginable.
Robert B. Parker’s Spenser has been known to knock off a few bad guys, though he usually keeps it to a fairly low number. I seem to recall in Potshot, however, that Spenser and his crew stirred things up out in Arizona on a level that outdid the O.K. Corral guys by far.
Of course, when the good guys are pulling the trigger, it isn’t murder, it’s self-defense. But sometimes, it seems, they can get pretty self-indulgent.
When the mystery involves a serial killer, it’s a given that there will be a string of bodies laid out all through the book. Some authors delight in giving us all the gory details of how it happens. But are we any more enlightened than when we only learn the basics of the slaughter from a detective’s perspective or an autopsy report?
I have described a few deaths in my books, but I keep the gory details to a minimum. How do you feel about killings in mysteries? Are there too many? Are they too graphic?