Saturday, 19 January 2019

Murder most foul - why we like crime stories

I recently read an article which mentioned our predilection for reading about crime whether true crime or fiction or natty detectives. The writer seemed to suggest that we were a bloodthirsty lot. I'm not so sure that she was wrong.
From the earliest times, ordinary people liked to watched spectacles of some sort. Juvenal, a Roman poet from the late 1st/early 2nd century said people only want "bread and circuses" (panem et circenses is what he actually wrote, which roughly translated means bread and games or circuses). I don't think we have changed that much in the intervening centuries. Public executions were popular. Take for example Samuel Pepys diary entry for 16th October 1660 in which he says that he went to Charing Cross to see Major-General Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered. When his head and heart were shown to the people there were "great shouts of joy".  And have you noticed that whenever there is a major incident, terrorist or otherwise, people get their mobile phones out and start recording?
Nearly all of us have stopped at the scene of an accident or of a major fire to see what was going on.  It's not that we revel in others' misfortune. I think it is the herd instinct, wanting to know what happened to our fellow human beings, and the feeling "that could have been me" which makes us do this. Of course, the nightly news broadcasts keep us up to date with all the major catastrophes around the world. Good news never does sell well except maybe at Christmas.
Be all that as it may, crime fiction and true crime, in both book form and on television, remains very popular with readers and viewers alike.What a pleasure it is to curl up in bed at night or stretch out in the most comfortable chair in front of the fire and read about the solving of a murder.
I enjoyed writing my Sergeant Alan Murray murder series. I am not a fan of blood-curdling descriptions of how victims met their end. I prefer the detective side of it and this is shown in my stories. Murray is head of a small police station at the foot of the Kerry Mountains in the heart of rural Ireland where crime of any sort is rare and therefore all the more shocking when three women are murdered within a short space of time.

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