I’m a big guy but even in my mysterious-looking author pose I don’t find myself very intimidating. I had the good fortune of being raised in a place with near zero crime and when I finished growing, I was 6’ 2”. When I walk into a bar or down a dark street, I’m not the guy people choose to make trouble with, but I’m not one to start it either.
In the last few weeks I’ve met people in real life who thought it odd that I have a pen name. They think I’m hiding something sinister behind my nom de plume. Like in my real life I’m a mass murderer who takes women and young children and cuts them up in the name of research for my books. Really? Me?
When I finished Sin & Vengeance I had a number of people, mostly parents of children my kids wanted to play with, look at me very suspiciously. They wondered where I got the ideas for that book and they wondered (out loud!) if they should let their children play with mine. (Sorry kids if you felt isolated. It was my fault.)
I had been wondering why people find me scary this week when I got an email from a reader. Some themes in my books touch a nerve for people and they share their experiences with me. Some are so horrifying they make me feel physically ill. The evil things people do to strangers and more often than I want to believe, their children, explain why good people are afraid of someone like me. I’m large enough to have the potential to hurt them and that is enough. They aren’t spooked by me, but by things that have happened to them or their loved ones in the past.
The people who are doing these atrocious things live all around us and they are not afraid of me in the least. I’m learning about them as I research the heroin culture for my new series. I hear true stories of what people do to each other for drugs or money. I see particular graffiti as advertisements of drugs for sale. I see drugs being passed from hand to hand. I see the results of drug users stripping an abandoned home. This happens all around us and we do nothing.
The people selling drugs, pimping girls, robbing homes, and molesting children see me as a sheep not a citizen. As someone who will stand by and do nothing as they harm whomever they choose to get their drug or satisfy their fantasy. We’ve outsourced the responsibility for building safe communities to the police even though they can do almost nothing to protect us from crime. That is why criminals are not afraid.
I hope there comes a day when we begin to take responsibility for the world around us, a time when a potential burglar sees someone like me coming down the street and he’s very afraid.