Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Depressing Nature of True Crime

RHYS BOWEN:On Tuesdays we usually focus on true crime, and one thing that always strikes me about real crimes is how mindless, violent and random they are. We work hard to come up with clever crimes, devious motives when we know that in real life most criminals are stupid and most crimes are committed in panic and without much planning. And recently no crime was more stupid or random than the riots that swept England. As an expatriot Brit I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the images on my TV—gangs of young people randomly torching vehicles and homes, smashing windows, looting from small stores—essentially turning on their neighbors. The media says they are frustrated and bored and jobless, so don’t they realized they have damaged the very businesses that might have employed them?
And the killing blow for me in all this—the one business that was not looted? Waterstones book store. Nobody apparently thought that books are worth stealing. They’ve probably never read a book in their lives.
I find this horribly depressing and a good example of a school system where the only aim is to make students feel good, never reprimand, certainly never fail them. So they grow up feeling entitled to everything and are angry when everything is not handed to them on a plate.
End of rant. I’m supposed to be feeling full of joy today because my new book, Naughty in Nice, is in stores and I set out on tour on Friday. One thing I’d like to share is how real life stories are often the basis for our fictional crimes. This book takes place on the Riviera in 1933. During my research I wanted to find out who had really been on the Riviera that winter and found one of the people was Coco Chanel. What’s more around that time she gave a fashion show blending the masculine and feminine. Her models wore tweed jackets borrowed from her lover, the Duke of Westminster, coupled with silk and lace and jewelry borrowed from Queen Mary. When I read that it was too good not to include in my story. The connection with Queen Mary came through Chanel’s business partner, Vera Bate Lombardi, who was the queen’s illegitimate (but acknowledged) niece. Sometimes in our research we come upon a plum. And I’ll make sure my crimes remain clever and elegant and not at all true to life.


  1. Good luck, Rhys! Tell us more about the book!

    Where are signed copies available?

    And hey--I'll buy one--and send it to a lucky commenter!

    SO--Reds readers: What are you doing this back-to-work day? Is it a true crime that you're back at work? Or are you delighted? Or are you wishing you were?

    Naughty in Nice--to one lucky commenter!

  2. HEy Rhys,
    Congrats on your new book.

    I'm going to choose to believe Waterstones wasn't looted out of RESPECT for books.

    Just because....

  3. Since I had an extra day off last week as well as yesterday, and since I got myself to the beach yesterday in the sun, and since it's chilly and rainy today - I don't mind being back at work. Not too much of a crime. And anyway, it's all material, right?

    Can't wait to read Naughty in Nice!


  4. Happy Book Day, Rhys. It's my Book Day as well.

    I'm looking forward to Naughty in Nice. I'll be reading in a gorgeous old stone building on campus while I wait for my daughter at flute lessons. The atmosphere is perfect for the book.

  5. Rhys, can't wait for the booK! My plan is to buy yours and Laurie's at A Real Bookstore tomorrow--determined to support my local bookseller--and then I will be overcome with riches . . .

  6. Rhys, so great to hear there's a new book to add to my Rhys Bowen collection! And as usually happens with this group, I was off on a merry chase, researching some fascinating bits about Vera Bate Lombardi and her many connections. And maybe some not-so-nice bits about Coco Chanel. Naughty in Nice promises to be lots of fun. Thanks!

  7. I've been thinking about true crime lately -- just read Doug Starr's Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story & the Birth of Criminal Science for the panel I'm moderating at Bouchercon. Perversely, the most fascinating legal, social & psychological issues arise in the most horrific cases.

  8. RHYS here...Hank, and anyone else interested: My tour schedule is posted on my website (www.rhysbowen.com). If anyone wants a signed book but can't make it to a signing, you can always call the stores in advance and I'd love to personalize a book for you.

    I look forward to seeing some friendly faces in all the hot spots I'm going to (literally) Texas, Az etc..!

  9. Rhys, I'm thinking that maybe I could send you a life-size cutout of me and one of Margaret Atwood's Long Pens and we could tour together. I wouldn't snore and your could put me in the overhead bin.

    Hank, thanks for asking. My new book is Sleight of Paw, by my alter ego, Sofie Kelly.

  10. Thinking of the riots reminded me of Vancouver when Boston won the Stanley Cup. I'm not much of a hockey fan, but I was astounded at the behavior of the Canadians - what would have happened had they won? Hearing about true life crime on the news makes me wonder what is wrong with people....

    Alas, back to work - I have a lecture to give this evening, and it's not ready!

    PS - I'll check your schedule Rhys, but I sure hope to meet you in Houston!

  11. You're so right, Rhys - most crime is squalid and stupid. Fortunately your books are not. Congratulations on Naughty but Nice (love to title!)

  12. Rhys, I simply say, "Ditto" to your rant. But the sky is blue, the temperature 10+ degrees cooler, and I think I just finished my WIP so a moment to relax, consider books to add to the TBR pile, and contemplate actually reading something before I return to the MS for edits. I love the premise of NAUGHTY IN NICE and can't wait for it to move up my list. (Heck, it might just fall on the top of the pile...*wink*

    Hank, I work every day. I'm a writer. LOL Even if I'm not sitting at the computer, I'm watching, listening, or...thinking. *waggles brows* I am NOT taking a nap. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

  13. SILVER! You finished?? You rock, that's wonderful, we are showering you with applause..xoxo

  14. Congratulations, Rhys! Naughty in Nice sounds so intriguing! I can't wait to read it.

    Hank, I was stupid over Labor Day. Decided to do some very heavy cleaning (stupid right there, of course!) and wound up hurting my back and shoulders. So I've been on muscle relaxants and pain meds today and not getting much work done. Just sort of slow-motion everything, including thought. I'll be lucky to get 1,000 words written when my goal was for a lot more. Oh well, live and learn--only that learning thing seems to take me so long!

  15. I'm with you in the rant, Rhys. As a private investigator, I see a lot of stupid crime. But I always thank the powers that be that most criminals are not so bright, because the dumb ones usually get caught and punished, whereas the smart ones often get away with it and go on to victimize someone else.

    Congrats on the new book!

  16. Linda, I am so sorry! Hope you feel better soon.

    I am also speechless at the extent of the lesson you have taught us all. NO heavy cleaning. Just for our own protection!

    Slow motion thinking, though..that has some possibilities...

  17. Congrats to all today's commenters on their own books, achievements etc.
    Naughty in Nice takes Lady Georgie to the Riviera on an errand from the queen of England. But that turns out to be the least of her troubles--modeling for Chanel, a jewel thief and a murderer keep her from having a good time at the casino.
    And my captcha word is PLOSE... is that some kind of sloppy prose, do you think?

  18. RHys, I think..PLOSE has to do with clothes, and posing...

    That's a nice plose, you in the hammock, with the chiffon skirt draping down to the sand ..

  19. Hank,

    So glad you are learning from my example. In my defense, I am usually a non-cleaner, quite able to ignore dust bunnies (and the dust gorillas that ate them) as I go about my daily life. Obviously, I have been punished for straying from the true path!

    Much better today, thank you. Now, to work--writing, not cleaning.

  20. I'm reading Naughty in Nice right now! As always, I love your books and the interesting things I learn about the time/setting.

    I think one of the reasons so many people read any kind of crime fiction is for the sense of justice and resolution at the end, something we don't often get in real life.


  21. Congrats on the book. I just left a comment on another blog today about how real tragedy is markedly different from the sorts of tragedies that appear in mystery novels. The same goes for violence. Mystery novels end in solution. Real mysteries rarely do: why do people loot when it only seems to hurt themselves? We will never know for sure, and humanity will probably never stop doing it.