I sent the following prompt to author John Worsley Simpson as part of his virtual tour with Partners In Crime Tours:
Is crime fiction keeping pace with crime, or are criminals learning a few tricks from crime writers?
Here’s what he had to say:
Crime fiction is really murder fiction. With the exception of “heist” novels, few, if any, modern crime novels don’t involve murder. Other crimes, like robbery or theft, in the main lack the punch that makes the reader either want the criminal to be caught or wants him or her to get away with it.
Given that most murders are committed by family or friends of the victim, and involve no intrigue or complications of literary interest, the murderous works of crime fiction writers hardly provide blueprints for real-life killers. Most other killings are of the random variety — muggings and the like — that are equally bereft of the qualities that a crime fiction writer would adopt in his or her efforts. In other words, crime fiction is unlikely to offer anything that might be copied in a real crime of homicide.
Heist novels, on the other hand, seem to offer the potential of suggesting methods to a would-be perpetrator of such a crime, but the reality is that the knowledge that would be required to pull off a successful, complicated robbery (the kind that would be the fodder of a heist novel–an alley stick-up and similar fall far short of the dramatic requirements for interesting fiction) is case specific. You could write a generic plot about breaking into a generic bank vault, but that would be useless to a real criminal interested in breaking into the vault of a real, specific bank. What is more likely is the reverse: crime fiction authors may use real cases as the foundation for their plots: the details of an almost got-away-with murder or a complex robbery that emerge at a trial could be the meat of a novel for a mystery writer. So, I would say the few criminals who might inspire crime fiction are far ahead of the genre’s authors, while it’s unlikely that a mystery story could be a how-to for a potential criminal.