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Sunday, November 6, 2022

Looking at Disorder by Molly MacRae


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Prime Crime in Indianapolis. It was held at the Columbia Club, a beautiful faux gothic building dating from 1889, on Monument Circle in downtown Indy. Prime Crime is the reincarnation of Magna Cum Murder which had been sponsored by Ball State University from 1994 through 2019. We all know how many things went by the wayside starting in early 2020. Prime Crime was the perfect re-creation of a venerable mystery conference once described as a house party with three hundred of your closest friends. There weren’t three hundred attendees, this first year back since 2019, but I’m pretty sure that everyone who did attend had a fabulous time. I certainly did.

Many of the panel sessions focused around the P.D. James statement illustrated above. A panel I moderated was called “Can Order Really be Restored: Restoration in Interesting Times.” It occurs to me that the questions I posed to authors S.J. Rozan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, and Ted Fitzgerald might be useful for any mystery writer to consider while planning a story, so here they are.

Is order always restored?

What do we mean by order? Who gets to decide what we mean?

If there’s disagreement over the definition of “order,” or over who decides on the definition, is that the beginning of trouble?

Order implies disorder. So when does that disorder start? With the murder? Or did it start with the victim (who might have disrupted the villain’s idea of order)?

Can order really be restored? Or is that restoration, at best, an uneasy approximation of order—like a favorite sweater that doesn’t look quite as nice or feel as warm because it’s full of moth holes?

Of course, we wandered from those questions as they prompted others, because that’s what good panels do, and I’m sure more will occur to you, too. Have fun cogitating.




Jim Jackson said...

Interesting questions, Molly.

I don't think order is ever restored to what it had been. In some stories disorder is pinned to the mat, but only temporarily.

Kait said...

Interesting topic. I don't think order is restored so much as reorganized as an essential part of change.

KM Rockwood said...

So great to hear that in-person conferences are resuming in force (despite some unfortunate COVID episodes.)

"Restoration of order" is an interesting concept. In my perception, much of life (both "real life" and fictionalized) is intrinsically chaotic, and the best I can hope for is partial resolution of isolated aspects.

Obviously this opinion is not universally held.

Shari Randall said...

What a fascinating topic for discussion. Wish I'd seen the panel. In terms of a crime novel, if the guilty are brought to justice (and what does that look like for a person who has lost a loved one, for instance) then perhaps a sense of order is restored for society at large. But I agree with the opinions expressed above about this "order" being fleeting and perhaps illusory.
Are they doing Prime Crime again next year, Molly?

Grace Topping said...

Sounds like a panel I would have enjoyed. Well done, Molly.

E. B. Davis said...

It must be a new order, if there is any order. If not, there would be no character development.

Marilyn Levinson said...

What great provocative questions. I think some sense of order is restored when a murderer is identified and brought to justice, though, of course, all lives that the murder impacted have been changed forever.

Lori Roberts Herbst said...

What fascinating questions! I'm going to be pondering them all day. I agree with Kait's comment: reorganization more than restoration of order. Resilience demands it, I think.