I’m a big fan of programs like Dateline and 48 Hours. I really enjoy the podcasts about murder mysteries as well. Before all of the true crime series on television and streaming services, I voraciously read stories of real life intrigue. Even as a young girl my first crush on books came from the Nancy Drew series of detective work. I eventually graduated to Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple. My mother often said that I should have joined the FBI or been a private investigator. I revel in a good who done it, mostly because I am fascinated by the kind of human nature that would send someone to the point of murder. It is impossible for me to understand the depth of evil that would push an individual to plot the death of another human being, and yet such things indeed happen too often.
I once decided to try my own hand at writing a murder mystery. My killer was a sadistic psychopath who had eluded justice and thus become more and more bloodthirsty. At first I was quite proud of my efforts, but as time went by I became increasingly uncomfortable with describing the actions and thinking of the killer. I did not like him nor myself when I had to portray his sick thoughts. Before long I had to set aside my writing, take a break so to speak. I never went back, because I got an sick icky feeling each time that I even thought of resurrecting the evil of my killer.
I’ve never actually known anyone who murdered another human being, and for that I am so grateful. The closest I ever came was living near a neighbor who had been abusing his wife both physically and mentally. One evening his anger went too far and he shot and killed her. I did not really know him or anyone else in his family, but his wife had begun pouring out her story to my mom on multiple occasions. I would hear the desperate woman weeping and my mom advising her to find a way out of the situation. Even though I was quite young, it did not surprise me when she died so tragically, but it filled me with fear. I refused to even walk in front of the house where the murder had occurred even years after the husband had been sentenced to prison, and the children had moved away. Murder is indeed most foul and somehow that home felt infected and dangerous after that.
We’ve had a rash of crime all over the world of late. Everyone has ideas about what to do to curb the violence, but I suspect that the issue is way more complex than any of us imagine. I doubt that there is a simple fix, but rather we have to look at all aspects of what might be driving the pattern. I first wonder why there is so much anger and desperation Then I find myself thinking that there are just too many guns so readily available. I consider the possibility that our justice system is too lenient, but also worry that our media almost glamorizes violence. Our relationships with one another are strained as well. It is as though something is seriously broken, and taking a hard line law and order approach will only mask the real reasons why such horrors are occurring.
As a teacher I only encountered a couple of students who almost seemed to be made of pure evil. I did not know if they were simply mentally ill, or had encountered so much hate in their environment that they did not know how to respond in any other way than crime. Most of the troubled students seemed salvageable, but often not enough time and effort was spent on saving them from a future of hurting others. I always believed that if we caught potential evil doers early enough and really made great effort to help them, that we might bring down the crime rate in a very humane way. Sadly, too many young people simply fall through the cracks and then end up being lifelong criminals.
I’ve been watching a four part series on mental illness that is fascinating, but extremely difficult to watch. One of the assertions in the program is that there is a serious deficit of doctors and treatment facilities for those with mental disorders. As a result, the largest distributor of mental health care is actually prison, a fact that one of my mother’s psychiatrists once told me, but that I found difficult to believe. The program noted that a gathering in virtually any prison in the country demonstrates that the vast majority of inmates have a history of mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, and a host of other issues. It is not to say that all mentally ill persons are dangerous, but when left untreated for many years their symptoms sometimes lead to violent outbursts and crimes. Many of the prisoners actually become healthy while in prison, but because there are no follow ups of their care, they are soon sick again.
I like the idea of being creative, but I think I’ll stick with memoirs and character stories. I just don’t have it in my heart to write about murder, but I’ll still be doing some sleuthing with true crime and fictional books. I’ll just let someone else create the villains. I’d rather spend my time finding ways to keep people from ever becoming so sick that they perpetuate evil. There is a great deal of work to be done to achieve that.