David
Housewright

 

Crime and the Crime Writer

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We wuz robbed.

Literally.

Between the hours of 5:45 - 10:30 PM on Christmas Eve 2014 a person or persons unknown snuck onto our three-season porch, smashed the glass in the backdoor window, and gained entry to our house.

We were fortunate in that the thief ignored the Christmas gifts stacked beneath the tree and our electronics. Instead, he went directly to the master bedroom where he helped himself to my wife's jewelry - her pendants, rings, necklaces, bracelets - and my high school and college class rings, concentrating mostly on what was gold and what was shiny.

Apparently, he wanted only what he could stuff into his pockets, which made sense. Walking down a well-traveled boulevard carrying an unwrapped HDTV on Christmas Eve - probably not a good plan

I had a somewhat fatalistic attitude about it all, figuring it was just our turn. This opinion was borne out during numerous conversations I had in the following weeks. Everyone I spoke to, it seemed, had a story to tell similar to ours; everyone had been a victim of crime or knew someone who was a victim of a crime. Such is the world we live in.

Renée, on the other hand, wondered "why us?" She had always been careful about leaving lights on; of making sure the house looked occupied. So why did the thief pick our home? Had he been watching us? Did he see us drive off that evening? Now that he knew the house, would he return for those valuables he missed?

The police behaved professionally (taking fingerprints and such) and so did our insurance company. I have no complaints, except - one of the guys I play hockey with; his girl suggested that we got what we deserved because I write books that treat crime as entertainment. She accused me of promoting crime by making it look fun.

Wow.

I was fully prepared to give her my "the modern American detective novel is the most important literature being written today" lecture, explaining that I used crime in my books as a platform to discuss important themes and ideas from political corruption to child abuse to fracking. Fortunately, I didn't get the chance. I say "fortunately" because most certainly I would have come off as a self-important nit-wit.

The truth is - the woman was right. Crime fiction is entertainment. I don't believe we actually promote crime by writing about it, but yeah, sometimes we do make it seem like fun. But that's the point. It's fiction. Hell, it's fantasy. That's because in most PI novels the good guys prevail, bad guys get their comeuppance, and victims - and our readers - receive a satisfying conclusion.

In real life this rarely happens.

Even people such as my wife and me, who can easily absorb the loss, are left with a sense of vulnerability. When we leave the house now, Renée still wonders if our stuff will be there when we return.

And this is nothing! compared to the anguish of those who have lost their bank accounts, their homes, their identities - or the pain and suffering victims of violent attacks must feel every single day.

For crime victims, closure is very difficult to come by. Which is why people prefer fiction.

Authors try to write honestly. We try to reveal the truths that reality obscures. But let's face it, in detective fiction we get to do something that actual victims of crime seldom have the opportunity to do.

We get to write "The End."


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