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Friday, 16 August 2013

It’s a Crime

I was thrilled to be accepted as crime writer in residence for the Edinburgh eBook Festival because crime in all its aspects has always intrigued me, and I think I have been reading crime fiction and nonfiction most of my adult life. I even went to the extent of studying a course in criminology which I passed with flying colours.

So what is it about crime that fascinates me so much? Well, it’s simply my way of trying to understand what makes the criminal what he or she is, but at the end of the day it often comes back to the nature/nurture argument. Are criminals born to commit crime, or is it the influence of their parents, the type of parenting they had, the influences of their peer group, or what? I honestly don’t think there’s an easy answer, but the mindset of people who commit crimes is something I endeavour to understand.

Of course there have been various theories over the years. There were the physiological and biological theories which indicated that a criminal could be identified by the way he looked. Llombroso in particular believed that criminals were evolutionary throwbacks whose physical features included enormous jaws, high cheekbones, ape-like features, among other things. At one time it was thought that feeling the bumps on someone’s head could reveal whether or not they were a criminal. If only it were so easy! The biological theories in respect of criminology have now been largely discredited, but elements linger on in eugenics, as well as some popular ideas that ethnicity is linked to criminality. This is illustrated in the belief of some ethnic groups that they suffer from discrimination as well as police harrassment.

I find the psychological theories of more interest. There are humanistic, behavioural and cognitive theories through which crime and the criminal can be studied. And we are back to nature and nurture, with a bit of conditioning thrown in for good measure. But I’m sure you don’t want to know all the different theories, and which of those theories should take precedence when we consider criminals and crime. It is enough to state that the study of the criminal and the crimes they commit, continue to interest many people. Maybe that is the reason we read crime fiction and nonfiction. On the other hand, maybe it’s just because we like a puzzle to solve.

I gave a lot of thought to what I could do to interest you in crime writing in all its aspects and I thought I would study a spectrum of crime fiction. But where would I start?

Well, one of the main elements of most crime novels, is mystery. The story has to keep the reader guessing. So that’s where I thought I would start. Then I’ll work my way through the genres, starting from cosy crime, or as our American friends refer to it – cozy crime. As this is the Edinburgh eBook Festival though, I’ll stick to British spelling. So my first two posts will be mystery, followed by cosy, then I’ll work my way through all the different crime novel categories, finishing with noir crime, which is the darkest form of crime available, and a final post about serial killers in crime fiction.

But this involved an awful lot of reading and I didn’t want to dish up the authors everyone has heard about. I wanted new authors, the independent ones known as Indies, and I wanted to explore what was on offer. Now, it’s not possible to consider every author who has to published to Kindle so that meant I would have to compile a reading list, and I wanted the selection to be fairly random, maybe some authors I’d vaguely heard about, plus a good smattering of ones I knew nothing about.

I set about my task by checking the Amazon lists for different kinds of crime fiction, visiting the review sites to garner recommendations, then inspecting my choices. I read the Amazon reviews, and used the ‘Look Inside’ feature, then built my list. Now this can be risky because, although there are loads of good books published electronically, there can also be some that are somewhat lacking. So I decided that, if I hit any of the latter, I would read no further than I had to in order to make a decision, and would not include them in my posts. The only thing to remember is that the books I included are my choices, which may or may not appeal to you, but I hope it will give you encouragement to explore the world of Indie fiction, and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

It’s still time to come with me on this journey where I hope to discover many new authors along the way. And of course I’ll introduce them to you. So, let’s get started and hop over to the Edinburgh eBook Festival.

Chris Longmuir