Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Executioner Rarely Sings a Sad Song

For a long time now I’ve been preoccupied about how murderers murder. How thieves steal and how people who commit crimes, commit crimes. But perhaps the question I should have been asking myself is not how, but why a certain percentage of society does these things.
I mean why would someone feel superior to the degree that they would hurt someone, steal from someone or, top of the list, go as far as taking someone’s life? And perhaps it’s even because this certain percentage of people feels inferior rather than superior that they carry out these malevolent deeds.
You’re at school and growing up with your mates and you’re all getting on fine and then one day one of your mates figures that it is okay/acceptable/permissible to break into someone’s locker and steal either, food, money, books or personal possessions. Why is this so?
Why is this so when it’s sometimes not even the kids who have less pocket money or those who are falling behind in their studies who develop a preference for the crooked way to get by? No, sometimes it’s the smartest or the better off kids who make a unilateral decision to take rather than to earn.
Again, you’re young, you ask your parents for a bike (for bike substitute any one of a number of things, such as skate board, computer games, iPhone, anything that rates medium to high on the covet scale) and your parents, for whatever reason, refuse. So the next day you’re out and about and you see the kid from across the street with the said item; is the only thing in your mind the genesis of a plan to steal the item in question? Or are you the type of person who immediately starts to plan taking on odd jobs and saving furiously until you can afford your own?
Why are some people programmed one way and not the other? Or, again, maybe the question should be: how are some people programmed one way and not the other? Is crime as a result of lack of respect for the victim or (even) the criminal suffering from a lack of respect for themselves?
I have often been confronted, as I imagine every crime writer must, by the question: What would be a valid believable motive for someone committing murder? Or even, going down a little further down this road: what can I come up as a believable motive for murder?
And you sit and you think, and you think some more about it, yet I’ve rarely ever been able to put myself in a mind-set where I actually believed: okay, if I had been subjected to those set of circumstances I could actually have committed a murder. Of course I’m excluding all circumstances of self-defence in my flights of imagination.
One of the reasons I write crime novels is to try and get a handle on crime and criminals and (mainly) the impact and mechanics of taking a life. I have come to the conclusion that there is little chance of understanding the process.
From Norman Mailer’s masterpiece, The Executioner’s Song, we learned that Gary Gilmour ran around Utah, leaving literally a trail of blood behind him as he popped his gun at people dropping them without even the slightest apparent thought of remorse. And then closer to home there’s the Rothbury tragedy in 2010 where an ex-convict indiscriminately shoots people as he drives around the picturesque village on his rampage.
Both of these murderers seemed, to a large degree, to be preoccupied by a legend; their own legend in fact. But did they really both believe that behaving as they did would benefit themselves in their lives?
The bottom line in both cases was that, pure and simply speaking, both their lives were going to be over, come to a wretched premature ending. It could be argued that heaven or hell wasn’t really going to come into it for either of them because when they died that was most certainly the very end of the line for them. When you die you hit the big full stop; you cease to be and, like the proverbial dead parrot, you’re over, kaput, lacking in life and no longer in a position to either take pleasure from, or benefit from your actions. Had they already concluded that when it gets down to it and they were standing on the bridge of their own death, that the lives they had lead would have made no difference whatsoever in the big scheme of things?
So, is the answer punishment? Well obviously not. That system clearly doesn’t work apart from maybe even adding to the buzz. Don’t get me wrong I’m not for one minute suggesting that we do away with trials, punishment and prisons but it seems to me the people who are prepared to commit the crimes we talk about would also appear to be the same people who genuinely feel they can get away with their choice of crimes and so… the problem we have to address is not how people commit crimes but, as we mentioned at the top, more why they commit them.

And now the bit before I go…

This time I’ve seen:

We Bought A Zoo
J Edgar.
Margin Call
The above four plus The Way (with Martin Sheen) definitely deserve to take all the Oscars.
Jack and Bobby DVD - amazing US TV series, once again I found myself asking the question why, oh why, was it pulled after only one season? Maybe it’s more a case of everyone is out of step apart from our William.

and read:

Michael Lewis – Moneyball
Michael Lewis – Boomerang
Michael Lewis – Liar’s Poker

And heard:

Nick Lowe – an absolute tower of strength – at the Stables, Waverdon.

Until the next time,