By Nicholas Stix
The notion that the reading public finds realistic crime fiction boring will come as news to Joseph Wambaugh, who made his name and tens of millions of dollars, and revolutionized TV cop shows, through realistic crime fiction.
Marcia Clark comes across as a stupid person, which I’m sure she isn’t, which leaves dishonesty as the lone remaining explanation for her silly op-ed below. After this essay, I subject her rant to a running commentary.
The reason publishers started favoring bizarre over realistic crime fiction was political. Publishers (or, at least, most chief editors) are aware that the overwhelming majority of violent crime in America is split roughly between blacks (two-thirds) and Hispanics (one-third), but are hopelessly pc, and thus refused to publish fiction that depicted that reality. Instead, they began publishing novels about white male serial killers (e.g., “Hannibal Lecter” and “Buffalo Bill”), thus promoting the decidedly unrealistic fiction that most serial killers are white, heterosexual men, a myth that the alleged news media also promoted. However, in recent years, the overwhelming majority of serial killers have been black men (81.6 percent since 2000).
As I observed in my June 18, VDARE column, “Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill—Two White Men Who Beat the ‘Serial Killer’ Rap,” throughout the 1990s and well into the 2000s, the news and entertainment media told us incessantly that serial killers were overwhelmingly white, male, and 20-45 years old. The father of that false profile was Robert Ressler of the FBI’s behavioral science unit. Blacks still constantly repeat this canard. However, in Justin Cottrell’s new book, Rise of the Black Serial Killer, he maintains that serial killers today are overwhelmingly black men, and that Ressler deliberately lied, and even perjured himself in court testimony, in promoting his false “criminal profile.”
Ressler: “There are very few non-white serial killers.”
Cottrell argues that Ressler was afraid of being called a racist. I think Ressler had an appetite for the limelight, and was just telling the leftwing MSM what he knew they wanted to hear—the truth, the law, and public safety be damned. The MSM reciprocated by making a star of Ressler.
Another factor is literary agents. Circa 2000, I bought one of those crappy, overpriced, Get Your Book Published books, the kind that only helps the author. The guy doesn’t breathe a word about publishing politics, but it was clear to read between the lines.
Most of the agents were narcissistic, feminist, females. Narcissistic: One after another said never to bother her by calling to check up on whether she’s making progress, selling your manuscript.
Any agent who resents ever hearing from you, needs to be your ex-agent.
Feminist: One after another said that her favorite pastime was reading “feminist theory.” Totaled up, I wasted one of the best years of my life reading feminist theory. Only sick, twisted individuals actually enjoy reading feminist theory.
Note that the lovers of feminist theory reported that they primarily sold manuscripts for self-help and diet books. So, they’re cynics, too, who believe they really should be peddling books on feminist theory, but have to settle for selling the yahoos diet and self-help books.
Finally, there is literary mediocrity. If you’re a talented writer, you can make any sort of crime story interesting, but if you’re inept, you have to focus on really lurid stuff, to distract the reader from your weak story-telling skills.
As my associate David in TN has reported, however, Marcia Clark’s novels sell so poorly that she has apparently failed to distract readers. I wonder how many diet and self-help books her publisher has to sell, in order to be able to afford subsidizing her.
Marcia Clark on Why Fiction is Way Stranger than Truth
By Marcia Clark
Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2012, 4:00 p.m. ET
Because it has to be. True crime is almost never strange. True crime goes something like this: Joey gets mad at Stewie for poaching his girlfriend. Joey gets drunk and plugs Stewie. Or like this: Leo’s a meth addict and he needs money to buy his fix, so he goes into a liquor store and robs the owner at gunpoint. The only twist you might find is if the owner pulls a gun and Leo kills him. [How about: The owner pulls a gun and kills Leo?
Note, too, the atypical character of the crimes she cites, which are identified with white, heterosexual males. But the majority of violent crimes aren’t committed by white males, they’re committed by black males. Thus, her whole argument is based on lies.
True crime is more like, someone from the Crips dissed S—tavious, who is a Blood, so S—tavious drives by a street corner where a few Crips can be found amidst 20 non-Crips, and sprays semi-automatic gunfire into the crowd, killing three and wounding 10, none of whom were Crips.
Or, S—tavious sees a white guy walking on the street late at night, and tells his friend to pull over his car, so he can rob the guy. But once he draws his gun and the victim has his wallet in his hand, S—tavious says, “I ought to shoot this cracker,” kills the white, and runs back to the car, without even bothering to take the wallet.]
Exciting, huh? Right. I can hear you snoring. That’s true crime. And when a real case captures public attention, it isn’t – as people so often say when there’s a high profile case – because truth is stranger than fiction. Because truth isn’t stranger than fiction. It’s just true, and that’s what fascinates.
Case in point: Casey Anthony. That case had a significant following, but were the facts really so strange? A young woman kills her baby so she could live the Bella Vida and dance around in a wet T shirt. It’s morally reprehensible, cruel, depraved, but strange? No, Virginia, it isn’t.
Mothers who get rid of babies they don’t want to raise is not, sorry to say, an exotic crime. Matter of fact, it happens frequently enough that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has a special unit, Family Violence, devoted to the prosecution of mothers (and other family members) like that. And while it’s true that Casey Anthony was a pretty white girl and not a crack addict on welfare, that isn’t so strange either. Other pretty white girls have killed their babies. So why did Casey Anthony turn into a national obsession?
In part, because of her lawyer’s incendiary claim – never backed up by a shred of evidence – that she was molested by her father, and that he was the true culprit. But mostly because this was a true story that, thanks to the hungry maw of the twenty-four news cycle, we could watch unfold.
[Wrong. First of all, there is no “twenty-four news cycle.” That’s just a tawdry, MSM cliché. Cable TV news runs the same stories on endless loop, especially when there is a big trial.
Second, the nation wasn’t obsessed with Casey Anthony, the MSM were. And that was because they had to fill time, and had no intention of filling it with typical crimes. They filled air time with Anthony, because she was so atypical.]
That woman sitting at counsel table…that man on the witness stand…all real. The facts themselves were a lot less strange than most works of fiction – certainly much less strange than the most successful fiction. Like for instance, “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” or “Silence of the Lambs.” Those are strange stories. But Casey Anthony? Meh.
But that’s the thing with true crime. The most mundane story is instantly fascinating if you start with the words, “this is a true story.”
Fiction can’t get away with that. It doesn’t have the magical promise of “true story” to fall back on.
In the mystery/thriller genre in particular, crimes have to be big, shocking and packed with gnarly twists to hold readers’ attention. But even literary fiction tends to focus on ultra strange characters:
Nabokov in “Lolita,” for instance.
[When Nabokov wrote Lolita, it was completely anomalous. Thus, rather than making Clark’s point, it contradicts it. Maybe that’s why she could only come up with one example.]
That’s why no successful fiction writer tells the story of how Joey shot Stewie. He or she knows we’d all be snoring before we finished reading the jacket cover. Now, make Joey a flesh-eating serial killer with a genius IQ…
Marcia Clark’s new book is “Guilt by Degrees.” Clark is a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney who was the lead prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson case. She is a frequent media commentator and columnist on legal issues. She lives in Los Angeles.