by Jamie Freveletti
This is my first blog for The Outfit! Been given my marching orders by Libby (best topics: crime, Chicago, writing, but if you have a meltdown and wish to address something else by all means do so) and although I’m generally a happy person I thought I’d start out with a bang and write about evil.
When writing, isn’t evil that much more terrifying when paired with the mundane? We’re all used to thinking of evil as this strange and unusual event that we confront hopefully only once or twice in a lifetime, and with really good luck, never, but evil isn’t always done on a grand scale. It’s the everyday evil that’s fodder for crime writers.
I’m a martial artist, and Monday nights I teach people how to defend themselves. One thing about teaching such a course is that you realize pretty quickly that most of us don’t confront evil enough to recognize it in the mundane. I ask people what acts might trigger their instincts and I get the obvious: the guy in the bushes, the one acting erratically, the one carrying the gun (I teach in a gang infested neighborhood so, sadly, this last suggestion is not out of line).
I suggest different triggers: The good looking guy in a polo shirt who knocks on your apartment door late at night and says he’s there to see your roommate. Something’s “off” and you tell him through the door she’s not in and he persists and rattles the door handle while making a hissing noise, or the priest who marries you who is later arrested as a pedophile. I don’t tell them this to freak them out –okay, maybe a little- but more as a reminder to look beneath the surface. I tell them that when something feels “off” and they can’t put their finger on it, they need to listen to that feeling, not shrug it away. They can’t identify it because the mundane is cloaking the evil below.
I use this juxtaposition in my writing and it works every time. The obvious, broad brush violence and triggers are great for action sequences, but when you want to evoke a creepy feeling nothing beats the devil in civilized attire.
Here’s another one for you. Before becoming a writer I worked as a trial attorney. One of my partners was a former State’s Attorney charged with the prosecution of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy. I’ll blog about the case a little later, because it’s a fascinating story about true crime here in Chicago, but suffice to say that Gacy was evil incarnate. My partner kept a framed photograph of Gacy in his office. In it, Gacy was dressed as a clown, holding a balloon and smiling. I’ll never see a clown the same way again.
(I’m excited to join The Outfit and would like to thank Libby Hellmann for thinking of me. My first thriller novel, “Running from the Devil,” launched last May, and it’s been a great ride ever since. My thanks to the Outfit for adding to the fun).