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The appeal of domestics

I just finished reading an article by an author of a gritty novel set amongst the sex trade and the criminal justice system. Police procedurals, private investigators — perennially popular.

International thrillers. Choose any of the following: elite-squad military incursions, government or quasi-government spy conspiracies, continent-hopping criminals gangs. Always great.

But my no matter where I might stray, I’m always drawn back to the domestic suspense story. I find them enthralling, and I gobble them up as fast as I can (with periodic breaks for ocular health).

Why do I feel that way? Why do I find them endlessly fascinating?

Because home is where you let your guard down, and you’re vulnerable.

Because these people, your close family and friends, are the ones who know those secrets you hide from the world.

Because the stakes are so high. Your heart is here. You’ll go places you wouldn’t normally go.

Because this is the petri dish where all the variant bacilli of human nature and all its pathologies are on writhing display, in technicolor.

It’s timeless

Many mystery-thriller sub-genres come and go, peak and ebb. And they’re always a delight. And here I am leaving aside whole worlds (literally) of other book genres. Whatever type of books you like to read (or write), you’ll have fellow fans and enthusiasts.

But I love that I can pick up a decades-old domestic suspense book (whatever it may’ve been categorized as in its time) and the dynamics, the scheming, the hidden secrets … all those delicious ingredients … are still fresh and bewitching.

And you?

What’s your reading passion … and what draws you to it so?


Photo credit: Photo by Matt Jones on Unsplash

Writing to a soundtrack

Sometimes I’m asked if I listen to music while writing. Especially by people who’ve read of other authors’ habits. Stephen King, for example, famously listens to hard rock.

I work to loud music — hard-rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites — but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out…When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.

– Stephen King, On Writing

It’s tempting. Like right now I’m working on a book set in the late 1970s. Why shouldn’t I crank up selections from the melange that was that decade in music: folk rock to proto-punk to hair bands. The Jam. Sappy stuff that made it to the Top 10. Gotta-move R&B. Post-break-up Beatles. I could — trust me — go on and on and on.

But for me, the music is so evocative that I get lost in the recollection, the feeling. I remember hearing it on the radio. Who I was hanging out with. Where we’d go to hear it. Alluring phrases. My own dreams spoke aloud. My anger given voice.

So I can’t listen to that sort of music while I’m writing. In between sprints — great, perfect. Just not during.

But silence (which is never really silence because of a condition I have) isn’t optimal either. So I drift between Baroque or late Early Music through to jazz, opera, or good soundtracks. Occasional hops to Turkey, Mali, Senegal, or Spain. So many choices.

This morning it was a loop of Barrington Pheloung’s Inspector Morse bits.