Other writers make assumptions to set the scene. One wrote of the `eerie silence’ which surrounded the death house – but a little more research would have shown that the killer left his music system on at full blast, almost deafening the homicide team. Another named two children who killed and said they’d both had good guardians, whereas one of those guardians was known to the social services for beating the girl with a paddle whilst the other so controlled her sixteen year old son that she even accompanied him on the rare occasions when he had a date.
Sometimes bad things happen but it isn’t the writer’s fault. The late John Dunning, for example, used to legitimately buy the basis of his crime stories from an agency. One day he received a letter from another crime writer pointing out that his dates were often wrong. John checked with the agency– and they admitted that they’d thought modern crime stories sold better than older ones, so were adding twenty years to each date!
But the truly ugly crime writers are those who are simply in it for the money, who don’t care about the genre or the readership. One reader told a magazine that he was part way through a true crime book on modern slavery when he realised that he was reading an excerpt from one of his favourite sadomasochistic novels. He contacted the novel publisher who said that they’d sue but I’ve no idea what happened next.
This author saw similar plagiarism when researching her true crime books Women Who Kill and Children Who Kill. Two encyclopaedia-style books contained numerous identical paragraphs. It seems that, in the mad rush to make a living, the actual desire to create something new is lost.
Sadly, it comes down to simple economics – if an author takes eighteen months to research and write a book, he get one advance but if he rushes out three books in that same time period, he gets three advances. So, at least in the short term, the bad author earns three times as much as the good.
Occasionally good writers are silenced because they get too close to the truth. This happened to Brian Masters, a crime writer of the highest integrity. I don’t always agree with his slant on life, but his honesty and sheer hard work are never in dispute.