Re: RARA-AVIS: Bruen and the Tinkers

From: Al Guthrie (
Date: 19 Mar 2005

From: "Karin Montin" <>
<< This is a good discussion that could go on and on, but it's a little difficult by e-mail -- all this writing is hard work. >>

Never fear. This is my last post on this topic, although if you'd like to continue the discussion off-list, I'd be more than happy. I'm afraid I'm boring everybody else now.

<< Why is a scene where someone gets socked in the kisser more acceptable
(to me) than one someone's teeth are pulled with pliers? Good question. I can think of two main aspects. First, it's more run of the mill (TV, movies, books) and I'm inured to it. >>

By that logic, if you read some more violent books, and watch a few movies
(try ICHY THE KILLER: I almost didn't make it through the skewering scene), you'll get inured to the level of violence you're currently uncomfortable with, and then it in turn will be acceptable. Problem solved. A friend of mine who was studying film had to do this to get through the course.

<< Second, torture is worse than a single punch. >>

Not if the punch slams into you so hard you lose consciousness before you fall, so that when your head strikes the ground it bounces off it. So I was told afterwards. The resulting kicks didn't do much good either, but at least I didn't feel them. But the pain for some time afterwards was much worse than a tooth extraction. At least, that's how it seemed to me.

<<As to whether rapists really commonly pull their victims' teeth -- who knows? The newspapers may leave out such gory details -- and maybe novelists make > things up. >>

I'm not sure how 'commonly' got added. Why does something have to be common to be written about? As I writer, I'm far more interested in the unusual. As a reader, I am too, too. For instance, before writing KISS HER GOODBYE, I read a government report in which it was stated that 98 percent of 'sex workers' in Edinburgh were drug addicts. So I immediately decided that the character of Tina, who's a prostitute, was going to be one of the other two percent.

<< The kind of violence that bothers each of us most, and how much violence is too much or unnecessary are both highly personal judgments, largely based I suppose on our individual psychology (childhood experience with scalding cocoa, and so on). I just thought it might be worth going into the subject a little. I know I'm not the only one who reads a lot of hardboiled or noir fiction, yet still has reservations about certain depictions of violence.>>

Also, I think it depends on how visual you are. The more visual you are, the clearer the picture, the more it affects you. Readers who don't visualise well, won't respond in the same way. They need more detail to achieve the same effect. Maybe.

<<Clearly novelists write things that by their very nature fall within the realm of what they find acceptable and necessary for their work. But I believe that writers frequently make changes in response to their first readers' reactions, and I don't see why those changes might not include toning down violent scenes. Censorship, self-censorship, self-restraint, editing, writing to market, responding to criticism: aren't these related concepts, not all of them necessarily bad? >.

Hmm. I can only speak for myself, but they sound pretty bad. Let's see:
'censorship', no thanks. 'Self-censorship': what makes you think I don't do that already? You should see the original drafts, Karin. One of the seven endings I wrote for KISS HER GOODBYE is a real eye-waterer.
'Self-restraint': ditto. 'Editing': are you sre you mean editing, and not expurgating? 'Writing to market': the market I'm aiming for includes people who enjoy fast-paced violent action tales (Hard Case Crime, remember), so in what way am I not writing to market? But that aside, the idea of writing to market is extremely unappealing to me. Some writers can do it, but I'm nowhere near good enough. Every reader would see through my lies and my lack of passion. 'Responding to criticism': constructive criticism (the violence is out of place, for example; or, the level of violence is not in keeping with the victim's reaction, etc), yes, absolutely; but not opinion (ie: this is too violent for me). There's nothing constructive about saying you find a book too violent. It's like you saying you find a curry too hot. If I was cooking for you alone, I'd make you a Korma. But a 'Hard Case' curry's gonna be pretty hot.
> In any case, Al, I always find it enlightening to hear from a writer on
the writing process.

I have a very simple writing process. I just try to tell a story I find interesting about people who fascinate me. Then I cross my fingers and hope a few other people find the same things and people interesting.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 19 Mar 2005 EST