It’s difficult to make crime pay (as a writer that is!). Even though it’s a big market, there’s plenty of competition. For a long time there have been two approaches to crime novels – write from the perspective of the victims and/or the detective (private, amateur, or police), or write from the perspective of the perpetrator (who almost never gets away in anglo-saxon literature, but often does in European novels). There is also a third way – as Tony Blair would put it – which has seen an increase in popularity in recent years, to the point of spilling over into other genres like science fiction: the anti-hero who is living and working on the wrong side of the law/morality in order to deal with perps who have evaded the legal process. One could argue that this goes back to the earliest days of literature (Achilles, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Ajax, Gilgamesh, all spring to mind), but that might be stretching the point! That aside, the popularity of the vigilante, with or without plausible deniability, is on the rise – perhaps it’s a reflection of the insecurity and indignation people feel whenever they turn on the evening news.
However, despite having turned into an essay for criminologists, this is supposed to be a review of First Contract by Frank Westworth! Although I wouldn’t write a story set in this murky world, I was fascinated to read this one. As well as setting the scene for a new series, it gives us a credible introduction to JJ Stoner. Yet this is by no means just a primer, it is self-contained and uses the short story format to great effect to establish characters to whom we can not only relate but also feel empathy (perhaps even shock/revulsion at times, so we probably wouldn’t invite them to dinner!) I am definitely intrigued enough to see how this develops, that I intend to read the first novel in the series when it comes out.
You know, one way for crime writers to deal with the ever-increasing competition would be to take a leaf out of JJ Stoner’s book… – No, you better forget I suggested that