Monday, June 6, 2011


Darrell James

A neighbor of mine recently read my collection of short stories, Body Count: A Killer Collection. When I saw her some days later she commented that she liked the stories but that they made her wonder about me (the author)—the inference being that because I write about murder (sometimes from a somewhat dark perspective) that I must somehow be as secretly deranged as the characters I create.

Moi? I’m a guy who walks around ants on the sidewalk so as not to spoil their day.

In my introduction to the book, I did offer this defense: “I am less intrigued by murder itself, than I am with the premeditation that leads to it. In other words, at what point in the course of human conflict does murder become the solution of choice.”

Ahhh, but, then, perhaps, it was no defense at all, but yet another clever attempt by the author to conceal his darker, more devious, intent.

I know I’m not the first writer to be held in suspicion of his work. In Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft, he indicates that the he is often ask why he chooses to write horror (given such obvious talent for writing). His answer is: “What makes you think I can write anything else?”

Perhaps, good Stephen has looked inside himself and glimpsed the demon that conjures the work.

But I doubt it.

In real life, I abhor violence of any kind. And find it uncomfortable to even be in the presence of an argument.

And, if it were so, one of us (Stephen or I) would have already been caught skulking through some dark alley or climbing through some unlocked bedroom window.

So, what’s behind the fascination for writing stories of murder? And what does it say about the readers who love to read them?

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. (I’d truly like to know who among you to be on the lookout for.)


Jessica Lourey said...

Congrats on the collection, Darrell! As a mystery writer and reader, I like justice and having the dark brought into the light. The murder, not so much.

Beth Groundwater said...

Looks like a great short story collection, Darrell. And as a fellow mystery author, I love to watch folks' eyes go wide when my answer to the typical "What do you do?" question is "I kill people for fun and profit." After savoring the surprise for a moment, I fill them in on what I mean. :)

Darrell James said...

Jess- So true. I guess you have to have an injustice before you can have justice.

Beth- Yeah, it never gets old, does it :)

G.M. Malliet said...

I like mysteries (and write them) because they have a plot. A lot of novels seem to me to just meander. I miss that satisfying resolution at the end.

Alan Orloff said...

People like reading (and writing) about characters facing high stakes, and I guess murder ranks pretty far up there. Most of the mystery writers I've met seem like happy, (reasonably) well-adjusted people. Maybe that comes from getting out all their aggression on the page.

Darrell James said...

Gin- I think sthat's where my love of mystery comes from. The stories move faster and have a "point".

Alan- No kidding, mystery writers are the best people I know. (Or maybe that just tells you something abput the rest of my friends :))

Lois Winston said...

Darrell, I don't know which is worse. When I was writing romance, I had people asking me how I researched my sex scenes. At least now they don't assume I've committed all the murders I write about.

Shannon Baker said...

I've never been involved in a violent crime, either as a perp or a victim. Unless you count creating mayhem for my sister while we were kids. But if you're going to write about people at their best and worst, you've got to put them in the biggest messes you can conjure up to see how they react. It isn't the violent act, it's the reaction that is interesting.

Joan Hall Hovey said...

I'm a big Stephen King fan, write suspense myself, (King doesn't always write horror) and can usually be found with a suspense novel in hand, or on my Kindle. Like this one by Aaron Paul Lazar.

Healey's Cave

Loved the book. Just read the last chapter. I was crying in the scene where the childhood friends are in attendance at Billy's funeral. It was hard to read through tears. -:) Great mystery and suspense, well-written. Beautifully descriptive, the characters were real, dialogue totally believable, exciting action and at the same time, insightful and thought-provoking. I'll put a brief review on and and also Barnes and Noble. I knew you had to be a gardener even before I read your bio. I couldn't write about flowers like you do. Wonderful.

I just read Aaron Lazar's Healey's Cave and I loved it. Edge of the chair stuff. I enjoy reading in bed, and I kept putting it down to go to sleep and picking it back up again, telling myself I'd read 'just one more chapter'. The suspense builds slowly but surely, and the mystery is sustained until the end of the book, which comes as a shocker. I challenge you to guess who the killer is. But the book is more than a thriller: the dialogue is so believeable, the description and sensory detail so strong you feel like you are right there, in the story. The characters are real. You care about them. You will love baby Timmy, and you just know the author has grandchildren, and is also a gardener, even before you read the bio at the story's end.

He really knows how to draw on the reader's emotions. At one point in the book, I was wiping my tears away. Some of the scenes with the boyhood friends reminded me of Stephen King's 'The Body'. You may be more familiar with the film 'Stand by Me' adapted from the story. I can easily see Healey's Cave as a movie. I recommend this book highly. I'll be reading more of Mr. Lazar's books.