In this one, I set out to address a theme that has intrigued me for years: the lack of correlation between artistic talent and nobility of character. I’ve addressed the issue in an essay for the British arts journal, MODERN PAINTER, and in my non-fiction book SAVAGE SPAWN: REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENT CHILDREN. But there’s nothing like a novel for depth exploration. Visit any prison and you’ll come upon heaps of artistic talent among the inmates – including the most violent, vicious cons. History is replete with brilliant artists who’ve committed outrages: Caravaggio murdered an innocent man over a tennis game, Gaugain knowingly infected young Tahitian girls with syphilis. I could go on, but you get the point. Unfortunately, a certain segment of the “creative community” doesn’t, and every few years some psychopath with the ability to write/draw/play music is chosen as Cause of the Month. The pattern’s pretty much the same: the intelligentsia agitates and drums up support for the guy’s early release. When they succeed, results are often disastrous. This grand naivete doesn’t seem to be limited to one political spectrum. Norman Mailer got Jack Henry Abbott out of prison and William Buckley did the same for rapist and sexual murderer Edgar Smith. Both killed again. I never write an issue book – as the old saying goes, “If you’ve got a message, use Western Union.” (nowadays e-mail.) But within the context of an exciting crime novel, this seemed like a theme worth exploring.
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