Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blood on our hands...

Ambulance chasers. Could it be that we are all eligible for inclusion in that ignoble club of professionals who earn their money from the pain and suffering of others? Oh, before you turn your lovely collective noses up at such an absurd idea, look down at your hands I pray and take notice of the dripping redness that is ever so slowly congealing on your very own hands... as on mine very own.
Consider: when you read a newspaper, watch television, or listen to the radio, and are made aware of a particularly grisly killing... does the thought cross your mind, however fleetingly, that you may be able to use parts or all of the details of this killing in some way? Perhaps the way the body was found, or its condition, its location or even the way a hardened cop looked away with tears in his or her eyes... 'oh, this is good,' we thought. 'I have to remember that...' How often have we stared at our mutual enemy and friend, the blank page, and wracked our brains for the best way to kill someone? Or at least the best way to describe it? How many innocents have we pummeled, shot, garroted, pushed off a bridge, knifed, hit over the head with whatever variety of objects, all in the name of our art? How many have died at our hands? Yes, ours are truly criminal minds at work, and our minds are constantly at work trying to figure out the next murder, the next killing, the next theft, kidnapping, break-in, chloroforming, drowning... even mere threats often require much thought before we are satisfied that the words ring true enough to not only convince our readers, but to convince us as well. After all, we are the experts! Oh, there has never walked the land a serial killer, mass murderer, kidnapper, all around scary, smart, dumb, hulking, svelte, brutish, smiling, unsmiling criminal such as we have made of ourselves. Remember the fictional mystery writer played so well on television by the wonderful Angela Lansbury? Why was it that she could solve so many crimes where the members of professional law enforcement could not? Was it because when it came to murder, she knew exactly how she would have done it? Or more correctly, how she would have had one of her characters do it? Crime writers are the Hannibal Lector of the literary world... we know how to kill, maim, kidnap, threaten, blackmail, better than anyone because when you come right down to it, that's what we do for a living... or what we'd like to do for a living (albeit, on paper). We are indeed criminals, each and every one of us... and we're good at it too. Locked door mysteries, crime noir, police procedurals... whatever name it may come draped in, we unveil our talents, lift our pens or unlimber our computers, and create another hapless victim! Damn, we're good.... I was recently asked that annoyingly common question asked of all of us, "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer was an innocent shrug, palms up... Did this person see the blood there, turning hard and brown, flaking a little around the creases...? I doubt it. Unfortunately, or could I be ghoulish enough to say fortunately, life inundates us with new ideas every day, for everyday there is suffering, hurt, anger, jealousy, avarice, pain, hate, love, evil, death... everyday there are new ideas and as writers that delve into the criminal mind, we cannot help but consider much of it fodder... and as I look down on my hands those famous words of another writer come to my mind, "Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—"

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