Sandra: Now, as a lapsed Catholic, where does all the fascination with the dark side of humanity come from?Read the full interview.
Ray: Kind of answered your own question there. But I'm not all that interested in the darkness, to be honest. I'm more interested in people who think of themselves as morally sound, but who make unfortunate moral decisions.
Sandra: Although it seems to me from what I’ve read of your work that your interests take you to the criminal side of the equation. Not about the cop faced with a moral dilemma on the job, or the real average Joe who gets caught up in a mess. Why is that?
Ray: Cops don't interest me at all, unless you're talking Wambaugh's or Willeford's cops or the beat cops in Will Beall's stuff, where they're actual people instead of sad sack ciphers listening to jazz and mulling over cold case files. The problem I see with the police as characters is that, because of their profession, they're one stage removed from the actual drama in most crime novels. When you're reading a police procedural, you're being fed information about the central crime through this filter of the investigating officer. As the detective understands the crime, you're supposed to understand it in the same way. There's really no room for interpretation in that; you're not really being asked to make up your own mind. And when the bad guy's caught, that's it. Order comes out of chaos, and the mystery is solved.
But it strikes me that the most interesting thing has already happened by the time the police get on the scene. Now whether you want to call Cal Innes and Alan Slater criminals or not is another matter. Personally, I class them as closer to the average Joe, albeit an average Joe who's marginalized and closer to the gutter than Mr Two-Point-Four-Kids. They're not professional criminals, though they have committed crimes, so I suppose they're somewhere in between. And what's fascinating to me isn't the mystery to be solved – there's never a question as to who did what in my books, and that "what" is very rarely murder, too – but how people get themselves into a position where crime is the only logical outcome, especially if they're actively trying to avoid it. To do that, I think you have to throw away the filter, get right in there and have a good poke around. And hopefully somewhere in the muck is the blood and bones and guts that Harry Crews talks about.
That's what I'm shooting for anyway. Everything else – the puzzle-solving, the politics – is kind of ephemeral.
More from Ray Banks:
- The Page 69 Test: The Big Blind.
- My Book, The Movie: The Big Blind.
- The Page 99 Test: Saturday's Child.