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I finished my mystery last Saturday.  It’s a mystery set in Hollywood in the 1940s.  It was surprisingly hard for me to do because I had to think about what I wanted to show in terms of the crime itself. 

I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a kid, starting with Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Kim Aldrich.  A favorite writer I always went back for also was Phyllis A. Whitney.  She wrote gothic mysteries. 

In those stories, there were a few moderately scary scenes where the culprit tried to stop the heroine.  Pushed down the stairs, chased into the sea, knocked out by the villain.  Just enough to say that this character was taking more risks than the rest of us.

I also read action-adventure thrillers. 

Not crime thrillers.

Crime thrillers tend to be a lot more violent. 

I also can’t always trust the writer not to go overboard.  Those are the books where the criminal (not the culprit) kills the pet to be evil.  Or he kills a character I’ve gotten attached to, on the page, the violent act described in detail.  Or the violence gets worse as the book progresses.

(Writing Nerd still remembers a book that did a particularly violent and lethal act to a character I liked.  Done with that book.  Done with that writer.)

The difference?  It lets the real world intrude in a place where I’m trying to escape from it.  It’s not hard for me to read a newspaper and find a violent crime.  Or surf Facebook and find someone posting a story with a horrific image.

Everyone’s so mired in the horror that they can’t escape from it into fiction or film.  Yet, they think they’re being trendy by being “gritty.”

Perhaps it’s like always finding fault with what we read, until all we see is what’s wrong.  A terribly negative way to think.


Carolyn Stein on “A Matter of Taste.”  This sparked a discussion on Star Trek on Facebook, which lead to a discussion on types of violence in stories.