Sunday, June 16, 2013

Guilty Pleasure of Crime Fiction

I've asked myself countless times why I’m fascinated enough with murder and mayhem to write three crime fiction novels about Santa Monica? Why do I feel such glee in learning the forensic details of death and dying?

I happily confess my guilty pleasure in crime fiction but I also know that crime in real life ripples outward and causes misery and suffering.  A mass shooting left five dead recently in Santa Monica.

What kind of fantasies does a young man raised on television and action movies have as he barrels across town dressed in black, wearing body armor and a helmet and brandishing a military-style assault rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and an ammunition belt? What stories is he telling himself as he shoots up a bus, a SUV and the college library, then dies in a glorious blaze of gunfire at the hands of a cop?

That cop or cops—however the story is finally told—will never forget or get over what he or she has done in the line of duty. Everyone involved will still be processing some kind of what if question. What if I had been in that library? Riding that bus? Many of them will still be shaking, wondering, going over it and over it, unable to let it go.

We enjoy writing about reading crime fiction with its thrill me, chill me, scare-me- to-death aspect of getting up close to Hannibal Lecter on the printed page. We love Halloween, death-defying roller coasters, tornadoes.  Don't we?

Crime fiction has its appeal because we’re assured that in the end goodness will prevail over evil and the villain will be punished. Things will end up right.

Sometimes there is no closure. The villain goes unpunished. The good guy doesn't always win and we are left burning  with a sense of injustice. Such is the world of victims of crime.

It will take months to uncover the backstory and assess what happened at the nine different crime scenes.

And will we be any further ahead then in preventing or dealing with this kind of craziness? That’s up to us to answer—and then do something about.

Mar Preston is the author of No Dice, Rip-Off, and the upcoming On Behalf of the family, crime fiction novels in which the hero is a Santa Monica Police Department Homicide Detective. They are available on


Carol Kilgore said...

Maybe part of the process for us is to try to make sense of these crimes by writing about those we make up, and in doing so, give ourselves a feeling of closure. Not sure. Insightful post.

Morgan Mandel said...

At least in crime fiction the author has control over the villain!

Morgan Mandel