Life and Death and Crime Novels

Like all crime writers, I explore death daily, in what I read and what I write. It’s a game, of course. Some of my brother/sister writers love every graphic detail of dismemberment. I’m too squeamish for that, but still, VI Warshawski has just encountered a dead body in a rural kitchen, where there’s plenty of scope for gruesome description.

In real life, I’ve been with two people as they died, my father and my closest friend in college; she died of a difficult auto-immune disease when we were 25. The difference between the country of the living and the country of the dead is so complete that when you’ve been spending time in the country of the dead you don’t easily return to the living.

I almost lost my husband last week. He had pneumonia, he’s 92, and his trajectory downhill was steep and swift. Drugs brought him back. He’s still weak but definitely on the mend. The 48 hours where I thought I was losing him still are tearing me apart; I knew what I was witnessing, I’d been in its presence twice before.

I think the game we writers play, toying with death, is a shield. I don’t feel guilt or shame or a sense that I should choose a different subject.  But my recent reminder of the end that awaits us all reaffirms my decision not to harrow my readers. Novels like mine should offer a place of refuge, not a place of devastation. This is why no one important in my books will ever die. Loss in real life is too painful; I’m not going to add to my woes or those of my readers by killing Lotty Herschel or Mr. Contreras, Peppy or Mitch. Certainly not the girl detective herself.

  • iroquoistheater

    A relief to read that Peppy and Mitch are safe and thank you for the reassurance. Have been reading your novels in random order so read about about Bruce and his housemates after already having an affection for Mitch. Since then have felt apprehensive with each new page. Now I can just relax and enjoy the story. Silly to be attached to a fictional pet, but there it is. Glad to hear your husband is on the mend.

  • The Bag Lady

    I am so glad your husband is on the mend – I think of him (and you) often, and wonder how he is.
    I, too, have been with someone as they died and don’t need to live through the experience in a novel. Thank you for promising to keep all of your main characters alive for us.

  • Marilyn Grotzky

    For many years I have thought that fictional people are as real as the ones we consider real. I am delighted by all the good news in your post — your husband is staying with you, and we are not going to lose some of our favorite people and animals from VI’s life either. That’s a lovely gift. Thank you very much.

  • neroden

    Thanks… but you don’t have to keep to that promise if you change your mind in 20 years and need to write something different. We trust you.

  • Marilyn Grotzky

    WORDS, WORKS, AND WAYS OF KNOWING — I just found this on Amazon. You need a new category — this isn’t a novel, essay, or short story. I’ve been wondering what you’ve been doing (probably a whole lot), and one thing is getting ready for the publication of this book. I’ve put it in my cart. Now it needs a place on your blog.

  • Kathy D.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s serious illness, but so glad to hear he pulled through.
    And thank you from an avid V.I. Warshawski fan for not letting Mr. Contreras or Lotty Herschel or Mitch or Peppy die. That would be so hard for your long-time readers, like myself, to have to deal with the death of a favorite character, including a dog.
    I know that I can count on V.I. to persevere and deal with all challenges and she’ll have the support of all of her friends and dogs. I’ve read every book in the series; it’s one of a few favorites. And I’m attached to all of the characters, so glad to know they’ll keep on solving crimes and being loyal friends.


Most recent comments

Upcoming shows

No events booked at the moment.

Recent Comments


February 2016
« Dec   Jul »