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Rick Treon Asks Why Write Crime Fiction?

Rick Treon is an award-winning suspense/thriller author. Read more about Rick here, see his books here, and read his last post here.

While at my first few book signings in The Before Times, I was surprised how often I was asked if my book was nonfiction or based on a true story.

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In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. In the Texas Panhandle, the name Rick Treon was strongly associated with my background as a reporter and editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. So I had to explain how I’d ventured into the world of fiction and that, while my characters and settings were realistic, the events were from my own imagination.

As often as not, I was then asked: Why?

Why, after ten years of reporting the facts and finding stories based in truth, would I not use those skills when writing a book? Wouldn’t writing true crime be easier?

They were legitimate questions, and I didn’t have a great answer. Since then, I’ve figured it out.

Writing fiction is more fun.

Every day I can, I get to look at real life and ask, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if …”

Wouldn’t it be crazy if this was the reason a crime was committed? Wouldn’t it be crazy if that was the identity of the criminal?

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Right now, I’m taking that critical eye to the Anna Delvey case, which was just dramatized in a captivating Shondaland TV show on Netflix, Inventing Anna. Since just before I signed my first book deal in 2019, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a novel from the POV of a con artist.

Because of Inventing Anna and the other works in various stages of production, were I to use any of the Delvay debacle, it would have to be strictly as inspiration. Perhaps her general methodology and sociopathy would make their way into the character.

And that’s what crime writers often do.

I chose the genre of crime fiction because it was the best way to make sure the characters and settings were realistic. I soon realized there was another benefit, too. I knew how to research crimes and find sources to help me.

I get to be half journalist, half Hemingway, and I love it.

Now, I didn’t come up with this strategy on my own. I am one of approximately a bajillion authors to have made the jump from working at a daily newspaper to writing crime fiction.

One of the most popular right now is Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer books. Other bestselling examples include John Sanford and Stieg Larsson. (Hemingway was a war correspondent but didn’t write crime fiction as we have come to know it.)

Perhaps these questions are one reason the main character in my second novel, 2021 Silver Falchion nominee Let the Guilty Pay, is a true crime writer.

All this is to say I haven’t ruled out writing narrative nonfiction, and there are a lot of stories in my own backyard that could be great, marketable subjects for such a work.

But right now I’m having too much fun making things up.

Rick Treon

Rick Treon is the author of four novels, including the award-winning thriller Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay, which was nominated for the 2021 Silver Falchion Award for Best Suspense Novel. He lives and writes in Texas. To learn more, visit www.ricktreon.com, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan

    Rick — Three cheers for making thigs up! I made the switch from writing nonfiction to fiction for the same reason as you: it’s a heckofa lot more fun!

    1. Rick Treon

      Definitely! And readers of your novels are happy you made the switch!

  2. It IS fun! When I retired from my work as a speech therapist and rehab center owner/manager, I decided to write a nonfiction book about intuitive communication. I wrote one chapter, my critique partners thought I was on the right track with it, and then I wrote a first chapter of a novel. Well…suffice it to say, I never went back to the nonfiction writing. Five novel manuscripts later I finally finished Killing Trail, the first mystery to get published. It’s been nothing but visiting Timber Creek, my fictional setting, almost every day since! Great post, Rick! Loved hearing more about your background! And by the way, from age two to fourteen I lived on a cattle ranch outside of Hereford, TX before moving to Saguache, Colorado with my family.

    1. Rick Treon

      Once you find a love for writing fiction, it’s hard to think about writing anything else! And that’s cool you lived near Hereford, though I do feel sorry for your olfactory system! Hahaha.

  3. Sherrill Joseph

    I’m glad you’re having fun with your writing, Rick! I love escaping into my detectives’ world. They were inspired by my actual students, so when I retired, the stories started to flow. Write on!

  4. Christine DeSmet

    Congratulations on your fiction and career in journalism, Rick. I’m a J-School grad (BA and MA) and loved the training and skills that gave me that are perfect for writing fiction and blogs and more. Good luck with all your writing!

    1. Rick Treon

      A J-School education is so versatile! Even though I’m no longer in journalism, I wouldn’t give up the education or experience at newspapers!

  5. Sheila Lowe

    I wanted to be a journalist in high school, but the class of 14 was disbanded for lack of interest. But those two weeks taught me about syllogisms and other vital stuff(!) Nothing is wasted. And making s**t up is so much more freeing.

    1. Rick Treon

      Agreed on the freeing part! And I was fortunate to have a supportive teaching staff in high school. They created a newspaper class for me so I would have it on my transcripts for college! And surprisingly it was a pretty popular class, though my editorials did ruffle some feathers, haha.

  6. Avanti Centrae

    Writing fiction is indeed a blast. Your love of the genre shows with your books. Keep up the good work!

  7. David Keith

    After a 30 year career in law enforcement in CA, I had NO intention of ever writing anything. Eighteen of those years I was the PIO for our department which gave me a front row seat to every significant event that occurred. Two hundred homicides, and maybe a thousand other crimes that were all very interesting. Just published my fifth novel and am having a blast. I also found that as the spokesman for the department I had to be very “buttoned up” about the cases I handled….now as an author I can let it rip! No holds barred….

  8. Jackie Vick

    Have you thought about combining them with historical fiction “loosely based” on a real crime?

  9. Tracey Phillips

    I agree whole-heartedly Rick. I love going places I never would get to in real life. I get to go to locations on the planet, like the cliffs near Croatia or the Grecian Islands (What I’m writing now). But It’s also fun to get in my characters’ heads. It’s a lot like acting. No consequences (at least not for me!)
    Thanks for the great post!

  10. Donna Rewolinski

    Great post. I love making stuff up, especially on killing people that is difficult to determine. Fiction is fun.

  11. Sharon Lynn

    I have a lawyer friend who worked on a murder case in Coronado, CA. Fascinating case, the fiance’s brother did it but the fiance was connected and super wealthy so justice may not have been served. I briefly considered helping my friend write a book on it, but the details of the woman’s murder made me so sad I couldn’t do it. Fiction is better for me 🙂

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