When I was young (so long ago!) I started reading Perry Mason mysteries and enjoyed them thoroughly. At about the sixth or seventh book I came to realize that Mr Mason was scoring his victories at the expense of the District Attorney (Crown Prosecutor). The District Attorney was made to exhibit a limited range of intelligence and investigative abilities to allow Mr Mason to display his wide range of skills and win his cases.
I stopped reading Perry Mason mysteries after about book number seven, The deformity here occurs because a wide readership will possibly acquire a subliminal view that a) private lawyers are the way to go and b) that district attorneys are an incompetent lot not worthy of respect. A structure that breeds disrespect for one of the most important positions in modern, western society needs dismantling.
I recall Ellery Queen writing murder mystery thrillers.
We fast forward to today. I confess that I am not up-to-date on current writers of murder mysteries. Nor am I up-to-date with the number of murder mysteries on television. But the TV people soon realised that actual murder cases could be dramatized and shown as entertainment. And further this treasure trove of actual crimes was a gold mine of material for an endless number of programmes, and with slight changes to the story, can provide material indefinitely. So we started off with CSI (Crime Scene Investigation). But there was no need to limit the programmes to events that occurred in one place. So we can get a CSI – Miami, and a CSI – New York, etc. In American terminology, a bonanza
With the advent of widespread TV a lot more people are being entertained by murder stories than previously when you had to purchase a book or a magazine. What we have here is audiences (how large I don’t know) feasting on the murders and their solutions on a daily basis. The fact that so many of our TV stations broadcast these programmes daily is some proof of a large audience. So we have a generation or more being weaned on murder as entertainment.
The hate, the absolute revulsion that we should feel against murder and murderers have been transformed into pleasure at being entertained.
Are the government, the churches, the NGO’s, the human rights organizations, etc, doing anything, or are we all content to sit by and say ‘One more’ when we read of the next murder and forget about it?
The point may be further illustrated using a non-murder example. We take the poem ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes. As the thief is about to set out on a thieving (and possibly murdering?) expedition he visits his fiancé/girl friend/lover and informs her of his intention. The words that Noyes puts in his mouth are:
“I’m after prize tonight”
Note how Noyes legitimizes banditry by describing stolen goods as ‘prize.’ I can quote many other examples of distortion from this poem. But one more will suffice.
The last stanza is printed in italics, whereas the rest of the poem is in ordinary type. This tells us that we should recite that last stanza in a different tone, possibly somewhat muted. I quote a few of the opening lines of that stanza:
And still of a winter’s night they say,
When the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon
Tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight…
Do I need to explain the distortion? The poem should be read/re-read from my point of view. Our society needs to re-invent itself to get rid of these distortions. And murder may be a very good place to start.
Mujtaba Ahmad Nasir