Ah detectives. A special kind of outsider.
In general outsiders have a special place in my heart because, “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client.” Detectives go places most regular folk might never see or want to see in their lifetime and it seems to me they do it because it’d be impossible for them not to.
There’s this Nicholas Cage movie called 8mm and he plays a private eye Tom Welles, hired to find out if the snuff movie discovered by a recent widow is real. Early on he figures out it is real, but can’t stop there. He digs deeper until he learns who the unfortunate girl in the movie was and all those responsible for its production. None of this is for any type of conventional justice, (The movie makes it clear that the girl’s murder would otherwise go unsolved and Tom has to go a little vigilante on their asses.) but to understand how these men could do something so awful. At one point, while confronting a bad guy, he screams almost in anguish, “I just want to understand!”
Now that’s just a movie, but the idea of someone venturing into the dark side of human nature for a better understanding is very true.
In Mindhunter by John Douglas you get to read about the genesis of criminal profiling told by the FBI agent responsible for it. During this time there were literally two or three guys working on what would become profiling. The plan was simple; if they collected enough data straight from the evil horse’s mouth, they could have a better picture of the criminals they were after and arrest them quicker. So the plan was simple, the execution, not so much.
These men visited prisons all over the country and stroked the egos of the worst of the worst to get them talking in detail about their crimes. Their hard work paid off and soon, local police were calling the FBI for help with their toughest cases. Eventually profiling became what it is today, but not without its price. It ruined the author’s marriage and stress to his body from the constant hours working, almost killed him.
I see this kind of dedication over and over again because yes, besides movies and books, I watch buckets of crime TV on cable too. No matter what show it is, theses men and women are relentless; once they’re on a case, it’s all they think about until it’s solved. I see this even when it’s a cold case being looked at with fresh eyes. That determination, that drive is something I have a lot of respect for.
Detectives are problem solvers of the highest order because the problems they solve are life or death stuff. If they quit, the cases don’t get closed. That’s hero territory and that’s awesome.
Anybody have a favorite detective story or character? Was there some characteristic about detectives I missed? How was your day? Tell me about all about it!
Info Stuff- Follow my ROW80 progress every Wednesday and Sunday and for the month of February, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be devoted to my Love series. Eight loves that have shaped me into the writer I am.