Crime is nothing new, it's been around since Eve first ate from the tree, that is if you're a Godly person and a believer. We see, hear and read about it everyday and are often disgusted and appalled by it.
But we, as crime fiction readers/writers are enthralled by it. True-crime can both intrigue and scare us, while crime-fiction completely captivates us. In the hands of a good writer, crime-fiction readers are immersed in a world so separate to the norm that many of us dwell, but in reality is only one wrong step away. For me, a work being fiction helps my mind to distance the enjoyment I find in the interest of looking into a different walk of life from the sinister truth that many of the nasty happenings in such tales are inflicted on a day to day basis.
Though not a relatively new concept, but one that is becoming more regular in crime-fiction, is that crime-writers are blurring the lines between the everyday normality's and the criminal. TV shows especially have ventured the deepest into this fusion. Shows like The Soprano's, Boardwalk empire and Ray Donovan showcase their characters in volatile and violent criminal environments while allowing the viewer access into their personal lives, not just their thoughts and feelings but their day to day routines, like having friends, family, their hobbies and vices, as simple as they may be like enjoying a certain brand of whiskey. Even if far removed from their "employment", a cross-over point is always inevitable because both sides are just as much a part of their lives as the other. This all aids in the clouding of black and white and can help in a deranged way to rationalise their motivations.
Often compared to The Wire, here in the UK we had a TV crime/drama show titled Top Boy, detailing the lives of fictional drug dealers on the streets of london and how their world exists within the proper working world and how the un-involved are often forced to witness its malevolence, unwillingly drawn in. The same as with The Wire, this show broadcast the close connection of the two worlds, that one does not exist without the other, further distancing itself from the earliest of crime novels of criminals existing in a separate extravagant, almost fantasy world rather than as it is, existing amongst us.
In literature form two of the best examples I've personally enjoyed are Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow and Lorenzo Carcaterra's Gangster. Both chronicle the rising of young gangsters through the ranks of organised crime but display also the usual plights of youth, from young love and parental relationships to the experimentation's of teenage years and adulthood, all culminating in the evolution of the paths these characters take. We experience through this that as different as the lives of these characters may be and as romanticised as their existence is, aspects of them are grounded in our realism, bearing similarities to the readers own everyday lives, resulting in a sense of relation to which draws us in deeper.
Not a new concept as I said, and one that's probably been covered on here before but it's a device I find interesting and enjoyed writing about.
All the best.
I'm troubled by the romanticizing of crime and violence. My preference is for police procedurals. There at least you see which are the good guys.
There's quite a broad area available for creating criminal protagonists and not romanticizing either the crimes or the violence. It is not the creator's job to tell the audience what to think, or show them which moral judgments to make. Depicting such people honestly should be enough. Tony Soprano is as good an example as any. He has many admirable qualities (loves his family, is loyal to his friends), but how he behaves exposes him as the sociopath he is. That unapologetic portrayal allows him to be a full realized character, while still never confused for a "good guy."
I'll buy Tony Soprano. In that show, it was always clear what acts were evil.
As John McFetridge pointed out at least year's Bouchercon, "everyone is the hero of their own story." Cartoonish bad guys may be fun when you're a kid, but, as adults, the stories are far more intriguing when even the bad guy has something about him to evoke empathy in the reader, even if you know it's misguided.
My protagonist is a "bad" guy, but I work hard to make him sympathetic and likeable. He doesn't think he's a bad guy, he's a father and a husband and just wants to be left alone. But he's certainly committed crimes. :-)
I enjoy books like "Hitman" by Lawrence Block, "Out of Sight" by Elmore Leonard, the Parker books by Richard Stark, all of which feature sympathetic bad guys.
Well, that's what Aristotle pointed out for the "hero".
Well, there you go. I don't like any of these authors and don't read them. I have had killers who were forced into their actions by love or circumstances, but they always accepted their punishment as fair.