I’m not an editor of fiction, but I’m guessing that anyone who is might have some serious work to do if the following were offered up as the plot of a crime story:
A millionaire CEO is at home one evening, when a 6’5″, 240-pound black man in his mid-forties walks in the millionaire’s wide-open front door. The intruder is brandishing a sawed-off shotgun. Rather than attempt to escape, call 911, or just give the intruder whatever it is he wants, our intrepid millionaire hero instead uses the awesome powers his executive position has bequeathed him, and simply charms the intruder into sitting down for a chat for a couple of hours – it being understood that he’s still being held hostage, along with his wife and two daughters, of course – and having a beer. Eventually, our intruder settles for a computer and an iPhone – devices that he could have found in nearly any house, no need to break into a million-dollar home in an exclusive neighborhood – and leaves.
Still, our CEO doesn’t call the cops. Instead, the next day he calls the mayor to complain, and has a lackey set up an interview with the local press. He then sends out fliers and e-mails decrying the city’s crime problem and its inability to protect its citizens, and further suggests that he and his wealthy neighbors ought to secede (“de-annexation”) from the city to form their own private security enclave.
Back to our editor. The first thing such an editor might notice is that the intruder is both too stereotypical and too atypical. Too stereotypical: of course, he’s a black man, and like all scary black men, he’s physically enormous. Too atypical: despite his imposing bulk, he’s carrying a weapon – but that weapon is the rather pulp-fiction-y “sawed-off shotgun,” even though handguns are readily available and much easier to use. And even though nearly all such actual crimes are committed by men under 30, our villain is in his mid-forties.
The editor also doesn’t think people will buy the details of the intruder’s visit. He threatens the family with a weapon, holds them hostage for two hours…but sits down and shares a beer with the millionaire? The door’s wide open…but rather take this as a sign of lax security, and return later when the family’s asleep or away, he walks right in now, as if impulsively? And after all this, despite being in the home of a wealthy CEO who, presumably, has many items of quite a bit of value in the house, the intruder walks off with only a computer and an iPhone? Speaking of walking off, how did this intruder leave? What sort of vehicle was he driving? Or did he run off through nearby Lake Park to the shore, where a confederate was waiting with a powerboat?
The editor also doesn’t understand why the millionaire victim is so calm about all this as to not bother to call the cops that night, or even call the mayor that night if that’s what he wants to do. Instead, he gets in a good night’s rest and decides that dealing with this crime can wait till the next day. If our villain knew this, of course, he’d breathe a huge sigh of relief: more time to get cleanly away and leave his trail utterly cold! Gotta wonder what our millionaire’s neighbors think: so, you just toddled off to bed, leaving this half-drunk, crazed linebacker-sized black man with a sawed-off shotgun free to burglarize our houses? Thanks, neighbor!
Good thing this isn’t fiction. Or at least, it’s not being presented as such: John Jazwiec, CEO of a software firm, says this is exactly what happened to him. I’m just surprised Jazwiec didn’t claim the intruder had stores of WMDs hidden under his coat. As for Jazwiec’s proposal to establish a Green Zone on Milwaukee’s beleaguered East Side war zone, columnist Joel McNally makes the sensible suggestion that, hey, Blackwater looks as if it’s going to have a bit more room on its plate for its finely calibrated, proportionate response teams: maybe Jazwiec should get a hold of those folks to patrol the newly created Jazwiecistan.