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Today a character interview of Shrug, one of the main protagonists in THE TRAZ and FATAL ERROR, was posted online and it got me thinking about how we define a criminal mind.
Interviewer, Peggy Stanton, calls Shrug a Bad Boy but he says he'd prefer her to think highly of him--after all, as an undercover cop he dedicated four years of his life to infiltrating and dismantling a biker gang.
Whether he is good or evil remains up for grabs. Characters in my novels who knew Shrug before his undercover stint insist he was a much kinder, gentler man before going undercover. Living with evil, they suggest, warped his soul. Shrug excuses some of his behaviour by suggesting it was governed by depression. He says in his interview that a prior personal trauma left him not caring if he lived or died and thus he became a willing candidate to take on the ultra-dangerous assignment.
Although Shrug has many excuses for being the way he is, he's not so generous with his thoughts about Katrina, the young protagonist in my series. He believes that despite all the traumas that beset her, she was just plain born evil.
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Past traumas, mental health and the personalities we are born with do indeed help form our character. To what extent we can blame our behaviours on exterior influences in not fully understood even by the experts. And although the judicial system does allow leeway for motives (self-defense, abusive relationships, insanity) it doesn't generally accept a defence of "the end justifies the means", a philosophy Shrug has been known to advocate as an excuse for his illicit behaviour. Whereas buying and selling cocaine during a mission to infiltrate a gang is forgivable and legal, using a child to ratify those deals is likely pushing the limits too far. And Shrug is known to have done both.
So how 'bad' is Shrug? He wouldn't have been able to successfully infiltrate a biker gang if he'd been carrying with him his church-going Christian ways so perhaps he can be forgiven for setting aside his morality to deal with everyday evils he encountered. He did, he says, always keep in mind the ultimate good that would come from his mission.
We all have a tad of evil in us, whether from past traumas, desperation, the personality quirks we're born with, the teachings that have influenced us, the health of our mind, body, soul and relationships. Whether or not Shrug is right that some people are born purely evil may not be so clear.
That good people can at times do bad things (for a variety of reasons) is a given. Whether those with criminal minds can do good, and whether or not they deserve credit when they do is debatable.
In THE STRANGER BESIDE ME by Ann Rule, she mentions how Ted Bundy, the taker of many lives, also saved lives during the time he manned the suicide prevention line with Rule. She felt we might wish to grant him some brownie points for that. Although those he saved and their loved ones may agree, the justice system didn't and I don't. Not any more so than the Hells Angels' annual teddy bear run improves my opinion of that gang.
Drop on over to the Famous Five Plus website and see what you think of the man who confuses even those of us who know him well.
Eileen Schuh, Author