Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where my ideas come from: Small Crimes


Small Crimes came about from two newspaper articles I read. One was about a Sheriff's office in Denver in the 60s where they were robbing businesses blind, including an incident of stealing a safe they couldn't break open, loading it onto a pickup truck, and not securing it well enough so that it fell off into the middle of the street. The other was about a cop who committed a crime very similar to the one that my fictional Joe Denton did, and then somehow this cop not only serving out an extremely light sentence in County Jail, but then getting his pension once he was released. With that first newspaper story, Sheriff Dan Pleasant and his boys were born, as well as the extreme corruption within my fictional Bradley, Vermont. Joe Denton and his situation came out of my merging the second newspaper story onto this corrupt environment and playing a lot of what-if games to try to figure out how a bent cop committing such a heinous act could be treated so lightly.

Once I had this idea for Small Crimes (and the title came to me early on and just felt very right), I set about to write a more modern noir novel than Fast Lane which would be thematically centered around the idea of redemption and whether you reach a point where it's no longer obtainable. Fast Lane drew a fair amount of comparisons to Jim Thompson, and while I love Thompson's psycho noir novels (and could probably hold an honorary degree in them with all the times I've read and studied them), I set about to write Small Crimes to be very different than a Thompson novel. It kind of surprised me later when some readers and reviewers still compared Small Crimes to Jim Thompson. When I reread Small Crimes I couldn't find a single vestige of Thompson anywhere in it, and Joe Denton is really the antithesis of Thompson psycho noir antihero. What also surprised me was the heavy Dan Marlowe influence that had worked its way into the book. I hadn't realized this while writing it, but I guess it made sense since The Name of the Game is Death is probably my favorite noir novel.

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