Saturday, October 11, 2008

I believe in evil

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What a way to start this entry!
My book The Body in the Record Room deals with both individual and institutional evil. It describes how certain evils become pervasive, how sin spreads its tentacles even to the innocent and uninvolved.

It also describes how, even in the face of evil, some people overcome.

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m an ordained minister. Following seminary, I spent almost 25 years serving in small town churches. But my book is not a Christian treatise in disguise. In fact, in contrast to the real Roy Rogers, my Roy Rogers is a non-believer.

I’ve read mystery stories all my life. As I see it, strong stories trump preaching any day. If there is any weakness in The Body in the Record Room, it is that it could have been a better story. But that’s for the next book.

We don’t have to look far to find unmitigated evil. A few foreign aid workers in cyclone-stricken Myanmar were trading food for sex, sometimes with children as young as six years old. That’s what the TV reported.

Women are bought and sold into sexual slavery, not just across the world, but even in the USA.

Some husbands or wives routinely and terribly abuse their spouses, and some parents routinely abuse their children, sometimes even raping them or killing them.

I had a friend once who said, “Some things are worse than death.” He meant some ways of dying are worse than the dying itself.

Mystery stories are almost always about murders, and that’s true of Roy’s story too, but maybe, in fact, the real evil comes before the murder. Maybe some things truly are worse than death.

Some will ask me, “Have you witnessed or experienced the evil you describe?” And the answer is, “No. If I had, I wouldn’t have written about it.” But the fact I haven’t had any personal contact with that kind of evil doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, though the details will be different from my made-up story. It doesn’t mean the evil shouldn’t be remembered and exposed. And it doesn’t mean that everyone is destroyed, even by the most terrible of evils. Some overcome.

In my story, my Roy Rogers overcomes because of the help of friends and the example of two good Christian people, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I didn’t choose Roy and Dale because they were Christians. As I told you in the first entry, I chose them because of a dream. But their Christian witness, even when the Christian part of it didn’t seem to directly touch him, changed my Roy’s life.

Finally, for me, good mystery stories are about strong characters who become a force for good in the face of unrelenting evil. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose, but always they are a force for good.

For me personally, the best mystery stories aren’t puzzles to be worked out with the murder in the background. They are stories of people truly facing evil, real evil, the kind of evil expressed in those aid workers in Myanmar and elsewhere.

So don’t read The Body in the Record Room if you expect a cozy. And don’t read the book if you expect something where the murderer cooks and eats his victims and then gets away with it. The Record Room book falls somewhere in between.

If you would like to respond to this post, please leave a comment or go to my web site where there is an email address. Thanks.

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