“High Pay Out, Low Risk, and Rules Are Stupid” by Jay Wilburn


I’ve asked a number of authors I admire to answer the same question–why do criminals fascinate us so much?–and I will be posting each response here on my blog. It’s a question all writers–especially crime writers–should consider every once in a while. In my debut novel, Toxicity, I’ve dug deep into the minds of criminals. I have written about the bad guys. The ones we love but hate at the same time. If you haven’t pre-ordered a copy yet, I highly recommend you doing so for purely selfish reasons.

And now that you’ve done that, we will pass the time hearing what other writers in the industry have to say about the posed question.

Today Jay Wilburn stopped by to talk about this subject. To be honest, I didn’t ask him for his opinion. I just woke up today with an email from him that said “Post the attached document on your blog or I’ll blow up your house”. So I guess that’s what I’m doing. He also wrote, in the email: “If 50,000 people don’t buy my new horror novel, Time Eaters, I will blow up the planet. They have until tomorrow morning.”

Uh, um, well…


“High Pay Out, Low Risk, And Rules Are Stupid”

by Jay Wilburn

I’m a fairly ethical person by nature or by repeated choice. I appear to be so on the surface by most people that pass through my life. I’m even Biblically sound by a surface evaluation. I h

ave never drunk alcohol, smoked, or used illicit drugs ever in my life. That’s impressive even to other Baptists. The Internet porn and dirty horror stories probably cancel it out, but who knows?

After a few traumatic incidents peppered throughout my life, I spent a little time in therapy. Without going into too much detail, my therapist proposed the theory that I had a highly functioning borderline personality disorder. He even went so far as to say that the terms psychopath and sociopath are not really used that often anymore. I score borderline on all those quick evaluations for those personality issues.

I apparently have used my personal fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible as a code of rules and ethics to keep myself out of trouble. It turns out this is more of an intellectual practice for me than it is a feeling of doing what is right or wrong. If my former therapist was right, it would be very easy for me to flip a switch and do wrong. I suppose that is true of everyone in degrees.

I think about turning criminal a lot. I’m no great fan of authority or government involvement. I have heavy libertarian tendencies, but I also have a darkness in me that wants to see the system collapse. I’m too lazy to turn anarchist or revolutionary, but I have an intellectual curiosity about disorder.

I spend a lot of time thinking about getting away with crimes and these thought experiments lead to stories. Part of it is just the thrill of living outside of rules that bind others. Some of it comes from the possibility of getting money that will provide the lifestyle we want or dream of having.

The trick is having a crime that provides high pay out for low risk. The truth is that most criminals are willing to take higher risk and sometimes for lower pay out than many would risk from the world of rule followers. If we look on criminal achievement with disdain or even jealousy, we must remember that we don’t do what they do so we don’t get what they get.

When we read about a Mexican drug lord conquering Chicago and the entire Midwest, a part of us wants to twist the storyline into an antihero that beat the system. We despise the man and everything he stands for, of course, but we picture ourselves being part of a world that far outside the rules with everything that might come with those possibilities.

One has to wonder. But when you are done wondering, remember to behave yourself.

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