Books Magazine

Why Crime?

By T.v. Locicero

Why do so many of us seem to love crime with a passion?

Why do we devour book after book as if we’re in the clutches of an addiction? All kinds of crimes in all kinds of books:

True Crime practitioners and confessional scribes dealing in white collar and organized wrong-doing, mass and serial murder, assassination and the lethal encounter with family member, lover or spouse, rape, torture and enslavement, war-time espionage and spy story, all sorts of robbery, armed and otherwise, the looting of personal fortunes, the Detroit carjack and the Wall Street highjack, the heist caper and the bank job, the quiet counterfeit and the audacious Ponzi scheme, the suburban home invasion and downtown street mugging, and all kinds of mayhem–passionate, perverse, mad, calculated, cold-blooded, or simply inexplicable.

And of course novelists have always flocked to the fictional variants: the master sleuth and gritty detective narratives, police procedurals and private eye accounts, mysteries and whodunits, first person renditions and shifting POVs, suspense, horror and that wildly popular catch-all these days, the thriller, in its many manifestations—from literary and legal to psychological and political to spy and sci-fi—all of them usually centered on some kind of crime.

So why the fascination?

What is it about crime and criminals that grabs us and won’t let go? Do we all have a little larceny or murder in our hearts, darker urges we keep secret, even from ourselves? And is that why we’re so taken with those who, unlike most of us, act on those impulses, giving vent to lust, greed or murderous hate?

Is there something irresistible about those who refuse to accept the limits imposed by society or personal morality? Is it the lure of the outlaw, the transgressor who breaks the boundaries (and cheats the boredom) of daily existence? Or is it simply the undying appeal of the ancient drama of good versus evil? Do we root for the white hats, while secretly admiring the black?

Are we so unnerved by the constant flow of crime stories in the media, those frightening reports of the sudden eruption of chaos and violence in our everyday lives, that we long for tales of justice, revenge or retribution in which the proper order of things is finally restored?

Is evil inherently more interesting than good?

Or do we so admire those who put themselves at risk to maintain order and civility in our troubled world that we never tire of watching them function with courage and skill?

Are we simply adrenaline junkies, searching for anything that will speed the pulse, make our hearts pound and our mouths go dry, all the while knowing that we’re perfectly safe with that hardcover or Kindle in our lap? Or do we sense there is something about crime that can effectively get us down to basics, give us a look into the soul of both perpetrator and victim and a way to gauge the strains, fissures and flaws of the society in which we live?

As you may have already guessed, I’m sometimes better at asking questions than coming up with answers, and with multiple choice, I’m often drawn to “all of the above.”

But how about you?

Are you taken with crime or can you take it or leave it? I’d love to hear from you on the subject. And with some thoughts about why crimes usually happen in my novels, I’ll continue the discussion next time. At least for now, I’ll have something new here every few days.


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