The Puzzle of the Attraction To Mystery Fiction


Scares the shit out of mystery fiction readers
Deeply loved by mystery fiction readers

Mystery fiction as a genre strikes me as a secure way to roll in the crime writing game.  The adage that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’  – actually, it was Lord Byron who said “the truth is always strange, stranger than fiction” – is, conveniently, true, which is what I figure scares the shit out of readers.  It’s one thing to watch or read about a good looking, civilized serial killer like Dexter. But it’s another to read about a slimebag, real deal serial killer like Anthony Sowell or Jeffrey Dahmer.
Fictional detectives like Hercule Poirot, Harry Boschand Mike Hammer are creative figures, artistically rendered as one would a song or a poem. Some of these characters are based on real people; in the television series Law and Order, detective John Munch is actually Jay Landsman, the real deal homicide detective in David Simon’s Edgar-winning book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
There’s a reason for that; in fiction, a writer can remove anything that might be particularly objectionable about a villain or a protagonist.
I was at an appearance in the fall, sitting at a table next to a well-regarded mystery fiction guy named Steve Hamilton. Nice fellow, suitably humble and he came with a good sense of humor. The housewives trampled me to get his autograph. I was confused on that one, although I was aware that my brand was certainly nothing approaching that of Hamilton. It was the zeal with which these, umm, ladies, disregarded everyone else for a chance to chat with the guy who makes stuff up. Again, my brief interaction with him found him to be a cool enuff guy; it’s his craft that I don’t get.
Most of these readers would not be caught dead with one of my books, or that of any other true crime author. They watch TV and movies, both fiction by nature. Thankfully, there is an element of reader and person who likes life served straight up, with all the gory details. I consider them more fans of history and journalism, rather than people with a sick voyeuristic nature, as I’ve heard them derided.
This is perhaps why the true crime section in most book stores is hidden away, toward the back or upstairs, akin to a porn section in a video rental joint. Border’s was the worst offender, as you can read here. It refused to allow me an appearance at it’s Utica, Mich., store while I was doing press for my first book, which went down in the Utica area. From a story on 2009: 
A Dec. 10 e-mail by a store manager says, “Our communities, on the east side in particular, were hit hard with this case. It was very close to home, and I’m not convinced our customers would react favorably to a booksigning event.”
Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis told The Macomb Daily: “The decision made not to have a book event at the store level was because we wanted to be sensitive to the Utica community.”
Davis, however, said the authors could appear at another Borders store in southeast Michigan if the book’s sales met criteria.
The Utica marketing manager also questioned whether some profits from the book would go to the Grant children.
Miller countered that no one has asked whether NBC, which produced a “Dateline” episode about the case that has been broadcast on MSNBC, donated part of its advertising profits from the show to the children.
“You don’t see  these multibillion-dollar corporations donating money to victims when they do a story on this kind of thing,” he said.





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