These have been troubling times for many people. I hope you and your families have found peace this holiday season, and wish, for you and yours, much happiness, health and prosperity in the days ahead. Happy holidays, everyone!
Mystery folks, be they readers or writers, are different from other people. We make a distinction between real crime, which no sane person would want in their lives, and written crime, which loads of us cheerfully embrace.
I remember an incident that occurred last year. Mystery Writers of America had just sent out its annual Edgar Awards program, and I loved the cover. If you haven’t seen it, it depicted a shadowy alley with a chalk outline on the ground. Beside it a man casually leaned against a wall, glancing down at the chalk outline. Though the hoodie he wore obscured his face, the man could be identified by the sickle that rested beside him. The caption read, “Death Becomes Us.”
I tried sharing my glee over that cover with friends who don’t read mysteries, but they clearly didn’t get it. They actually looked appalled by the whole idea of it. That was the Grim Reaper I was laughing it, after all. What? Is that bad luck or something?
Mystery folks can have fun with fictional crime. At the October debut of my urban fantasy-mystery, High Crimes on the Magical Plane, which was held at my Sedona bookstore, The Well Red Coyote, my husband gave me a grand introduction. In addition to other remarks, he mentioned that he’s such a good husband because I know five hundred ways to kill people without leaving a trace. An exaggeration to be sure — I can’t possibly know that many. Besides, most of the methods that play out in mysteries are failed methods. The bad guys get caught, after all.
What I found most interesting were the reactions of the readers and writers in the large audience. The mystery people laughed freely. Well, really, most of the genre people did. But the laughter coming from the people who don’t usually read mysteries seemed more uncomfortable. I could distinctly see the difference. Their laughter was anxious, and seemed to regard what Joe said as being inappropriate and in bad taste.
Now, I’d agree that actually doing it, that is, offing your spouse with one of those foolproof methods, is inappropriate and in bad taste. But talking about it can be both intellectually stimulating and emotionally freeing. I’ve read that Sue Grafton actually began planning her first mystery, A is for Alibi, during a bitter custody battle with her ex. Thinking murderous thoughts won’t profit everyone like that, but lots of people would feel a whole lot better if they gave release to those thoughts.
There’s also the element of justice. It’s not often we get to see karma played out in real life. Maybe what goes around actually does come around at some point, but I suspect most of us are rarely there to see our tormentors getting their comeuppance. In mysteries — even the cross-genre types — we not only get to see justice served, it’s usually in the most satisfying and symbolic way.
Especially in a time filled with so many challenges, why would anyone want to live without that?
Causes Kris Neri Supports
Sedona, Arizona Humane Society