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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Humph. Charlton Heston has ruined Charlton Heston for me. The NRA is just confirmation.

The story is the only important thing and must stand alone, but I wouldn't patronize, say, Hitler, if I knew he'd benefit from it. I'm always curious about the writers whose novels I read, and I would never dismiss an author who'd murdered someone without knowing and sympathizing with the particulars, because I know there are folks in the world who need to be murdered, but I also wouldn't help advance or sustain one's career by buying a book written by a cold-blooded killer. That said, further regarding the quality, I will read a whole but maybe boring story by and excellent writer before I'd get two pages through one by a terrible writer. I've done both.

I have never knowingly read a crime novel by a former criminal. (Is it possible to be a "former" criminal?) There have been many, many superrealistic novels that have been entirely satisfying in creating their world for me, the reader, even though the author had not lived the novel.

As for me: I write about 11th century Japan, apparently realistically enough for readers to write that they feel they are there. I also sometimes write violence. That I had to research, but it too convinced readers. It takes imagination, empathy, and research to create the world in a novel. It doesn't require that one live it.

Of course it doesn't require that one lived it. If it did very litte crime fiction would ever be written. Just an observation that it is hard to top someone with first hand experience if all other considerations, including talent, are equal.
As far as never having read a criminal author, I could rattle off quite a few, but as you said you probably haven't read them. How about ex-convict Chester Himes author of "Cotten Comes to Harlem," etc., or Al Naussbaum FBI top ten bank robber. Maybe you read one of his numerous short stories in Alfred Hitchcock or Ellery Queen years ago. He was one of the few writers to have his picture on the cover of one of them, forget which. He also was a big wheel in Mystery Writers of America
I'm plowing through the Parker series by Donald Westlake AKA Richard Stark again. The man was a master and what enjoyable books! Still, I've noticed that Westlake makes occasional mistakes as far as plausible criminal activities. Something a person familiar with the field would never state, and they do take you out of the story. Certainly there have been VERY few, if any, criminal authors with the talent of this giant. So this is just a hypothetical theory and could never be proven. Fun to speculate though.

Not familiar with any of those. Westlake rings a bell because his name i well known. Still, not my sort of thing. I read police procedurals, so tend to be on the opposing side.  :)

Readers generally are not very familiar with the criminal life. All it takes is to make the stoy believable.

Yes, I agree with you. I wonder though if, again, all things being equal--talent, etc., someone with a law enforcement background's writing could be topped for realism in the police procedural field? Joseph Wambaugh comes to mind. All the research in the world won't give someone the gut FEEl that someone who has experienced that life has. Skilled enough they can translate to paper that emotion. Impossible to do as Well if you've never felt it.

I love the Parker books.  Right up my alley.  But Donald Westlake most definitely did not have any kind of background in crime.  And he did a pretty good job.  I wonder if I would have been better off studying criminal justice instead of writing, myself.  So I'd have a built-in platform.  That platform didn't matter when Westlake started writing.

I hated Wambaugh. Actually all things are rarely ever the same. And it strikes me that a policeman/detective may get so caught up in the minutiae of his job that the story gets lost in the boring detail.

I have a friend, who's a cop, who won't write crime fiction because he says his job is boring.  He's a detective, and does accident reconstruction, mostly.  And actually, I just spent almost an hour talking to a Connecticut State Trooper who also says his job is boring and no one would want to read about it.  I thought he was fascinating, myself.  :-)

Most people think their jobs are boring; they have to do them every day. Show an interest and they'll talk your ear off about them.

Orwell said about Dali, "You can admire the art even if you think the artist is a disgusting human being." Applies to authors as well.

Tom, I agree. I just won't let them have any of my money, should they pass a certain threshold of disgustingness.


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