Is the question i'm asking myself at the moment. I've been writing crime novels since i left the police a few years ago, and despite a firm grasp of all the procedural bits and bobs necessary to make the plot seem real, i have to confess that i get a little bored if there isn't some adrenaline pumping action going on.
The issue is that police generally aren't armed over here. We have armed units, sure, but in the main you trudge around with a stick and some pepper spray and end up brawling with people, which is all well and good but it doesn't have the nail biting tension invoked when firearms come out to play.
So my latest novel has gone from a standard murder investigation and turned into a high octane car chase/firefight/take down the bad guys scenario, and i'm wondering if it works with British crime. Maybe i should start writing crime novels based in the states where things like that are a tad more likely to happen, or stick to writing action thrillers and leave the crime.
What do you think?
Martha Grimes' first Inspector Jury novel, "The Man with a Load of Mischief," ended with the criminal armed with a pistol and the detective with a slingshot. It seems to me that the lack of a firearm for the good guy would add to the nail-biting tension, not detract from it, especially as there seems to be a resurgence underway among U.K. gun clubs, meaning the potential bad guys.
And definitely a good plot for a mystery or thriller. Pity the hero who comes up against military hardware armed with baton and spray. Getting him or her out of that situation would be a serious page turner.
I have set a series of novels in the US, but unfortunately they haven't been picked up yet so there's no point writing more of the series until one hits. They're based around an ex army Brit, similar in vein to Matt Hilton's Joe Hunter series, but slightly more mercenary and definitely not as northern. It's much easier as a Brit myself to write about the states and have the action seem realistic. I suppose you have an artistic license with another country that maybe you don't feel you can justify with your own as you know it so well.
I might try another one in the US and make it more crime orientated, but i'm fairly satisfied that my British crime stuff has enough procedural investigation and action, i'm just not sure the mix is entirely appropriate...
I think that this is maybe where having been a cop over here and trying to write about it falls down. Policing in the UK can actually be incredibly violent, there's just a lack of guns. The traditional sleuth story is very unlike real policing, so i think that maybe i'm suffering from trying to put too much reality into my stories.
It's interesting though, as your point about the intellectual side of the genre is a well made one. Perhaps putting too much action in is challenging the boundaries of the genre in the wrong way, and action and intellectual crime should be kept apart. I can't quite make my mind up on this one.
Interesting exchange of ideas here! Popular America media is very fast paced these days. Whether it's action, tension, or violence maybe the important thing is to keep the story moving forward. No reason there can't be a lot depth in the procedure or in reflection as long it leads to escalation.
Your point about too much realism struck a nerve with me as well. I've watched several cops TV shows and I'm always amazed at how spontaneous many of the crimes are. People making bad decisions in the face of sudden "opportunities." I have no experience in real crime enforcement, but it seems to me most criminals in fiction are more interesting and clever than those in real life.
With a few exceptions (they tend to be British shows), crime and detective shows on TV are really simple and superficial.
Depth in the procedure? You mean in the investigation? I look for depth in the characters.