Monday, May 29, 2006


I was listening to the author of The Book Thief on the radio this morning and it started me thinking.  Not about death because I think of that daily.  But rather that I make death happen all the time.  We in the crime field do it constantly.

I kill people a lot.  And I do it cavalierly. I hit some keys and it’s done.  I murder someone.  That character is dead. 

I read about it all the time, too.  Death.  It’s not hard for me to read.  Or write.  And yet I fear it.  So what are we all doing, we crime writers?  We dispatch people like we’re tossing away a candy wrapper.  It doesn’t mean anything to me. 

I’m always amazed by people who say “I can’t read Z kind of book because it’s too upsetting.  Murders and all.”  They’re talking about fiction.  I never get upset or frightened by death in a movie because I know it’s a movie.

But I do get upset by the idea of death.  Mostly my own.  Many friends have died over the years and that was hard.  It wasn’t fiction and I felt it.  Still, the idea of my own death can give me chills.

And yet I write about it.  Not my own, of course.  But death in all it’s guises.  Nothing is off limits for me to write.  Or read.  Except the graphic death of an animal or a child.  Don’t want to write that either.  Won’t. I’ve written about a child found dead, but I don’t want to go much beyond that.

Nothing scares me more than knowing I’m going to die.  Yet I’ve chosen a genre that relies on death.  When I’m writing a murder scene I never think about my own death.  Perhaps I use this as a technique to keep death away from me.  It’s very convoluted if that’s what I’m doing.  And stupid.

Because I’m going to die.  No matter what I do.  No matter how many times I joke and say I’m not going.  I’m going.  And so are all the crime writers in the world.  I think we’re all very strange.


James Lincoln Warren said...

But writers of crime fiction do not just write about death. We write about justice.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Of course we do. And many other things. But this was a post about death.

Dr. Lisa said...

Yes but I think jlw has a point: we have all sorts of ways of dealing with our fears of death, and one could argue that with mystery genres, death always happens for a reason. Whereas in real life, you die when you die and there really seems little justice, grace, or reasoning behind any of it.

Hope the writing is going well.

ravaj said...

we don't have any choice about entering this world, and little choice when we shall leave it. i have always enjoyed reading murder mysteries (as do many rabbis that i know ... and i think my teacher r. larry raphael wrote about that a couple of years ago but cannot find the reference for now) i think because they usually describe a world where yes lisa there is a clearer sense of justice and also ... not so much that the death is for a reason (although maybe we are saying similar things), but rather that the death has meaning ... the loss of that life is significant ...

sexy said...