East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Get in, do it and get out

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Let’s talk about crime, shall we? As those that have chanced to read my BUSCAFUSCO novellas probably know, I’m not that much into homicide. It was Agatha Christie, I believe, that said that a proper whodunnit should feature a homicide, but, really… c’mon, Agatha, there are so many crimes that are a lot more interesting!

And mind you, I like a good murder mystery just like the next guy, but having the possibility, I do prefer softer but trickier crimes.

  • Pickpockets need skill and discipline, and a certain reckless courage. You are very close to the “client”, and you need to be light on your feet and precise.
  • Con-men need people skills, the gift of gab, the ability – to steal a line from a great movie called Nine Queens – to create a completely make-believe world and trap the target within it.
  • Bank robbers need a delicate mix of (implied) violence and planning. The best in the field are almost the jazz players of the world of crime, being able to adapt to changing situations.
  • And burglars are like puzzle-solvers – they need technical skills, training, a good serving of courage, and stealth.

This, at least, in the world of fiction – I am quite convinced that in real life, most criminals are no-imagination brutes, thugs that get lucky for a brief moment, and then get caught.

And because I am a lucky guy and people give me books as gifts (no, really!), I am currently quite enjoying a book called A Burglar’s Guide to the City, by Geoff Manaugh (2016). The book, that is filled with the sort of information a writer will treasure, explores the intersection of architecture and crime, and looks at how the cities in which we live shape and are shaped by burglars and other criminals – people that see the landscape in a different way, that need to learn to do so in order to be able to crack the system.

Along the way we meet a number of spectacularly successful and spectacularly unsuccessful burglars, we ride a chopper with the LAPD air surveillance unit, learn about the FBI infiltration specialists… as I said, a treasure trove.
But the most interesting bit, to me, is this idea of a different perception – the idea of people walking among us that see the streets and the buildings not as infrastructure and shelter, but as getaway routes and boxes to be opened.

This is a very enjoyable read, filled with idea and quite fun.
It also promises to seep into my future stories because… yeah, OK, murder is neat, but some crimes are simply a lot more fun.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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