So much of the time as crime fiction writers we are working from a place of ignorance. I haven't murdered anyone and don't plan to, so any crime I depict is strictly the product of my twisted imagination. I'm not 100 percent sure I've done much that violates the criminal code other than speeding (just kidding, New Jersey State Police!), which is a Garden State common law tradition dating back to the Lenni Lenapis, who were rumored to run faster than other local tribes (I made that up, too).
My criminal record is squeaky clean. I've never actually used an illegal drug, although I did probably have some beers before I was legally able to drink alcohol at the age of 18 (back in the day that was the age). I just never found the idea interesting and didn't bother with it. I'm the kid in your class who never did any of the cool stuff at all because he either wasn't invited or didn't care.
Writing about crime, then, is something of a stretch for me. Luckily for me as a writer, the type of work I do doesn't rely heavily on gritty reality and leans more towards the willing (one hopes) suspension of disbelief. If anything about crime or the way it is committed doesn't feel authentic to you, feel free to chalk that up to the author's inexperience.
As I said, my record is impeccable, other than the time I almost got arrested for robbing a bank.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? Sorry. It was so long ago it tends to slip one's mind. Yeah, there was this moment in my very early 20s when I was a suspect in robbing a bank. Well, plotting to rob a bank. That's closer to the fact. Plotting to rob a bank. Attempted bank robbery; would that be the charge? I leave it up to you:
I was just out of college and just starting work as a newspaper reporter, but still living "at home" (anywhere you live is "at home") with my parents until I could save up enough for a security deposit and one month's rent on an apartment. And keep in mind, this particular flat was rent-controlled and going, at that time, for a whopping $214 a month. Heady sums.
Part of that plan involved opening a new bank account at a local branch where I could drop my vast savings and start writing checks for my anticipated expenses. My family had moved while I was in college, so I was dealing in that age before ATMs with a new bank closer to home. I put on my college windbreaker, stuck my old checkbook (which was actually connected to my father's account) in a pocket and walked into the branch to open the account.
I was a little jittery, I guess; I was young and dealing with actual money, something I'd never really had before. I had not been given a "small loan of one million dollars" by my father to start my way in the world, so the numbers were not exactly eye-popping. But it was my money, and this was a step into adulthood, and here I was, talking to the nice young lady about giving the bank my funds in exchange for some absurdly low interest rate.
She smiled, in retrospect wanly, and said she'd be right back with the necessary paperwork. So I sat in the chair, hands in my jacket pockets (in case anyone asked for the checkbook in a hurry), and waited for her return.
It seemed to be taking a long time, but I had no frame of reference. After a while I saw two men in jackets and ties walk into the bank. They looked around and strode in with some kind of purpose. I figured they were important customers or something. They walked over to one of the bank managers and talked to her for a moment.
Then they all turned and looked directly at me.
Before I could register that, the two men marched to the desk where I was sitting. One of them asked my name and told me he was with the local police. Would I mind--very carefully--producing some ID?
I found my wallet, no doubt hands shaking, and gave the man my driver's license. He asked if I would stand up, so I did. He instructed me to take my hands out of my pockets. I did that, too.
I don't remember a lot of the rest of this, but what it came down to was that the young woman I'd been dealing with had decided that since I kept my hands in my jacket I must have been armed and intending to rob the bank by... giving them my money. That part isn't clear. The cops ran my ID, I think I might have given them my jacket to search, they found nothing but pens, and that was pretty much it.
Total and utter idiot that I was and am, I believe I even closed the deal to open the account. I guess I was impressed with the bank's security measures.
Does the remembered fear of that encounter infuse my writing? I tend to doubt it. I think about that incident very infrequently. It was my only actual brush with the law, I had done a grand total of nothing wrong, and I was a white guy in America so there were no special consequences. No harm, no foul. I have led a life on the right side of the law before and since.
I mean, it's not like I stole public property, or anything.