It’s an interesting topic that has come up before, given the sort of things that I like to write about. When I am in the world of fiction, people often wonder why I dwell on such morbid topics such as murder and such. I was once asked why I did not write about “puppies, bunnies and flowers.” I stated that unless the bunnies and puppies were rabid and the flowers were poisonous, it just didn’t interest me.
Sometimes people assume I am a particularly morbid person. Sure, I may spend a lot of time researching grim things like disasters and death, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me. After I finished writing “Chicago Disasters,” for example, I had to take about a month off from writing since writing about the deaths of dozens of schoolchildren for that book affected me. I do have feelings.
In the end, however, what I am is a storyteller. I like to tell stories and I find certain things to be compelling stories. There are stories that I like to tell and that I feel hold a reader’s attention. I find the motivations behind people who commit crimes fascinating. I have no such compulsions or, if I do, I have a conscience that tells me not to go forward with committing those horrible acts. I wonder what makes certain people ignore those things and go ahead and commit horrible acts?
It has come up in my non-fiction I have been accused of making a living over the deaths of other people and the horrible crimes of other people. This came up, and you can see it in a review at Amazon.com, with my book about the vicious gangster and criminal Silas Jayne. And, of course, with my latest book, Sabotage: A Chronicle of the Chesterton Crash, the subject has come up again.
I recently had a conversation with someone who is an editor at a site where I write news stories. He recently had a personal epiphany and resurgence of faith that has caused him to have doubts about making a living off of other people’s pain – like the kind of pain you might write about if you have a news website. He felt that it was a bad thing for him, karmically, to continue to do so. I remembered that I, too, once had a mid-life crisis and a change in my career, but I went in a very different direction.
I think stories need to be told. I like to tell the stories. For me, the fact that Silas Jayne was not as well known as Al Capone and other Chicago criminals, was a bad thing. I felt that people should know Silas’ story and understand what he had done that made him as bad as those people
For me, it was a grave injustice that the victims of the Chesterton plane bombing were not know was a bad thing. People should know that story. They should know that it happened, to understand why things in the airline industry and in the world are the way they are. We have to learn from history. We have to understand how we got where we are today, I feel, and we need to know why bad things happened, any why bad people do bad things, so we can make the future a better place and prevent those things from happening again.
To me, it’s about telling stories. It’s about educating people. It’s not about picking the bones of the dead or rubbing my hands gleefully at the thought of death and destruction. It’s about making people aware of the world around them and the history that got them where they are today.