For the past sixteen years I’ve been fighting crime as a deputy prosecuting attorney. In addition, for the last half dozen or so of those years I have also been trying to become a successful fiction writer; or at least aspiring to not be so unsuccessful in my writing career that I need another part time job. So far, so good; but I still haven’t been able to quit my day job. Nevertheless, from my view from the trenches of the war on crime (inasmuch as the courtroom could be considered a trench) and from my efforts to master the craft of writing fiction, I have come to one irrefutable conclusion: truth (in this case, crime) is truly stranger than fiction.
On more occasions than I can possibly remember, I’ve found myself shaking my head in frustration, choking back tears, or—far more often—laughing out loud at the outrageous exploits of one of the many frequent fliers of the criminal justice system. I believe in courtroom decorum, but funny is funny. The cliché of “you can’t make this stuff up,” doesn’t even begin to capture the inanity, barbarity, or hilarity of the people whom I have encountered on this journey.
Teachers of writing will almost universally advise that the art of writing fiction requires a sort of embellishment or dramatization of real life events; the thought being that a simple recitation of true life events couched in the travails of fictional characters would be too boring to hold the attention of even the most devoted reader. And though I profess to know far less about writing fiction than the average college sophomore attending a course in English Composition, I can say with absolute certainty that many times true life events are far more interesting, captivating, and funny than their fictional counterparts could ever be. People are at once funny, sad, cold, passionate, stupid, brilliant, selfish, generous, good, and evil.
I have enjoyed a front row seat to the very best and worst that humanity has to offer. I have witnessed incredible acts of bravery, viciousness, and everything in between. I would love to say that I long ago ceased being surprised by the things people are capable of doing to each other, but I haven’t and I never will.
To name a few, I once prosecuted an inebriated old man having sex with a donkey, a love-struck youngster who offered his Camaro and $300 in cash to an undercover police officer in exchange for sex with her; and a group of kidnappers whose victim made pancakes while confined and when rescued by police emerged with a stack of pancakes on a plate.
These people and events are simply too good not to share. For ethical reasons, I am precluded from giving details on any pending cases and will refrain from editorial comment. I will also not opine on the reasons for crime or proffer any solutions. I will simply serve as a portal through which to view the strange but true world of criminal justice that passes before my eyes. My intent is neither to educate nor enlighten, but rather to entertain. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always stranger than fiction.