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.

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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.

I agree, I don't agree with violence or the glorification of it. The interest for me is to try to understand a world you wouldn't want access to and to understand what would drive a person to commit such unthinkable things, but in no way would I ever find those actions acceptable or condone them.

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.

That's a really good point and one I wanted to cover in my next discussion post, why characters we should hate we find so compelling. As I said in my reply I enjoy trying to understand lifestyles that are different to my own. What's interesting, for me anyway, is that these characterts are in many ways similar to us, they are human after all and all that separates them from us is the extremity's they go to, I find it fascinating that innocent notions such as love and loyalty can be twisted and drive certain people too far. In reality when we meet people in passing we only see the sides on show, that initial first impression when we decide if they are decent or despicable etc, but the joys of being a viewer/reader is that we are given a beneath the surface look at how these characters operate, and that's where I get the most out of these forms of entertainment

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. 

In the everyday no one is perfect and we all make mistakes, are wronged and do wrong as well as doing what we feel is right, most often we sit between blurred lines even if we don't realise it. This type of entertainment exploits that truth and tests our judgement as we see beyond the bad to some semblance of good and in the good we see bad. It's these traits in us that tip the balance as we go through life, even the small everyday stuff helps to shape us like job irritations etc and I enjoy seeing the transformation, the difference in everyone's journey, where it takes them and why. It's this blur of good and bad I think that in reality is what keeps the criminal world so close to home, temptations there for everyone and in some walks of life it's too easy to give in

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.

It's much like one of the main characters in the project I'm working on, he's a note passer between gangs, a product of his environment that wants better for himself but his habitat offers him little chances. A conflicted character makes for compelling entertainment because we can all relate to that, even if on a lesser level

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.

And for me that acceptance is where I start to form my opinion of a character, if a character is ignorant of their wrongs then for me they become more the villain but if they acknowledge what they've done then I'm willing to sway more towards that character, they're still wrong but in that they reclaim some humanity


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