That’s what happens when you read a Kathy Reichs novel, the current one from back in the 1990s, Death Du Jour. Reichs, of course, is a forensic anthropologist as well as the author of the well-received Tempe Brennan series, so when she gets up close and personal with the bones in the lab, she’s been there and one that in “real life.”
So, in many ways, reading these novels is like walking where Reichs has walked even though the books are fiction. They’re windows into another world and, while they make good reading, they look at a world that makes me doubt the sanity of the human race. As the bodies stack up like cordwood in these books, we see just how many horrific ways there are for killing another person–not counting war and so-called acts of God.
I think this snippet of dialogue from “Terminator 2” sums up my despair:
John Connor: We’re not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
The Terminator: It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
I think the jury’s still out when it comes to deciding whether we’re going to destroy ourselves and our planet. My view of reality is fairly dark. Maybe that’s why I read books that make that view darker
What about you? When you read police thrillers, black ops, and other novels do you move on easily at the end of the book with the thought that the story was “just fiction” or do you worry about whether the story is telling us something about ourselves?
I worry about ourselves because the realistic stories in novels aren’t coming from some other world where trust and honesty and a long life expectancy don’t exist. I grew up in a place where the KKK was thicker than rattlesnakes, so that’s what I write about. Even though I’m writing about the 1950s, I wonder about the Jim Crow racism that’s still alive and “well” now.
The klan and its supporters knew how to stack up the dead. I want to turn my back on it, but I started the Florida Folk Magic Series and am not willing to move on to something that could air on the Hallmark Channel. I suspect Kathy Reichs couldn’t either. How she kept her sanity as a forensic anthropologist, we’ll never know. Perhaps, the novels are a good kind of therapy.
I’m not so sure. I wonder how many black stories one can view before one becomes immune to the horror of them. As long as we’re not immune, those of us who write and those of us who read, perhaps there’s still hope for people.