Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Popular Crime

I'm reading Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence, by Bill James. So far it's lighter on the reflections and heavier on the celebration--or at least the giddy interest in piecing together clues and debating theories, which some of us share.

James at least does give cover to readers like me, who hope our interest in certain mega-famous crimes is not *primarily* lurid fascination. He says it's largely driven by a desire to see justice done. I'd add a closely related need for things to make sense. Life's a mystery, like that guy in Shine said. We're surrounded by walls we can't see past all the time: what our parents were really like before we were born; where the universe came from; why that agent who was perfect for my book never even wrote back. Surely, surely one self-contained event--this murder, which left so much "evidence" behind--can be understood, the answer known. But often, it just can't. As I've said before, information does not always add up to knowledge.

For my own problem, I choose to blame The Brothers Karamazov. It tells us that life is not just a mystery, but a murder mystery, and God is the prime suspect.

Anyway, as someone who's dug a little too deep into the Sam Sheppard case, I found James's take on the matter...interesting. At first it seems far-fetched, but then again, the more I thought about it...it does explain a lot. (No, I won't spoil it, but the NYT review did, if you're curious.)

On the other hand, an explanation is not an answer, either.

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