Tag: true crime

True Crime Detection

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Written for one of my writing groups…

This group is crammed with poets; accomplished and expressive writers who create in their preferred format, often carrying out the impossible task of producing more than one fantastic and competent piece per session. The talent and competence of these poets regularly takes my breath away, but I know I will never be able to join their ranks. As you will be aware from listening to my readings over the months, I am naturally wordy and longwinded, and therefore best suited to being a writer of prose. I have my skills and talents, but poetically succinct expression and short, sharp sentences don’t come easily.

So, I thought I’d share with you the sentiments of what my poem was hoping to express. My intention was to explore the dynamics of detective work in the dramas I watch the most. I wanted to explain that solving crimes is dependent on the work of skilled men and women and that the more experience these detectives have, the more chances there are of the crime being solved. This is where my problems begin. I wanted to begin my poem with the line ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery’. It rhymes and says what I wanted it to say, but it’s clunky and juvenile, like a song lyric that 10 year olds might compose. Or it could even have been a rap. ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery.’ Yes, that’s it. It’s a pathetic little rap lyric. Nothing more.

But I wanted to extend my explanation. I wanted to clarify that the mysteries were those ‘Of criminal urges. Intangible surges, Adrenaline rushes, and trilling wire pushes’. There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and I like the way they all sound together. But I couldn’t fit them in as they needed an explanatory first line which would serve the purpose of informing the listener that the lines related to forensic methods and inspiration.

I carried on by writing ‘Detectives think over the crime,’ and genuinely couldn’t find a good way of introducing the idea of fingerprint patterns, DNA testing, and many of the other chemical processes that prove or deny the presence of certain substances within a test sample. So I wrote ‘Detection test fizzes, the rages, the steams it fazes. Wire in the blood. Theoretical stuff. Genetic kinks. Unforseen links’. Not quite a clickety clack rhythm, but also neither flowing nor easily understood. I clearly am unable to master the skill of explaining without the provision of an introductory explanation. Which, of course, renders the entire subsequent poem pointless.

Also, in this poem I almost created, I wanted to explain how the detective drama, ‘Wire in the Blood’ uses as its title, a phrase from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. As so… ‘The trilling wire in the blood / sings below inveterate scars / appeasing long-forgotten wars’. Apparently the star of this drama, Robson Green, believed it was intended to refer to a genetic kink. Such a kink was impure and unusual and of the kind that leads to the form of psychosis that the psychologist, Dr Tony Hill might deal with. Interesting, though Val McDermid believes something different – that the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was ‘a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream’.

So, not only would my hoped-for poem, in tribute to many of the detective greats, have talked of ‘Partnership drinks. Encouragements to think,’ it would have ended, just because I liked it, with the line ‘Might, Flight, Sight and Spite’. I’m guessing that this must be a fairly standard poet’s problem, but how annoying when you come up with something that feels right and sounds right, but doesn’t fit at all. Especially when it is your entire poem that does this.

I do not write good poetry. I do not even write barely competent poetry. What I write is inexplicably shortened prose, and tiny strings of rhyming words.

So, I’m sorry that I couldn’t fulfil the homework mission set for us all this week, but felt the need to relate to you all my attempts at work in progress. I didn’t want to simply say that I had tried yet failed. But it was the truth. Anyway, at least I tried.

#author #truecrime #detective #crime #shortstory #shortstories #meredithschumann #fiction #authors

True Crime Documentaries

Janet has a guilty secret: she binge-watches crime documentaries.

She’s an intelligent and professional woman, mother and grandmother.  She’s tried not to watch, but yet still does.  She tells me it isn’t quite an addiction, but is instead more of a need, and this leads me to wonder why she regularly surrounds herself in human misery. 
Her son, Zack, asks her ‘Why do you watch these things? You’re not mean’.

Of course he thinks that – she’s good mum. He’s right.

But I know what he means. It’s like assuming a child who plays computer games will automatically exhibit violent behaviour. I guess many children might, but who’s to know how much violence they would exhibit in the first place, without any computer game influence? 

On YouTube, one documentary follows another for Janet. Her phone casts one programme to the television, and she switches each set off when finished in each room. But the next time she switches the television on, the casting has continued in the background. One programme leads to another, to another, to another, and to another.  Sometimes, the cycle has gone full circle and the programme returned to is the same as the one Janet left the previous day.

Janet says her desire to watch these videos sometimes feels like OCD, but I believe it’s more like a simple need to feel protected. British crime programme ‘Crimewatch’ used to end with the statement ‘Don’t have nightmares’.  Yes, viewing filmed evil behaviour has occasionally given her nightmares – and me. Psychological and gory horror films have occasionally given us both nightmares, and definitely real life nastiness and weirdness has. But, true crime documentaries seem to me more about the crimes or mysteries being solved than the actual crime.  It’s the peace you get from knowing there is a crew of law enforcement and crime investigators there to protect you, should the need arise.  Janet agrees.
Also, Janet writes and is considering the plot of a crime story. Will it be psychological, or horrific? Will it have a happy ending?

So, she can put watching crime documentaries down to writing research. But even before she began to write, Janet would watch them.  I would too. We consider them to be life research.  It’s good to be pre-warned and therefore pre-armed about the most challenging people in society.
Oddly enough, watching these programmes hasn’t made Janet lose her idealism – it actually makes her feel the idealism even more intensely. How can this be explained?

According to an article on the appeal of horror films (which I feel is equally relevant to crime documentaries): ‘they have the power to unite us and can boost our confidence’ (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/halloween-horror-films-movies-scared-a6713446.html).   Yes, much agreed. And also in the same article ‘being frightened in a controlled way is almost like an extreme sport or roller coaster ride’. Yes again.

But I think the most relevant part of this article for me, is: ‘When a person is afraid, the amygdala, an almond-shaped set of neurons in the brain, triggers the “fight or flight” response, causing palms to sweat, pupils to dilate, and ensures that the body is pumped with dopamine and adrenaline.

Our bodies respond to both genuine and fabricated fear in this way, but feelings of pleasure rely on the individual and whether a person subconsciously knows they are safe’.  It is all down to the pleasurable knowledge of being safe, more than the experience of being frightened.
After a while, the documentaries, no matter how horrible, seem to strengthen and affirm.  It’s like lying warm and cosy in your bed, inside your secure bedroom, inside your secure home, and listening to the storm outside.  You get to feel the pleasure of the storm, but with the knowledge of being very safe.

So, it’s partly about safety, partly about research, partly just down to simple human curiosity.  How could a person do that? Why would they do that? What happens after they do that? And even – how would Janet cope in that situation, or how would I cope if that happened to my friend, my lover, or my child? 

Most people can’t watch a documentary which includes the suffering of fellow humans, without experiencing empathy, so could it be that this really does help us to hone this empathy? For most of us, it isn’t unfeeling to watch such programmes – it is almost entirely the opposite. 
I think Janet is comforted by such a knowledge. I think she’s reassured. And I don’t think any amount of judgement is going to stop her true crime interest.