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  • Writer's pictureRayne Marrow

From Fodder to Crime Fiction

Life often provides the fodder to create fiction.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a dead body. Better yet, I'll never forget the reaction I was supposed to have -- death was supposed to be so evil, bad even, but as I stared at what used to be an active human -- the lines on his face like a road map of the happiness and sadness he'd endured, I came to understand that death is part of what it means to be alive.

This was the beginning of my introduction to the macabre.

It wouldn't be until I started an internship at the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office (also known in other jurisdictions as the District Attorney's Office) in high school that I'd see the graphic and violent side of death though -- coming across old crime scene pictures, and just getting my feet wet in that world.

Violence could also mean death, and these images of death weren't serene but grizzly and pain-filled.

Over the years death went from something on the fringes to that of my career choice.

As a criminal paralegal working in a high-pressure law firm, working defense, I've seen my share of photos, talked with the accused, and worked with law enforcement. But it wasn't until I was placed in an at-work predicament that I began to wonder if I could survive an act of violence.

I learned a thing or two about people: life is never as black and white, clean-cut or clear as fiction portrays. There are varying shades of gray from the accidental death, where the perpetrator is completely broken to that of the cold-hearted killer who appears almost inhuman. No conscious or regret to those terrible acts.

Most intolerable act is fueled some emotion, be it a deadly craving or that of revenge and reckoning.

My life changed when, after working at the law firm for a couple of years, a disgruntled client appeared. Anger is like adding high octane to an already blazing fire, add that to financial stressors with it, well, you're going to get an explosion. The client is already paying high attorney fees, and a lot of times people can't afford the representation that they want -- mortgaging houses, selling what they can to give their loved one the 'best'.

On one such occasion, confronted with violence at work, potential death even, fear was all I had. The old building, with its windows painted shut precluded me from jumping from the third floor to the hard concrete below. The escape route one would have needed to take was blocked by the angry client. The furniture was too heavy to move. If, and my mind of course jumped to this conclusion, but if this individual decided to shoot us all up, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Luckily, things deescalated, but it took what felt like months to wade through the fear of "what if" every time I entered the office.

That is when crime writing became my therapy.

I used it to help me release all of my anger, fear and frustration, and created a villain that I knew could exist because in the pages of criminal law, he already did.

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