Connecticut, Tragedy & Crime Fiction

“The West Wing” – ‘Twenty Hours in America’

[This is a clip on YouTube from one of my favorite shows. All of it won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the entire episode, but I’m posting it for the president’s speech at 1:55. It’s worth listening to and reflects a lot on this moment. Judging from some of the comments, I’m not the only one who thinks so.]

I live in Connecticut, but on the other side of the state from Sandy Hook. Still, it’s a small state. Like so many, I’ve seen the news from Friday with total heartbreak and horror. It has been surreal to know that this happened in the state I grew up in; the state I attended public elementary school in.

My own child is just a year or two younger than the kids in kindergarten there in Sandy Hook. Friday saw more than the usual number of hugs.

I turned off the news and I’m wary of social media, because I can’t allow myself to become immersed in the tragedy. I need to remember and be a part of the life around me. The weight of the shooting is enough to bear down those not intimately connected. It has been enough to bear down on the entire country.

There has been much talk of the victims and the murderer, of the roles of gun control, mental health, and the media in creating heroes of evil-doers and forgetting the victims. I am not here the discuss or debate these points, but when speaking of sensationalistic media, I can’t help but think of entertainment media and that I write crime fiction. Do even we have a role in that? That’s harder to say.

I will confess my fascination with the criminal justice process, and the psychology of both victim and criminal. Yet if I am unable to handle the news, how can I immerse myself in the world of crime to write about it?

It is an exercise in my fascination, but beyond that, I am in control of the worlds I create. I can — and do — decide that nothing happens to children in my stories; I choose what the crimes are, and if we catch and punish the bad guys. It is the same for readers: the safe suspense; a way to exercise fascination and curiosity in a controlled place, where we read the works of authors we know and trust.

For authors, and for me, it is a way to control things in a world I create to combat living in a terrifying world I have no power over. I don’t know if this means I inadvertently do what the media does, but I know for me that it’s a type of catharsis. And perhaps the only outlet I’ll have to try to explain or understand or deal with the sort of senseless tragedy we saw this past week.

Category: Just Because
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