Why I Write Crime Novels

In today's post, I'm going to explain as best I can why I write crime novels as opposed to writing something else. Have you ever wondered why your favorite authors chose the genre they did? I have. In fact, today I was thinking of one of my own favorite authors, the author who wrote my all-time favorite novel, and found myself contemplating that very question. That is what led me to write on this topic today.

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One answer to the question, why I write crime novels is it’s what I know how to do. Given my background in law enforcement, the experience of actually spending a good bit of my adult life around cops and criminals, seeing a view of life and society that most people never see and seeing a lot of things that probably no one should ever see, provides me some unique qualifications for writing crime novels. I know what crime looks like because I've been face to face with it. I know how crime affects people, the victims, the cops who must deal with the aftermath, and even the perpetrators of it.

The real advantages of all that for someone who writes crime novels is it produces realism. I think that most crime fiction fans demand realism. When they read a crime novel, they need to feel a sense of conviction about the reality of the story. I can provide that in my novels, it's something I know how to do. That makes me feel that writing crime fiction novels is what I'm best suited for.

Earlier, I mentioned  I'd been thinking about one of my own favorite authors and one of the books he wrote, which I consider my all-time favorite novel. Ironically, it isn't a crime fiction novel, although the story does include crime. While writing this post, It occurred to me that those reading it might enjoy trying to guess the identity of the author I'm speaking of. So let me give you a few clues.

  • He was named after the writer of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
  • He attended Princeton University but dropped out of school to join the U.S. Army.
  • He earned a reputation as a playboy which hindered his reputation as a serious literary writer.
  • He wrote the novel he is most known for (my favorite) while living in France.
  • Although well received when published, the novel he is best known for did not achieve the stature as one of the greatest American novels ever written until decades after it was published and years after the author had already died.
  • Always a heavy drinker, he progressed steadily into alcoholism and suffered prolonged bouts of writer's block.
  • While now considered one of the greatest American novelists, none of his works received anything more than modest commercial or critical success during his lifetime.

Can you name the author and his definitive novel?

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The author, one of my favorites, and author of my favorite novel is Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. You might know him as F. Scott Fitzgerald, the name he went by, the name you will find on the cover of his greatest work, The Great Gatsby, widely considered the definitive portrait of the "Roaring Twenties."

The beautiful lyricism, pitch-perfect portrayal of the "Jazz Age," and searching critiques of materialism, love, and pursuit of the American Dream, have since at least the 1960s, earned The Great Gatsby the stature as one of the greatest American novels ever written.

The reason I mention Fitzgerald is because answering the question why I write crime novels in a sense presupposes that I could write something else, perhaps something more literary like the Fitzgerald wrote.

Actually, I do have two things in common with Fitzgerald. We're both authors, and we were both at different times, commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. But believe me, that's where the similarities end. I could never write a novel that anyone would consider a definitive portrait of anything. I like to think that my writing is pretty good, but the difference is that Fitzgerald wrote a great deal better than I do simply because he was a far greater talent. That's not to say writing crime novels doesn't require talent, but I think it fair to say writing crime novels is better suited to my talents than literary fiction.

Finally, I write crime novels because there is something about the type of hero featured in them that appeals to me. I enjoy creating and playing around with images of that particular kind of hero, that specific archetype of American culture. I think there are a lot of people who enjoy reading about and identifying with a character like Malone, perhaps because identifying with him and the events in the stories I write helps make them feel a bit more heroic.

And there it is, why I write crime novels.

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