Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Guilty Pleasures of Crime Fiction by Mar Preston

I never wanted to hang out in a cop bar, or be a cop, but I’ve always been fascinated with police work and that’s why I write police procedurals. Most law enforcement jobs offer burst of excitement, danger, and thrilling action—in sharp contrast to the way I made my living. For most of my working life I worked on academic social science research projects.

Wouldn’t say there were a lot of thrills and chills, would you?  Oh, the work had its own set of puzzles and intrigues, its own small excitements. Except for the earthquake that smashed through Los Angeles—and the University of Southern California where I worked for a generation—I felt pretty safe.

Cop life is anything but safe with a traffic stop or a felony pick up going sideways in a nanosecond. I’m not alone in my enjoyment of 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? Why do I feel such glee in learning new forensic details of death and dying?

I grew up with a mother who read them all and gave me the good ones. Had she lived longer I wonder if she wouldn’t have tackled one herself. I had good models—The McDonalds, Elmore Leonard, John Dickinson Carr, Ed McBain. I never liked the Grand Old Dames of mystery fiction, the Agatha Christies, or what came to be known as the “cozies.” I’m bored with Sherlock Holmes, no matter what contrivances they think up to make him new. I relish the dark side, a bit of noir, semi-hardboiled.

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. I happily confess my guilty pleasure in crime fiction but I also know that murder in real life ripples outward and causes life-long misery and suffering in the lives of victim’s families.

Another pleasure of crime fiction is that I can dance on the dark side, speed into a dark alley after midnight, insult a gang banger or talk back to a cop with impunity. I can do things in fiction that would be unthinkable in daily life. In my fictional life I can be 32 and 5 foot ten. I can have curly blond hair and a romance with a hard-bodied cop who can dance the tango.  Sigh.  It all happens between my ears.

I can make things come out right. All the loose ends tie up. The villain goes to jail.

 What are your reasons for writing crime fiction? 
Living out a fantasy at the Writers Police Academy 2015
Living out a fantasy at the Writers Police Academy 2015

If you're just starting you might like to look at a series of 4 eBooks I’ve written which cover topics you need to think about in “Writing Your First Mystery.”

Here’s a link:

The overview “Writing Your First Mystery” is free on my website:

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