True Crime, crime readers and why Stephen King disowned one of his own novels

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KateESal

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Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession, published by Simon & Schuster by Rachel Monroe

Today's Guardian has published an exerpt from the above book and also an interview with Rachel Monroe, its author.

Some intriguing and disturbing points come up, which the crime writers among us may well find interesting.

For example, why are women overwhelmingly the main consumers of crime writing, and especially True Crime?

What influence does crime writing (True Crime, polemic, crime reporting, crime novels) have on readers?

Why are white women the "favourite" victims in crime writing? Why do some people idolize mass murderers?

And which Stephen King novel became so dangerous, even the author wanted it gone?
 
Interesting articles, @KateESal, thank you for posting them. Considering how much I've researched and written about murder in the last six years, it's a wonder I'm not more warped than I've always been!

That women of mature years are avid crime readers altered how I wrote my Cornish Detective stories. Several things struck me while structuring the plots, not the least, that many crime tales follow the themes of fairy tales and age-old traditional fables. Children like to be scared, to see justice served, but also, sometimes the villain or monster gets away with their atrocity. Are true-crime books the adult version of fairy tales, where the boogie man is out to kill you?

I recently read The Killer Across The Table by John E Douglas & Mark Olshaker. Douglas coined the term 'serial killer'. It was a depressing read. The killers were psychopaths, devoid of empathy, but it was strange how mundane the circumstances of how they killed innocent and vulnerable children and adults were. They killed because they could, it was a temporary fix to quell their lust. Years later, interviewed in prison, they felt no remorse and couldn't understand why people were upset at their crimes.

How much video games and Hollywood films and true-crime television series affect people's tolerance of violence, depleting their empathy and making them more likely to attack others is contentious. But, there's an undeniable link between serial killers and mass shooters being desensitized by the inexorable rise of computer gaming. Gamers can kill opponents on screen with no physical risk to themselves. Some slaughter thousands of people online every week. Where's the harm, you may ask? In 2011 in Norway, Anders Breivik killed 77 people, injuring 319 others in two attacks, including shooting youngsters attending a youth camp. He'd been immersed in the video games 'World of Warcraft' and 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2' for years. The prosecution portrayed his mass killings as an extension of his merciless role-playing online. The killer was devoid of empathy for his victims, seeing them as targets.

It's not just alienated lunatics with guns who've lost feeling for their fellow man. There have been several shocking incidents where onlookers filmed occupants of crashed cars burn to death, rather than attempt to save them. No doubt, they uploaded the clips to their social media accounts to get more 'likes.'

It all makes reading detective stories seem innocent!
 
Children like to be scared, to see justice served, but also, sometimes the villain or monster gets away with their atrocity. Are true-crime books the adult version of fairy tales, where the boogie man is out to kill you?
I think that's an astute observation. Links into catharsis, too.

There's a hideous desire in human beings to watch atrocities — "snuff" viewing. Is there something addictive about it, rather like pornography in that many consumers seek out more and more extreme forms? Hence the fascination of crime? Personally, I've always prefered the puzzle aspect of a good whodunnit or whydunnit, I've never liked to delve too deeply into the violence. Motivation is interesting, although, as @Paul Whybrow points out, along with Rachel Monroe, mass murderers often seem to have personalities which are banal to the point of tedium. Their murderousness is the only thing that makes them stand out as a human being.

there's an undeniable link between serial killers and mass shooters being desensitized by the inexorable rise of computer gaming.
That's worrying, isn't it? Some people get caught up in a narrative to the exclusion of the humanity of anyone else. Real people are as "other" and devoid of meaning or value as pixcels on a computer screen. It's why slavery happened on such an industrial scale (because of "otherness" rather than computer games...). And why genocide happens. Humans have an ability to write their own super-narrative which can simultaneously overwrite other beings and their right to exist.

Stephen King was very young when he wrote "Rage," and he said later, it was based on his own feelings at school.
I think a lot of adolescents experience that same feeling of alienation. So it may be pure coincidence that some of them acted on it and referenced his novel. Of course, King visited the same territory with Carrie, only this time he explored the victim's perspective more closely.
 
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