Early tomorrow morning a writer friend and I will head for Deerfield Beach, Fl where Sleuthfest, the annual convention of mystery writers, will rock until Sunday afternoon. I’m already feeling the excitement of being with a lot of other mystery writers, aspiring mystery writers, true crime writers, and publishers and editors and agents of mystery writers.
During Sleuthfest, criminologists show us photographs of real murder scenes and give us the gory details of why they analyze maggots found under a body, or how in a particular case a medical examiner knew stab wounds on a body had come from two different people. Homicide detectives give us the details of real investigations, forensic specialists tell us how killers were identified. We just love it. Anybody looking into a room and seeing all us happy people busily taking notes would think we were taking a real estate course, not learning how to kill people without leaving clues.
If you walk through the hotel bar, you’ll hear people at every table saying things like, “Well, I couldn’t leave the body in that garbage can, because somebody would have noticed the blood.” Or, “I hated to do it, but I had to kill him off.” The waiters probably get nervous hearing all that violent talk, but the people doing it are gentle folk who probably don’t even step on bugs.
Novelists are the modern versions of minstrels who went from village to village telling stories. Minstrels entertained with their stories, but the stories often contained codes by which certain truths were transmitted, and the truths remained long after the stories were forgotten. Facts are the province of journalists. Truth is the province of novelists, and mystery writers pack a lot of truth into their stories.