Tag: crime fiction

crime fiction

You Just Gotta Tell It Right

I’ve been binge-listening to fraud-focused true crime podcasts like Swindled, Drilled, and The Dropout. Bad Blood is the current book on my nightstand. True Crime books about notorious cons and scams abound. The Strategist, from New York magazine, offers a list of some of the best (Reading Lists, “The Best Books on Con Artists, According to True-Crime Experts,” July 5, 2018, Karen Iorio Adelson). Some of the real-life fraudsters are so outrageous, if you pitched them as characters in a novel, your idea would be rejected as too fantastic. But con artists do often appear in crime fiction, in movies (Catch Me if You Can, American Hustle, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, House of Games, The Hustler, The Color of Money, Trading Places, White Men Can’t Jump, The Ladykillers, Focus, Ocean’s Eleven) and novels (The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, Nightmare Alley). If I wrote a novel starring a con artist, I’d choose a chameleon-like character who put on and shed new identities like a snake skin. My con artist (protagonist? antagonist?) would use those identities to insert herself into others’ lives, motivated more by a desire to reinvent herself , to erase herself and become someone new, […]

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And the Award Goes To…

The shortlist for the inaugural Staunch Book Prize, “created to make space for an alternative to the overload of violence towards women in fiction” and “awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered,” was recently announced. The award’s creators wanted to honor “stories in which female characters don’t have to be raped before they can be empowered or become casual collateral to pump up the plot” and that don’t “celebrate the cunning (often, charming sexiness/astonishing brutality) of serial rapists and the dogged brilliance of detectives” at the expense of female characters too often portrayed as two-dimensional victims. The shortlist for the 2018 prize, to be awarded this month, includes a political conspiracy thriller, a psychological thriller, an art caper, a thriller about the immigrant crisis, and a satire about terrorism. In the spirit of new literary awards, I asked my fellow Missdemeanors, “What prize would you create and what would the eligibility criteria be?” Here are their answers. RobinMine is easy. It would be the Amazing Grace Award, which was a nickname for Grace Hopper. Without her, computers would still take up an entire room and do only […]

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Must A Main Character Be Like Me?

I am in the midst of rewriting large portions of my fourth book this week. There are three POV characters in this story. One is an African American female police officer, aged 27, single sans kids. She’s been a cop for three years and is very smart with a high EQ, but a troubled history. Another is a hugely successful 37-year-old Black female orthopedist of West Indian descent that armchair quarterbacks injuries on a sports network as a medical commentator. She’s in a heap of trouble. The third is a 35-year-old former Caucasian attorney turned stay-at-home mom to twin boys, one of whom is autistic and homeschooled. She’s a walking anxiety disorder with a sharp wit. All the characters are American. None of them are particularly like me, though I am sure my personality and observations bleed into all my characters. Specifically, their back stories and cultural heritages don’t match my own (though the orthopedist is of West Indian descent and so is the Jamaican half of my family).  I have things in common with all of my POV characters, though. And, most importantly, I’ve done my research.  All this writing has me thinking this week about character creation. How like me should my characters be? How much latitude do I have, as a […]

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Creating Multi-Ethnic Characters and Landscapes in American Crime Fiction… (Alt. Title: Can Crime Fiction in America Be Post-Racial?)… A True Story

  “What are you?” Growing up in small town New Jersey in the 1990s, I stared down that question on a near-weekly basis. Parents, teachers, strangers at the mall—all would ask shortly after requesting my first name. “Catherine” didn’t reveal enough about me. It was too generically biblical. Every land to ever encounter a missionary doled out the moniker like a Christmas fruitcake. The name defied easy categorization. And, back then–as like now–seemingly everyone needed racial classification.  I’d often answer, “American. Born in Queens.” My stock response invariably frustrated my interrogator. Here I was, a plain-old Catherine, with olive-skin and dark curls that, incongruously, could not speak Spanish. My straight nose, which hooks when I smile, had been keeping plastic surgeons employed across cultures since the invention of rhinoplasty.  And, now, I was telling someone—attempting in as PC-a-way as possible to figure out my race—that I’d been born in one of the most diverse cities in America.  “No, but what are you? Are you Black or White?” My usual follow-up sounded even more insolent. “Both.” The answer had the virtue of being true. Nearly all my paternal relatives trace their history back to Europe, specifically Ireland. My maternal ethnicity is more complex. A Jamaican-born […]

