Omnimystery News is delighted to welcome Scott Nicholson as our guest blogger. A writer of thrillers, comic books, short stories, and screenplays, Scott's most recent novella is Crime Beat (Haunted Computer Books, January 2011 eBook, 294-0-01-205035-9).
Today, Scott writes that crime doesn't pay ... but neither does journalism.
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I've been a journalist for 13 years, almost as long as I've been a fiction writer, and though I've never directly been the crime reporter, at community papers with small staffs you end up doing a little bit of everything.
That's a great advantage for a novelist. You personally know the police chief, you learn how to go through court records, and most of all you register the day-to-day calamity that flows over the broadband scanner. For example, I will never again own a motorcycle after hearing the alarming frequency of collision calls in which the car is "PD," property damage only, while the motorcycle operator is "PI," personal injury, with ambulances en route.
I started Crime Beat a few years ago, when we had a sullen, idealistic guy coming in to take over crime coverage, along with courts and some politics. It seemed like the moment this guy sat his desk, a crime spree erupted—meth labs, breaking and entering, and even a murder, something that only happens about once a year in our small Appalachian community.
I even joked that he was either the devil or else he called in some favors to have all this crime to splash on the front page. From there, the idea was born, though I wrote the story from the point of view of the editor, a position I've never held and in fact have passed up on more than one occasion, because I knew it would entail responsibilities that would detract from my fiction.
I came back to the story a couple of months ago, when my latest thriller Disintegration hit #30 on the Kindle bestseller list, topping #1 in both Mystery and Suspense. I'm usually known for paranormal or supernatural thrillers, so I wanted to get more mystery stories out, because mystery was one of the first genres I followed and got published in.
I knew it was going to be a novella, because it's first-person POV and difficult to carry on for a full 80,000 words. The editor character came from a blend of my experiences and a little bit of my sardonic, cynical side. It's hard not to become cynical after witnessing so much tragedy, political ineptitude, and plain old cruelty, and then processing it for the public.
For that reason, I rarely follow national or world news. It's sort of like what they say about sausage: once you see it being made, you don't want to eat it.
Crime Beat was a pleasant, harmless way to address the urge to deliver sensationalism as a commodity. People accuse the media of delivering only bad news, but our sales go up when there's a murder on the front page. We didn't commit the murder, but we welcome the dropped quarters. Maybe we're not so much better than the person who committed the crime.
As my newshound says in the story, crime does pay. It just seems to pay everybody but the criminal.
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Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including The Red Church, The Skull Ring, Speed Dating with the Dead, and As I Die Lying, as well as six story collections. With J. R. Rain, he writes the Cursed! urban fantasy series, and as L. C. Glazebrook, he writes the paranormal romance series October Girls. Visit his website at HauntedComputer.com.
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About Crime Beat: When John Moretz takes a job as a reporter in the Appalachian town of Sycamore Shade, a crime wave erupts that boosts circulation and leaves people uneasy. Then a murder victim is discovered, and Moretz is first on the scene.
As more bodies are discovered, Moretz comes under police suspicion, but the newspaper's sales are booming due to his coverage of sensational crime. His editor is torn between calling off his newshound and cashing in on the attention, plus the editor is romancing the big-city reporter assigned to cover the suspected serial killer.
And Moretz seems to be one step ahead of the other reporters, the police, and even the killer himself.
Crime Beat is available in all digital formats: a Kindle edition at Amazon.com, a NOOKBook at Barnes&Noble.com, and in other formats at Smashwords. The 21,000-word novella comes with a bonus story "Do You Know Me Yet?" from the Head Cases collection.