Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Bloody, Black-Hearted Killer Wannabe's by Robert W. Walker

As recently as Thanksgiving Day I hear that some teacher somewhere believes and tells her students that those among us who write about murder, death, killing, and killers are secretly want-to-be killers ourselves, and we curtain or control our killing urges by letting it happen in our imaginations and on paper in black and white. I have heard this or similar nonsensical claims in the past, such as I must hate women because women are so often victims in my novels—and furthermore that when coming to a conference or a book signing or a library speak to meet me, folks expect and are disappointed to find I have no horns on my head or a bifurcated tail trailing behind me, no pitchfork even.

Damn. Let’s take a closer look at this notion and ask ourselves do authors of romance novels want to have sex with stupid men 24/7? Is that a fair question? Do romance novelists want flowers every day, doors opened for them, men to fall at their feet? Or women in the case of those many male authors writing romance? Do romance writers want a rosy world or secretly believe that relationships can be as simple as 1,2,3-A,B,C?

Let’s take Mrs. Smith or Jones or whatever said teacher’s name is and apply the theory to those who write about trapped ghosts among us. Do authors dealing with ghosts secretly long to be ghosts? Do they secretly hope to inhabit a house or a car or a haunted trailer on blocks for eternity? Hmmm…makes one wonder if Dante secretly wished to fry in Hell or no.

Let’s take the teacher’s theory to horror novels about vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Do horror authors secretly long for the dark coffin by day, the party life by night—and to exsanguinations young innocents? When I wrote my Abe Stroud series, wherein archeologist Stroud dug too deep every time and came up with the supernatural did I secretly want to be the archeological “Indiana Jones” hero or the maniacal vampire? When Abe faced werewolves in Michigan and chased one to Chicago, did I secretly wish to live the wild and horribly afflicted life of the Indian guide who’d become a werewolf, the monster because I secretly wanted to become a hairy beast and feed on other people?

What about when Abe faced down all those NYC zombies in the third book? Oddly the vampires, werewolves, and zombies were all put down by Stroud. May perhaps I secretly identified with Stroud and not the monsters? I dunno but the theory put forth by the teacher and others says that if I write monsters, then I must secretly want to be a monster.
Man, I show a little sympathy for the beast and suddenly I am the beast. If this is so, what does it say of the author of Beowulf, who also created Grendel?

Let’s take the theory to Fantasy novels…OMG. Where do we begin. I want to be a dragon, a Hobbit, a troll, Harry Potter or one of a hundred or a thousand characters since Beowulf was penned (as all fantasy came out of this early Christian-based work). Does it make me secretly want to be a fire-breathing monster of destruction to create one out of my imagination and pen? Give me a break. Close but no gold ring.

Sorry but I gotta take absolute issue with this teacher. Does she also think that the old stupid maxim that "those who can't do, teach?" Think about what this theory of hers (and others) says, that there are then literally millions of readers who are wannabe killers. Let's take this logic to another arena. Everyone who gets on a roller-coaster for amusement (unforced that is) get on because they secretly want to DIE??? That's hogwash as they want to FEEL more strongly, feel the adrenaline rush, feel ALIVE, feel the emotions involved in the ride.

Readers and Writers who enjoy dark literature and serial killer novels should not have to make excuses for their taste, and all that I know identify not with the killer or the monster but with the hero and heroine. Readers and Writers of such works as my ME series, the Instinct books or my Edge books take an emotional ride. And guess what: Every major piece of literature on the planet is about, you guessed it, all the highest and noblest passions as well as the lowest and basest in human nature; literature is about life and death, and how we live our lives, and the choices inherent in our decisions from the obsessed Captain Ahab to the uneducated Huck Finn who "breaks God's and man's law" to help a slave to freedom.

Take that theory (and shove it) to another arena. Everyone who becomes a shrink really secretly wants her head shrunk. Dr. Phil doesn’t want to help others so much as he wants to be helped and “saved”. Mother Theresa, under this theory (of the crime) secretly wanted to be fed and clothed and pitied and helped—she could not have owned any other motive, so she wasn’t motivated by religious fervor but a secret need within to become a diseased and pitied soul like those in Calcutta she ministered to? I think not. I believe people and motivations are far more complex than that, and I believe I write about frightful people and events because I am interested in reflecting the complexity of this world and the human condition.

I could be wrong, of course. Everyone who becomes a McDonalds worker may perhaps truly really want to wear the outfit and pig out on fatty foods. Everyone who writes horror novels secretly is in league with Satan. It is the most feeble crapola I have heard in a long, long time. And I resent those who expect when they meet me that I will be wearing a hat to cover my horns. With all due respect, this so-called teacher sounds like a person full of platitudes, and she is likely a poster child for why education has been heading for hell in a hand-basket for decades now. Not that it upsets me or anything…

Hey if you are like me and you have the GIFT of creating creatures and monsters and villains unheard of, bad guys who boggle the imagination of readers who want their imaginations boggled, consider yourself most very likely far more well-rounded and healthy and as far from a killer or hateful person than those who run screaming from the realities of life, because as we see even today in Mumbai that the monsters we create cannot hold a candle to the monsters in the real world. Which begs the question do those who write True Crime books, are they bad people with secret desires to rape, pillage, kill, and destroy? Can this be said of the man who brought us the insights into Manson in Helter-Skelter? Vincent Boglioso—the man who put Manson away? Stephen King is known for having said, “I write about the storm that is out my window; I don’t create the storm.”

Have a great Black Friday, and the next time you hear someone put a single parent down because the model unit of the family in another’s brain is two parents, one male, one female, and two and a half children…think about authors who are confused with their monstrous creations, and ask yourself should readers and writers of such “fantastic trash” be prejudged anymore than a gay person, a black person, a single mom?

Rob Walker
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Larry W. Chavis said...

My tastes in fiction are varied, but more often than not I'll pick a serial killer novel over a so-called 'mainstream' novel, not because I'm a frustrated Bundy-wannabe but because the cozy often leaves me flat ... unmoved. The stakes don't seem high enough, the all-too-often navel-gazing protagonist is boring. Novels of murder, its detection, and retribution answer a need within - in a world of seemingly unending, intractable troubles, the smart detective solves his problem, and justice triumphs. Even the hardboiled, noir-type stories usually picture a determined character fighting odds that may ultimately overwhelm, but there is still something cathartic in the struggle itself. I've long believed there is as much insight into the human condition in crime/genre fiction as in the high-browed tomes studied in literature classes ... and sometimes more.

Larry in Mississippi

Anonymous said...

Larry -- so right! Well stated as usual. WE need you to come on to ACME some time and blog a blog for us. Thanks for dropping by --

Rob Walker