Patricia Cornwell, said in an edition of The Writer:

I cannot fully explain my fascination with violence, but I suspect it has to do with my fear of it … my writing is dark, filled with nightscapes and fear. Isolation and a sense of loss whisper throughout my prose like something perpetually stirring in the wind. It is not uncommon for people to meet me and find it incongruous that I write the sort of books I do.

I think what she says speaks to the old idea about why we want to look away from a car accident, but can’t. We are both drawn to and repelled by the horrible, wanting to understand it, fascinated by the killer who crosses the boundaries of society, but at the same time desiring safety from and ignorance of the terrible.

Her quote also addresses the concept of our double nature, how outwardly she may seem the last person to deal with violence, but inwardly she can explore the dark side of a character in her writing. This brings up the theme of surface appearance versus inner reality. A big influence on me was Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. A brilliant psychiatrist, very sophisticated culturally, is in fact a murdering cannibal. This duality may also explain the current popularity of the serial killer character of Dexter in the books and TV show featuring him. He is a serial killer, who only kills killers. (I love that show).

Does this mean that mystery and crime writers have a dangerous side, or are we just able to explore and work out our demons through our writing?

Gus Cileone
www.augustuscileone.com
A Lesson in Murder

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Two thoughts: first, Ms. Cornwell aggrandizes herself, a bit. Second, I can only speak for myself, but part of the reason I kill people on the page is that it's impolite to do so in reality.
"Isolation and a sense of loss whisper throughout my prose like something perpetually stirring in the wind." -- P. Cornwell

Wonder if she's going to blurb herself on the next book?
I think she already has...
It's the same reason horror remains a popular genre.

And how many crime authors also enjoy horror? I'd raise my hand.
We work it out through the writing, but we also set the world straight on its axis in that the "bad" guy gets caught and brought to justice and so the world is set right.

Unfortunately, more often than not justice is not found for the victims in real life.

Deirdre
I agree with 'being able to explore and work out our demons through our writing.' I also, however, have to agree with 'that it's impolite to do so in reality.' Somehow, I think too that even though we go deep at times into the mind of the depraved, putting it down on paper distances us from the reality of it. That sounds nutty when I read it back, but it makes sense to me; it's just hard to explain.

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