Comments That’ll Make an Author Wince

Well, here’s one of those comments that’ll make an author wince. It was posted anonymously in my guestbook today:”I skipped thru this book, Vanish, and found it to be one of the most filthy, disgusting things I have ever read.”

I guess it goes with the territory for any writer who chooses to write crime fiction, but there’ll always be a certain number of offended readers who are upset that a book dares expose such filthy subjects as murder and rape. How DARE we, as writers, explore the seamy side of human behavior? How dare we reflect reality?

I wonder if these readers are just as offended by the fact that the heartbreaking crimes in VANISH are actually happening to thousands of real Milas across this country. I don’t have to dream up these horrors; all I need to do is pick up a newspaper to see that reality is even worse than any story I could ever create.

In the January 25, 2004 edition of New York Times Magazine, writer Peter Landesman explores the plight of thousands of girls who’ve been trafficked into the U.S. for the sex trade. It is one of the most riveting and, yes, disgusting articles I have ever read. But it opened my eyes, which is exactly what a great article is SUPPOSED to do. That NYT piece was a cruel slap of reality, and it was my inspiration for the story of Mila in VANISH. I wanted to see one of those girls triumph. I wanted to write about one girl who fights back and wins. Who transforms from victim to victor.

If the story of Mila is “filthy and disgusting,” so, too, is real life for these girls.

So don’t get angry at the author for writing about it; get angry at the world-wide criminal network that allows these crimes to happen.

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