Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, and I have to confess that my heart isn’t in this.
It’s been a difficult week, from a distance or up close. After the Newtown shootings, I joined the rest of the country. Stunned. Paralyzed. Sickened. But then, most people didn’t have to go back to the task of inventing and inhabitating a world where people die violent deaths.
Apologies–or maybe not–if this is a downer. But I couldn’t–and still haven’t–gone back to writing. Good guys. Bad guys. This handgun and that handgun. Which Glock? How big a hole does a 9-millimeter slug leave in plywood? Which innocent person should be a casualty? Which likable character will have to go? How evil is the villain in this book? Should I give him any redeemable traits? Should I just whack him? How flawed is this hero? Does he or she have doubts?
For days now I’ve had no stomach for any of it. Fiction as it is, it still somehow hits too close to home. Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a group of college students studying crime fiction. I told them I didn’t write about serial killers. I said I didn’t do crazed villains. I said I only did criminals who were rational, accountable, in many ways like the rest of us. I did not do characters who walk into movie theaters and start shooting.
Because what is there to say? How can that story contain a moral lesson? How can the good guys win? Where is the justice?
Nowhere, of course. So this is not the stuff of my books. It’s the stuff of news stories I don’t want to read but can’t look away from. It’s the stuff of television reports that make me want to turn the channel. But I can’t.
So I didn’t write a word. I barely thought of the next chapter. The plot. The characters. The bits and pieces of a new book. I put it all aside. I went out to the shed and split wood.
And then, just yesterday, I walked by the study. I went in. I opened the document, my work in progress. Read a few pages. Looked at the books in my up-next stack. Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, set in Iceland. The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane. And I not only thought I might read them. I felt like I had to.
Back to a world where there is order, even if it begins in dysfunction. Where there is a possibility of justice. Where murder is in some ways can be undone. Back to the writing today.
It’s small progress. But in a world that sometimes seems to be unraveling all around us, what else can a crimewriter do?