Saturday, July 21, 2018

Violence in the News. Violence on the Page.

We live in a violent world.  I don't need to tell you this.  As a writer of mysteries and suspense, I incorporate violence into my stories.  By far, my most violent novel is World of Mirrors.

World of Mirrors has a cast of bad characters:  Americans, Brits, and Germans.  The setting is East Germany the year after the Berlin Wall came down. The country has voted to reunite with West Germany, but none of this has happened.  It is "the time of the turn."

 The main characters, a man and a woman, are morally compromised.  Lots of bad stuff happens, but there is not a lot of on scene graphic violence.  I never write anything stomach churning.  Enough of that in the daily paper.  The book begins with a murder. The hero and heroine are both attacked.  A small boat is crushed by a freighter. A man is thrown off a cliff.  The violence never stops.  And World of Mirrors is romantic suspense.  Go figure.

One of the characters in the book is a dog whose former occupation was "Wall Dog."  This means he guarded the border of East Germany.  When the Berlin Wall fell, these dogs became unemployed, so to speak, and there was a hue and cry about what to do with them.  Mine ended up guarding the property of one of the bad guys.  And when intruders arrived, he apprehended them and guarded them until his master appeared, as he had been trained to do.  And then one of the bad guys, ostensibly on our heros' side, showed up  before the master and shsot the dog.  Told TK and Zara (the morally compromised hero and heroine) to dump the dog's body in the harbor.

My writing group was outraged.  You cannot kill a dog in a book.  You cannot.  "But he was a bad dog."   Doesn't matter,  you cannot.   So a little change of plot.  This was never a problem in that book because I wrote it from the seat of my pants with no concrete idea of where the plot would actually take me.  Except I knew there would be a fingernail-biting adventure in the shipping lanes of the Baltic.   In the fog.

Meanwhile, the dog.  It is the middle of the night. TK and Zara argued en route to the harbor.    She is upset.  "I did not come over here to kill animals."  They get to the land bridge across the island to the mainland.  Nobody coming.  Park. Open the trunk.  Open the tarp to put the paving stones in with the dog's body.

But wait! The dog whines. He is injured, not dead. Zara absolutely refuses to dump the wounded animal into the water.  TK has no stomach for it either.  A car approaches from the other direction.  Stops.

"Is there any trouble?"  In German of course.
"Our dog is sick.  Do you know of a vet?"
The driver calls out a vet clinic and an address.
"Danke schoen."

The sun is rising. They drop off the dog at the door of the vet. Ring the bell.  Zara leaves a big wad of West Marks for the dog's care.   And runs like hell.
This will come back to haunt them, as we know that no good deed goes unpublished.  At least not in crime fiction.

Other violence comes.  There is another murder. Our heroes are kidnapped.  They escape. They play cat and mouse in the Baltic fog.  The frieghter comes.  The KGB arrives. More tension.  Always the threat of violence.  They survive.  The dog survives.

You can have a body count that never stops, but you cannot kill a dog.    Just not done. 

These writers will tell you how they handle violence. 

 Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Skye Taylor
Fiona McGier
Anne de Gruchy
Rhobin L Courtright

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