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“A Crippling Case of the Fuckits” by Patrick Freivald


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 Patrick Freivald drops by my blog with a crippling case of the fuckits.

Patrick Freivald is an author, high school teacher (physics, robotics, American Sign Language), and beekeeper. He lives in Western New York with his beautiful wife, two birds, three dogs, too many cats, and several million stinging insects. A book reviewer for BuyZombie.com and a member of the HWA and ITW, he’s always had a soft spot for slavering monsters of all kinds.

He is the author of Twice Shy, Special Dead, Blood List (with his twin brother Phil), and the forthcoming Jade Sky, as well as the novella Love Bites, a growing legion of short stories, and an as-yet untitled graphic novella (with Joe McKinney) for Dark Discoveries magazine. There will be more.

What do you have to say today, Patrick?


Why do criminals fascinate us so much?

Let’s approach this not only from the most jaded position in existence, but the most jaded principle possible: that of a high school teacher.

Have you ever actually listened to “Hot for Teacher”? As in, like, actually listened to the lyrics with an ear for understanding where the (ahem) artists are coming from, man? Because if you have, you don’t need a lesson on the fascination of criminal behavior, your apotheosis is already complete.

Novelty feeds the brain seratonin and dopamine—the only two things you’ve ever enjoyed—and nothing is less novel than staying within the lines. Those who do as they should, stay within the law, and comport themselves as upstanding citizens are wonderful and vital to society, but they’re also dull. There’s never been a newsworthy story about a person who effectively managed their time to maximize their efficiency at work, and thus truly earned their paycheck.

And there won’t be.

Criminals buck the system, and as much as we hate to admit it, back-talk and spitballs and flouting your homework is “cool”. Getting thrown out of class is cool. Cherry bombs in the toilet are cool. They’re not cool because you’ll end up an uneducated loser who hates his job and life up until it ends in poverty and misfortune, it’s cool because you’re giving a double-middle-finger to the man. It’s cool because it doesn’t take too much imagination to rob a liquor store or sell meth.

Anybody can do it; but not anybody dares.

Criminality takes a certain combination of chutzpah and stupidity that we can’t help but admire. The phrase, “I’d rather be bad than dumb” comes up a lot in teaching circles, and as a truism it hits the mark rather too well. If you’re not good at something productive, constructive, interesting, and intelligent, you can always be good at being bad. Chick’s will dig it—not all chicks (like maybe not the ones who don’t want to be called “chicks”)—but the ones willing to be bad with you will.

We like criminals even though we go apoplectic when they exercise their criminality on our persons or property, or on our loved ones. (Or on the chairs/tables/lab equipment in our classrooms.) We like them because sometimes we’d like to flip that double-middle-finger. Sometimes we’d like to develop a crippling case of the fuckits and just go do whatever we want and damn the consequences. But most of us don’t, because we have some capacity to think long-term, and long-term we recognize the value of playing by the rules, not just out of self-interest, but because of those emotions and notions all-too-human: duty, honor, respect, loyalty, friendship.

But even so, we always admire those who do what we can’t or won’t. Even when we shouldn’t.