VJ Books Blog

(Excaliburonline, Nov 08, Shlomo Feldman)

“I love my bad guys,” admits Jeffery Deaver at the International Festival of Authors’ (IFOA) “Psycho-Babble,” a discussion panel revolving around how crime authors get into the minds of their villains. The best-selling author of 25 crime books – including the popular Lincoln Rhyme series – offered his insights into what makes a great crime story crackle.

Hint: it always starts out with a great crime. Deaver drives home the point that as compelling as a story’s hero may be, you still need a great villain to make him look good. How often has a novel’s bad guy overshadowed the good guy, to such an extent that we ended up rooting for him in spite of ourselves? A villain can have a presence so engaging, a mind so brilliant and a back story so convincing that, as evil as his intentions may be, he can easily wind up with the reader’s sympathy (think Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs).
Deaver’s panel included three other crime writers – John Connolly (The Reapers), Elena Forbes (Our Lady of Pain) and newcomer Ross Raisin (Out Backward), along with host Margaret Cannon of The Globe and Mail.

Characteristics of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)
Blatant disregard for the rights of others
•Repeatedly partaking in illegal behaviour
•Decieving others for personal profit or pleasure
•Recklessness and disregard for the safety of oneself or others
•Inability to keep a steady job or maintain financial responsibility
•No feelings of guilt or remorse for harming others

-With files from the DSM-IV-TR online at www.psychiatryonline.com

Although the four authors have written four very different books, they all agreed that it was a cathartic experience to step into the twisted recesses of an evildoer’s mind, if only for a short period of time. Irish writer Connolly’s novel The Reapers, the seventh instalment in his Charlie Parker detective series, is culled from his experiences living in Ireland and experiencing the volatile situation between the Catholics and Protestants first-hand. Connolly got across how important it was to research a story by travelling the world over to gain insight into how people’s beliefs and values are shaped by their environment, whether through cultural, religious or political factors. “People mainly act out of selfishness and fear,” he said. “They’re the two big things that make people do wrong.” Certainly, not all villains fit the stereotypical profile. In fact, many of them may not be aware of the heinousness of their actions, since they have been conditioned to believe their motives are justified. Does that make them insane or simply misunderstood? Often, a convicted murderer is described an “ordinary person” – who was never thought capable of committing such an act – by those who knew them. “The [characters] that are interesting to write about are those that are premeditating and have a completely warped view and moral disconnect,” says British novelist Forbes, whose book Our Lady of Pain begins with the discovery of a woman’s frozen body in a park.

Indeed, TV shows such as CSI, Bones and the Law and Order series have given us more than a glimpse into the depraved; the graphic exposition of murder scenes and anatomical dissections leave viewers knowing more than they may have wanted to. It may be getting more and more difficult to shock us with true-to-life horror, but there are still areas that remain taboo for even a hardened veteran of the genre like Deaver. “Some of the things that I’ve researched in working with the police or the FBI, there’s no way I’d put that in a book,” he says. “In my wildest imagination, I couldn’t come up with something like that.