Saturday, August 02, 2008

All Crime is Local

The most common question I hear at conferences is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Despite my stock answers (aisle 6 at Sam’s Club or The truth is, most crime writers work from real life crimes they see or read about in the news.

Then of coures I hear how lucky I am that my private detective, Hannibal Jones, lives in crime-ridden Washington DC. “But I live in a peaceful little town,” they say. “Where can I get ideas?”

That made me wonder about my real home in Northern Virginia, where Hannibal Jones often strays in the course of an adventure. And guess what? I live in a crime-ridden area too. A little research showed me that recently several gangs surfaced, leaving graffiti that police at first thought was just random vandalism. A girl who had been relocated to the Shanendoah Valley area for protection was murdered by a group called the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Police say this Latino based gang is following the growth of drug use in small towns. Then I read that groups of farmers banded together to fight their growing influence and to maintain the peace of their rural life. Is there a novel hidden in there someplace? You betcha!

There’s an FBI taskforce now because several people have been brutally murdered in Northern Virginia. Newsweek called MS-13 ...the fastest-growing, most violent and least understood of the nation’s street gangs.”

So shootings, burglaries and drug use plague my area, and it’s certainly more pronounced than it was five years ago. Maybe it’s not more important than in Washington DC, but in an area proud of its rural heritage and peaceful lifestyle it sure can destroy peoples’ peace of mind. And THAT sounds like the theme for a series of novels. And consider these news clips I found on the “Hello, Alexandria” website:

Sat, 26 Jul 2008 06:50:54 GMT - SF Man Gets 23 Years For Trafficking Cocaine (CBS 5 Bay Area)A 34-year-old San Francisco man was sentenced in Eastern District of Virginia court Friday to 23 years in prison on cocaine trafficking and tax evasion charges in Alexandria, Virginia.

Hmmm... How’d he end up here?

Chinese national sentenced for aiding spy (The Post-Standard) Fri, 01 Aug 2008 14:42:16 GMTALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A woman who helped a Chinese spy obtain U.S. military secrets has been sentenced in Virginia to a year and a half in prison. Thirty-three-year old Yu Xin Kang is a Chinese national who had been living in New Orleans with furniture salesman Tai Shen Kuo.

Wow! I don’t have time to write all the story ideas that came into my head when I read those, so you can have them. But then, I bet there's a similar web site in your community. The point is, crime is everywhere, and so are great ideas for crime stories. Plug into your local reality and write one!

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