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It's What's for Dinner

 I missed putting up a blog post today because the past 48 hours felt more like 400 hours. Food, sleep, and writing took a back seat to the day job, packaging gifts for my church’s angel tree, graduating from Citizens’ Police Academy, packing books to send to contest winners, and schlepping a twenty-two pound box to UPS to return a wrong order to Amazon so I could get a refund. Not to mention the usual stuff: feeding the cat, taking out garbage, checking email and voicemail and text messages to make sure I didn’t miss an appointment or deadline or bill due date, “maintaining my social media presence” (that phrase) to keep Facebook and Twitter from sending me gentle reminders about how followers of my author page/feed want to hear from me—you get the picture. I left the day job, late, today with a to-do list longer than it was when I arrived at the office this morning, which means an early start tomorrow to play catch-up.So what did I do when I finally got home tonight, besides say a prayer of thanks that the cat sitter rescheduled her meet-and-greet with Agatha? I headed for the local pizzeria for some […]

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Second chances

  As I go teetering into advanced middle age, I’m more and more conscious of the fact there’s a surprising amount of fun yet to be had. Instead of sitting around waiting for one of my children to produce a grandchild (not that that wouldn’t be a good thing!), I’m cavorting with the Miss Demeanors, going to conferences, discovering new drinks, writing an exciting new novel, getting into trouble, planning to march in Washington. In fact, I’m doing things I didn’t do when I was young because I worried too much about repercussions.  Or because I was exhausted.    One of the things I like about the protagonist of my mystery series, Maggie Dove, (I hope it’s okay that I like her!) is that she’s given me a chance to explore more deeply what getting a second chance means. It’s scary for Maggie. She’s set in her ways. She’s found a safe place  and doesn’t want to emerge from it, and yet, when she’s forced to come out of her shell, to solve a murder, she loves it. She becomes a Sunday School hellraiser, if such a thing is possible.  A person who has been a great second-chance role model to me is […]

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Candy! Candy!

The protagonist of my new mystery is a woman who likes to eat candy bars. (Don’t ask me how I know. I do.) She’s the sort of person who keeps a candy bar in her pocketbook for times when she has low blood sugar. She’s the sort of person who has a favorite candy bar, and I have spent a great deal of time, energy and calories trying to figure out which particular candy bar that would be.      I was going to go with a classic. M&Ms. I like them myself, but I thought there were too many of them. For my purposes, I needed something you could take a big bite out of. Skittles were also out, for that reason and also because they took on political connotations I didn’t like. Butterfingers were too crunchy, Milky Bars too soft.  Then I stumbled across  the Take Five bar. It’s an intriguing candy. First of all, it has a jumble of flavors: pretzel, caramel, peanut, peanut butter and milk chocolate. My protagonist is definitely a person who likes jumbles. She mushes her food (I think). She likes jumbles of people too. In fact, one of the things that gets her in trouble is that she befriends […]

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Acceptance

Every New Year’s I make a resolution to improve myself in some way or another. I will be more productive, more focused, more ambitious and so on. But this year, I concluded that if I haven’t changed by now, I’m probably not going to. And all I’m going to succeed in doing is make myself feel guilty, which I already do enough. So this year I decided to accept what I am. And what I am is a slob.    My desk is cluttered with papers, books, pictures of dogs, notes from people I love, notes from my agent with advice, tissues, water bottles, an icon my son brought me from Russia, dog treats, post-it notes, and books. I’d like to say there’s order to this madness, but having just spent half an hour looking for an important bit of information that I found under a chair, I doubt it.  What there is, though, is energy. My office feels alive to me. When I walk in, I feel like I’m jumping into a stream of running water.  Periodically I do clean it, and then I feel very virtuous, and then I sit down and write and darned if I know how it happens, but by […]

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