Nick Quantrill : The Dead Can’t Talk: Evil Bad Guys
I’ve been musing on the nature of evil in crime fiction, wondering if my bad guys are, well, evil enough? Do they have to be larger than life and display a level of genius not found in mere mortals? I think we all know when crime fiction does evil badly; the bad guy moves from one killing to the next, hapless cops a step behind him as they aren’t clever enough to decipher the clues he kindly leaves for them. If you’ve seen “The Following”, you know what I’m talking about. It’s glossy, gets your heart pumping, but like eating a McDonald’s, it’s empty and you’ll hate yourself within half an hour.
No, evil can be done better. Luca Veste’s Liverpool-set Murphy and Rossi series is a great example. It’s dark and dangerous, but with a twist on the serial killer trope. Luca’s background in studying psychology gives the evil in his novels real depth. Similarly, Steve Mosby knows how to play on a reader’s sense of terror, drawing on fairly mundane lives. If you don’t believe me, read the first chapter of “The Nightmare Place”.
As much as I try, I can’t write evil in the same way. It takes a certain type of skill and mindset, though I’m pretty sure you’ll be safe in the company of Luca and Steve. No, the evil I write about in my novels is different. My bad guys are motivated by money, power, influence and prestige in a provincial city. Hull is home to a quarter of a million people, with the rich and poor never too far away from each other. It’s an isolated city, essentially sitting in the middle of nowhere on the Humber estuary with Leeds sixty miles west, York forty miles north. It’s a city with a myriad of social problems, but also one with great hope for the future. It’s a city that excels in small town heroes, good and bad.
In ‘The Dead Can’t Talk” we meet people corrupted by money and people who use violence first and ask questions later. They’re people who make mistakes and don’t know how to put them right. We meet Anna Stone, a disillusioned police officer on the brink of leaving her job, and Luke Carver, a drifter fresh from prison. Maybe some are essentially good people who are forced by circumstances to act differently. It’s a different type of evil, but one that I hope doesn’t read as being any less dangerous or without consequences.