Question time: Do I worry about giving criminals ideas?

Continuing this round of Ask Me Anything…

Audrey Anderson writes:

Do you ever worry you might give criminals ideas?


The ideas for my novels come from current events and human nature. If you’re reading about a crime or conspiracy in one of my books, it’s most often because I heard about a similar crime or conspiracy being committed in the real world (identity theft, killer polygamous cults, courtroom hostage-taking) and wanted to tease that into fiction. Plus: the criminals in my novels are warped people — and they generally come to grief. They aren’t celebrated, and they almost never get away with their crimes.

Also, I don’t give how-to lessons on the best places to lie in wait to ambush somebody, or how to booby trap a home, or lists of untraceable poisons and instructions for administering them. I want my novels to be wildly creative, but I never want readers to think that my fictional criminals should be emulated. I try to write criminals in a way that lets us understand their motivation… and want them to lose. Big time.

One other reason: real life is far more audacious than fiction. This is the cruel truth. A couple of decades ago, two bestselling authors wrote novels that employ jetliners to commit acts of war and terrorism. [spoilers] Nelson DeMille’s 2000 thriller The Lion’s Game opens with a Libyan terrorist poisoning everybody aboard a 747 as it flies from Paris to New York. The plane lands at JFK on autopilot, with everybody dead. And Tom Clancy’s 1994 Jack Ryan thriller Debt of Honor ends with a crazed JAL pilot flying an empty 747 into the US Capitol during a joint session of Congress, killing nearly everybody in the government. Neither of these massively successful authors combined those two plotlines into a fictional terrorist attack. As fiction, it was beyond imagining. But Al Qaeda didn’t need to read the books to come up with its horrific plan for 9/11.

The bad guys don’t need my ideas.

My books are about the good guys finding the courage and resources to fight criminals and stop mayhem before it happens.

5 responses to “Question time: Do I worry about giving criminals ideas?

  1. Do you ever fantasize about pulling off the perfect caper?

  2. Audrey Anderson


  3. Just off the top of my head, I can think of an Australian murder case in which mystery writer Arthur Upfield, creator of the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (aka Bony) series, was called as a witness because the murderer had used a method of body disposal invented by Upfield for one of his books, “The Sands of Windee.”

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