When I first considered writing a murder mystery way back in 1997, I had no knowledge of true evil. Following a full day’s interaction with a New York Police Department homicide detective, that statement no longer applied. I was given a half-inch thick folder called a homicide kit, usually reserved for detectives in training. Along with the kit came a formidable challenge: to write a novel that didn’t sound made up—as many often do. To my surprise, that was not as difficult as I might have imagined, based upon the contents of the kit.
The reason I bring this up is because, once again, I am hard at work writing another mystery, this being the fifth in the Matt Davis Mystery Series, called Deadly Ransom (projected release date Christmas 2016—pre-ordering for the Kindle edition will commence in early December). In preparation for writing the book I have taken to listening to numerous true crime podcasts on my iPod when I take my daily walk. After listening to some of these episodes, the abbreviated version of a quote by Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction” has taken on a whole new meaning, I can assure you.
One of the podcasts I subscribe to is Casefile True Crime, out of Australia. Maybe it’s the host’s thick accent, or just his way of describing the crimes, but I can’t get enough of it. The case I listened to the other afternoon was called “the Catholic Mafia, and it dealt with serial misbehavior by a Catholic priest, a subject explored in my first Matt Davis mystery, As the Twig is Bent. What blew my mind was not so much the nature of the crime, but the cover-up that kept the guilty party from ever being prosecuted.
Another podcast that has caught my attention is Sword and Scale. Its website even goes so far as to list “categories” of the horrific crimes that one can listen to, including: single murder; mass murder; torture; manslaughter; sex crimes—even “bizarre.” Really? I’m afraid you’ll have to be the judge of the meaning of that one. I’ve actually stopped listening to this one, because it offended my delicate sensibilities. But, hey, it might be right up your alley. You know your own convolluted mind betther than I.
There are two others that are worth mentioning: True Murder with Dan Zupansky (not particularly well produced, but interesting in spite of its hosts ineptness behind the microphone; it tends to primarily explore serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and BTK); and Someone Knows Something, out of Canada. The latter focuses on one particular crime, generally unsolved, and follows its development over numerous episodes. It is very well produced, and perfect for long walks or daily commutes.
Anyway, the next time someone tells me that As the Twig is Bent “was way too graphic,” I will remind them of Mark Twain’s famout quote* and point them in the direction of some of these podcasts. I must confess that when I wrote “Twig,” I also thought that it was just too bad. The fact that it reached the #24 best seller mark in the Kindle book store told me that sometimes too bad is never really that bad after all.
*NOTE: The full quote attributed to Twain is: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”