Friday, April 19, 2013

The Boston Bombing

by Sheila Connolly

Poor Kim Jong-un.  You almost have to feel sorry for him.  His sabre-rattling was going so well; he had thousands of North Koreans parading around, waving their guns and dragging missiles around the country.  The rest of the world was sitting on the edge of their seats, biting their nails, wondering "Will he?  Won't he?" actually send a nuclear warhead somewhere.

And then along come one or two guys with a couple of pressure cookers and
some buckshot and nails, and suddenly North Korea has fallen off the map, and Boston is front and center on every news outlet in the country.  Explosive devices made of stuff that you or I could buy on any street or in any mall in Middle America.  My husband tells me you can cook up gunpowder with no exotic ingredients and no high-tech equipment, in your garage (I haven't tried it). See, it doesn't take nuclear warheads to terrify people.  The bloody deaths or maiming of some children and innocent bystanders is more than enough to make the point.

And whoever made and planted those bombs hasn't even bothered to come forward [as of the time of this writing—it's a very fluid situation].  Can't you see him (most likely it's a him, right?) sitting back and watching the wall-to-wall news coverage and gloating?  I did that! Is it a good thing or a bad thing if that feeling of personal satisfaction is enough for the perpetrator, without any grand political agenda or terrorist affiliation? 

This is not a political blog, but we are all mystery writers here, so we all choose to deal with death and fear and threats on some level.  None of us writes violent stories filled with explosions and assault weapons and stacks of bodies (and I'll confess I find it harder and harder even to read those as I grow older).  We write softer, gentler mysteries.  Yes, someone dies, but the plot revolves around finding out who killed that person, and why the killer believed that person had to die.  There are seldom convincing reasons for the killing, because killing another person is inherently wrong.

Our stories most often involve ordinary people, usually women, thrust into an investigation because finding a killer is the right thing to do.  Often one of the main characters is a law enforcement official of some sort, and that matters too, because that person carries the weight of our whole societal structure.  He or she is appointed or volunteers to keep us safe, and to pursue and root out the evil that hides within our culture.

Violence is never far from American society. Witness the heated arguments about gun control.  Private citizens may never in their lives fire an assault weapon, but they want to be able to, just in case.  In case of what?  Do they truly believe that chaos is just around the corner, and having a serious weapon will protect them?  If the entire citizenry of Boston had been carrying during the Marathon, would it have made a difference? (More likely a lot more innocent people would have been injured by terrified citizens shooting wildly.) The sad thing is, we don't feel safe, even in our own homes.  And the Marathon Bombing just reinforces that.

I have no solutions.  I write murder mysteries because killing is wrong, and I believe that it is important to show that justice can be served, even if it's only by one person at a time.


Sheila Connolly said...

Let me add that as of this morning, one suspect has been killed and the other identified. As I noted, this is fast moving, and it has been fascinating to watch the procedural machinery of law enforcement in motion--luckily, in this case, successfully.

Perhaps by the end of the day we'll know the "why" of the attack.

Anonymous said...

You have excellent insight - on a lot of the points included in this excellent blog for crime writers. Thank you!! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Leslie Budewitz said...

Sheila, an excellent commentary. Thank you. In a mystery -- as in life -- murder disrupts the social order of a community. I see the official investigators as restoring external order, while its up to the citizens -- embodied in our plucky amateur sleuths -- as restoring internal order within the community.

Sandra Parshall said...

In our books, at least, we can control the outcome and find justice for the victims.

Steven M. Moore said...

Hi Sheila,
There were a few other events left in the dust too. Today is April 19, the anniversary of the Waco fire and the Oklahoma City bombing. We also had some wing-nut Elvis impersonator send letters seeded with ricin to the three people, including the President.
Mysteries and thrillers hit too close to home sometimes as real life is often stranger than fiction. When I included ricin in my book Full Medical, I put it there thinking, "Gee, that's easy to make." When I put a dirty bomb in The Midas Bomb, I knew that the attraction to the bad guys would be its ability to create terror even with limited damage--the marathon bombs fortunately weren't radioactive. (By the way, one of the terrorists there, an ex-KGB agent, was avenging her Chechnyan lover!) Tom Clancy had a Japanese terrorist flying a 747 into the State of the Union address before 9/ll. Are we giving too many ideas to the terrorists?
I don't think so. The instructions for a pressure cooker bomb and mixing powder can be found on the internet--just add shrapnel. We are empowering a few deranged individuals to do tremendous damage. But I don't think fiction books are the culprits.
In fact, fiction books can illustrate both the need and the ways for law enforcement to work together. We saw some of that in the last few days as federal and local authorities came together to identify the Boston bombers and the ricin fan. May we continue to see this improving in the future.

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