I'm wondering how important it is to you as a reader to know details about authors.  Do you care?  Author Anne Perry was convicted of murder as a teenager, does that make a difference in whether or not you read her murder mysteries?  Does an author have to have a background in crime or criminology to be qualified to write crime?  As an author of crime fiction with absolutely no background in crime myself, I of course have to say no, it's fiction.  I do research to make sure I get details right, and I'm not writing complex police procedurals.  What do the rest of you think?


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No, to a point. I read for people who are good storytellers, and tell that story in a writing style I enjoy. I enjoy reading interviews, mainly for perspective on their writing, and maybe for a tip or two.

Now, if I discovered a writer was a hideous person--say, the contemporary writing equivalent of Richard Wagner--I might well boycott his or her work, if only because I don;t want them to be able to use my money to live on while they do whatever things I have found so reprehensible. The good news is, I haven't found a crime writer yet who fits the bill. (One is right on the edge, and I'm not going to say who it is. Of course his boycott is easy, since I've never read him in the first place.)

As for Ann Perry, I've not read her and didn't know about the killing, but that's not an automatic disqualifier. People make mistakes. Hopefully they learn from them. Hopefully she's made amends and deserves the benefit of the doubt. 

Anne Perry is an interesting (and hopefully rare) example.  I love her books and didn't know about her past when I first discovered her work, but now I read her mysteries with a deeper appreciation of the themes she brings up.  So for me it can enhance the experience. 

I separate the author and the work.

In my twenty-year attempt at an operatic singing career I sang the music of Richard Wagner without compunction. The man is dead, while the music survives. I'm glad it's not the other way around.

The case of Jack Henry Abbott is also worth considering. Norman Mailer and others campaigned for his release because of their regard for the book that he wrote in prison. My view was that he wasn't in prison for being a bad writer. He was in prison for murder. I had no problem reading the book, and I had no problem with keeping him in prison, either.

Albert, Wagner is a good example of my attitude. I love his music--as a brass player, it's kind of in the blood--but I can buy recordings with a clear conscience, knowing he can no longer benefit. Were he alive, knowing what I know about him, I don;t know.

I do deliberately avoid the "memoirs" of hit men and similar others. There are lots of tings to read; I don't need to pay them. 

I do think I would draw the line at a hit man who never went to prison for his crimes.

I prefer not to know stuff about the authors I like. Perry I have never been crazy about, but frankly I was somewhat less inclined to read her books after learning of her past. Wagner I don't much care for.

If all other things, such as talent, are equal then no one can write as convincingly as someone who has lived the life-style being written about.
One example--Donald Goines. To this day no writer has written as realistically about black criminal street life as he did. He lived and died it and served time for it.

Police reports can supply that sort of realism.  In fact, reading the papers regularly allows a very good insight into what happens in certain parts of a city.

Isn't Mosley the guy to go to for that sort of thing?

Police reports can never give the same insight as someone who has lived the incidents. Funny you mention Mosley--he has acknowledged his admiration for Goines work. Mosley is a very good writer but so was Goines. Goines lived the life, Mosley didn't. Goines work is much more realistic.

But does it have to be?  Does an author have to have a background (or platform, as the agents and publishers are so fond of saying) in crime in order to write about it?  Do I need to take up robbing banks to sell my books?

Of course no one has to take up a life of crime to write about it. There are very few criminals, that are known at least, that have written fiction. Fewer still that are any good and only a half-dozen maybe who are in the top tier of all time crime fiction writers. So nobody is going to lose a sale because of this miniscule number of writers.
It was just an observation that the realism those handful of super talented criminal authors brought to the page is something that even a Hammett, Chandler or MacDonald could not duplicate as authentically. They 'd probably be the first to agree.

I've reported crime for years, and I bring that experience to my mystery series. It does help me to know that the author has a firm background of knowledge to enhance the authenticity. Michael Connelly, for instance, has similar experience to mine, and I think that's the reason his books are so good.

I prefer to separate the art from the artist. I can't let, say, the NRA ruin Charlton Heston for me.


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