Thursday, 6 January 2011

Good guys don't always win

If you hadn't already guessed, I'm a bit of a crime fiction buff. I read crime books, I watch crime programmes on the tele (the Alibi channel is nearly always taping or skyplussing or whatever it's called these days) I don't actually commit any crimes myself though. Okay so maybe I sometimes creep above 30mph when it's safe to do so, but I'm not an axe murderer, my cordless drill is bloodless and I don't bury people alive.

So why am I so interested in it? Why do I try to write it myself? Is it just the formula of suspense where little clues are given that mean you yourself are detecting it while watching/reading?

One thing I have noticed whether it be book or television, is the good guys nearly always win. And that usually means the cops win.

I recently read an Ian Rankin book where Rebus didn't win. I won't say the title as I've just told you the ending, but it struck me as different and has stuck with me. Okay so as a reader you feel a tad let down. Three hundred odd pages read for the suspect, the obviously guilty suspect, to get away with it. Basically, the hero fails. The villain has a sort of role reversal to become a villainous hero.

It's probably not that uncommon. I can remember a classic episode of the Sweeney from my youth that ended with the two cops arriving at Heathrow just a plane was jetting off to some country in the days before extradition. What about The Italian Job, the villains were the heroes, but were left dangling in defeat at the end. Other, more recent programmes do it too. They usually chuck in a failed investigation mid series though, just to show that sometimes not all crimes are solved. New Tricks had a long running storyline where the bad guy kept winning. Except, they got him eventually.

For all I know Rebus might get his man in a later book, but that's just speculation.

I'm not really sure what the point is of all this (just for a change) I guess it's that the viewing or reading public want the crime to be solved and the good guys to win. In reality it just makes it crime by numbers. You know when you turn on Midsummer Murders they're going to catch the baddy in the last ten minutes. Yet, I still watch it.

It'd take a brave, inexperienced and unpublished writer to let the baddy win. They'd have to be much braver than me.


Col Bury said...

Hi Charlie,
Nice piece (easy tiger). You watch n read all the crime stuff I feast on. I'm a sucker for the twist ending - which some critics frown upon: dunno why - so, perhaps, the balance would be to let the good guy think he's won, but the reader/viewer knows different...?
Happy New Year,

Charlie Wade said...

Thanks Col, Happy New Year to you too.
The twists always make it more memorable for me, enough to outweight the small let down feeling.
I didn't see the whole series, but Luther was good, he seemed to both win and lose together, a bit like your idea.

Jaxbee said...

Good post, Charlie. I think your crime speciality is that you write it with humour which is a difficult trick to pull off and not seen that often so keep going!

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