I thought you might appreciate this piece I wrote about my years covering, among other things, fires in Southern California. Did you, covering fires, ever feel like I did that it was counter-intuitive to drive toward fires when others were driving away? But of course you, like me, did it anyway, right?
There must be something wrong with a person who goes toward trouble instead of away, but for a journalist, the lure of a really good story is everything. This is how Lilly is. The L.A. shooter we were just talking about is a good example of someone who’s not like that. He’s there to do a job. He’s competent, but not excited. He’d go towards the flames if instructed to, but in the meantime Lilly is already running there as fast as she can. She’s a newshound and he’s someone who learned a trade that happened to be in the news business.
I realized while reading this the growing number of people I've interviewed who used to work for the news media but are now authors of novels about people in the profession. Do you think there's a trend there or is it just a natural progression or both? Related question: Do you think there is just a natural interest in the profession from the general public since they are exposed to newspapers and television?
Reporters have always been great protagonists for mysteries. Other than law enforcement, criminal lawyers, and private detectives, there’s no other profession where it’s your job to investigate crime. Reporters must ask questions and search for the truth, but they’re not bound by the same constraints as law enforcement, so they can have a lot more fun along the way.
Why there might be a boom in reporter detectives at the moment, I can’t say for sure. It may be that publishers are buying more of them, as everything tends to be cyclical. It could also be that the decline of print newspapers over the last ten years, and more recently the bad economy, has pushed journalists to look for other careers. It’s natural if you’ve made your living writing to think about other ways you can use that skill.
I think because, as you said, the public is exposed to newspapers and TV, the reader is primed to accept the premise of a mystery centered on a reporter. There is a romantic image of the dogged journalist in pursuit of a story that’s a part of our culture.
Follow-up question: What reporters-turned-novelists do you like and why?
I love Bryan Gruley and Hank Phillippi Ryan. Gruley writes the Starvation Lake Mysteries about a print journalist in a small town in Michigan. Hank writes the Charlotte McNally series about a television reporter in Boston. They have different styles, but are both terrific writers.