J. Robert King

Senseful Violence

In September, Brits and Aussies are going to find out what a violent  man I am.

Angel of Death is my new novel from Angry Robot Books, and it is coming out in September in the UK and AUS (February in the States).

And it’s violent.

As was Romeo and Juliet.

Some people object to violence in any form, but violence is one key component of the storyteller’s art.  How would Romeo and Juliet have played out if Mercutio and Tybalt hadn’t died, if the title characters hadn’t died?

So, let’s agree. The problem isn’t violence, per se, but senseless violence–or what I would call pornographic violence. If the killing is simply for the sake of arousal, well, I’m putting down the book.

But there’s the opposite, what I will unjudiciously call senseful violence. That is, violence for a purpose. Violence that is needful for the story–as in Romeo and Juliet.

And there are ethics about the use of violence. Here are the ten commandments of violence in storytelling:

1. Good guys don’t start it.

2. Good guys do finish it.

3. They never use it against someone who doesn’t deserve it.

4. They never use it against someone who is weak.

5. Good guys talk first and kill later.

6. Good guys  have mercy.

7. Bad guys see mercy as weakness and try to take advantage.

8. When bad guys take advantage, good guys kill them.

9. When a family member is killed or put at risk, violent revenge is justifiable. (This is the Mel Gibson clause.)

10. A good guy who uses violence should barely succeed, and perhaps be wounded in the process.

There it is. Senseful violence.

Angel of Death is full of senseful violence. It is, after all, about the angel of death for the Chicago/Milwaukee megalopolis, and his quest to make sure that anyone who dies in his territory dies well. . . .

Until he falls for one of the people he’s supposed to kill.

And why would I write such a violent book? Well, the book I’d written before it had been multiply rejected as “uncommercial.” So I was feeling violent.

But not senselessly. A member of my family had been killed (my last book), so I went on a justifiable, Gibson-esque rampage.

I hope you enjoy it.

July 12th, 2009
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