I awoke to the news there had been a home invasion robbery and murder in my town. Although we’re a western suburb of Fort Lauderdale, our city doesn’t experience violent crime all that often. So when it does occur, it’s scary. What’s even more scary is that I just got a call from a mystery writer friend of mine, and it happened right across the street from her. I hadn’t even connected the addresses. She can see the CSI folks out her front window.
This incident brings home the fact that a random act of violence can happen to anyone. All we need is somebody to follow us home because we drive a nice car, or a nutcase to obsess on us, or else we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often these cases end badly. No wonder we want to read crime novels where the villain is caught and justice is served. I’d say this is Reason #1 why we read this genre. Stories may reflect on social ills and grapple with weighty issues, but they still reach a satisfactory conclusion, unlike real life.
An HEA ending (i.e. Happy Ever After) makes us less afraid. These stories force us to confront our fears, especially in psychological thrillers or romantic suspense. In my case, I prefer to read lighter fare, humorous mysteries where no one likes the victim and the amateur sleuth catches the crook. I accept that these are fantasies, because in reality, murder is a somber and sad business. Survivors mourn the dead. The killer may never be caught. So what do you say? Do you get your thrills from gritty crime fiction, true crime, or stories rife with forensic details? Or would you rather confine reality to the news and read a book with an HEA that leaves you with a smile?
How many of you read the police reports for your town? Our local newspaper lists the complaints filed in our community. Many of them are more amusing than serious. Here are some examples:
Trespass Warning: A man was issued a trespass warning after becoming upset that store employees wouldn’t give him a refund on a can of soda he’d purchased a month ago.
Suspicious Vehicle: A man became belligerent when a police officer asked him if the car with a sounding alarm was his.
Burglary: Candy was stolen from a candy machine.
Suspicious Incident: A man found a threatening letter written in Spanish on his doorstep.
Animal Complaint: A man reported that nine wild pigs were uprooting his lawn.
There were a number of more serious thefts, like a laptop in a stolen backpack, appliances by a tenant who moved out, wheels off a car, and unauthorized purchases by an office manager, but no violent crimes. Keep in mind that we’re just west of greater Fort Lauderdale, but still it’s nice to know no rapes or murders have occurred recently in the immediate vicinity.
So let’s do a creative exercise and combine some of the above. Can you get a plot out of them? How would you continue these stories?
A man became belligerent when a police officer asked him if the car with a sounding alarm was his. It was then the policeman noticed the trunk ful of empty candy wrappers. The driver fits the description of a thief who stole candy from a candy machine. Is it the same man? Who ate it? And what had set off the car alarm?
A man found a threatening letter written in Spanish on his doorstep. Noting the letterhead was from a local store, he entered the store on the pretext of returning a can of soda. When an employee noted the soda had expired, the man grew upset. He opened the door and let in the wild pigs chewing up the lawn outside. A stampede ensued. Which store employee wrote the letter and why?