In my freshman year in college, I began to explore writing mysteries and crime. I had already spent several of my formative years dealing with criminal investigation due to various adventures which started with the Police Explorer Program. I already had read books on criminal investigation and books on psychology (at the time there was very little written about criminal psychology—and nothing that my library owned), but I didn’t really know what was needed to make a mystery good. So I went to the library and found a book titled Making Crime Pay. It was by a mystery writer whose name I’m uncertain of right now—and was then. I liked that book well enough that I wanted a copy for myself to refer to.
I marched down the block to a local bookstore looking for it. The bookstore didn’t have it and all I could remember was the title. So the bookstore owner looked up the title and ordered it. When the book came, it wasn’t the book I wanted. The book I received was Making Crime Pay by Harold S. Long. At first I stood at the counter very disappointed. Then I opened the book and couldn’t believe what I had stumbled on. This book was written by a professional criminal diving into the realities of the criminal justice system from the criminal point of view and giving advice on things like “how not to get caught,” “how to instruct your wife to talk and not talk to the cops,” and so forth. I forgot the mystery-writing book entirely. What I had here was the written version of a professional criminal’s mind in my hands. To borrow the modern vernacular—“SCORE!” Yes, I was literally a kid let loose in a candy shop.
This book is out of print, as I suspect his others are as well. It was published in 1988, but despite the advances in technology, the information within—especially as you read it from a psychological point of view, will give your criminal characters more depth and understanding. In fact, I use the book as a kind of checklist to see if I have my criminals behaving in a correct manner versus something I may have picked up from television or the movies that is incorrect. (Though a lot of crime drama now days is on the money with the behavior.) The ultimate goal of writing my criminals is that I want to see the crime through their eyes and in their mind. I may have a “detective” trying to solve the case. They may or may not see things the way the criminal does. If I, as the author, only know how the “detective” sees it then I have robbed my readers.
In future posts, I will discuss these other books as a source for the crime writer. His other books are:
* Surviving in Prison
* Successful Armed Robbery
* How to Collect Illegal Debts
* Getting Started in the Illicit Drug Business
Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.