I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I’m John L. French and in real life I’m a crime scene investigator for ... well, let’s just say it’s for a very busy East Coast city. The department for which I work has new rules about what can be posted on the Internet.
As a crime scene investigator my job is to respond to scenes of crimes, document those scenes and collect evidence that will help in the identification of the people involved in the crime. Unlike some of my television counterparts, I do not analyze the evidence I recover. My field of expertise is to recognize the evidentiary value of items found on scenes and recover and package them so that they can be examined by the correct analytical unit.
One of the things I do on my off time is write. As a long time mystery fan (I started with Doyle, moved on to Christie then discovered Chandler and company) and given what I do for a living, I began writing short crime fiction. To my surprise a few of my stories were published and so I became a small part of the world of crime fiction. A very small part, just enough to legitimately identify myself as “a writer.”
When I started, stories were still submitted to editors on hardcopy through the mail, with a SASE enclosed should the story need to be returned. And of course it did because it was one of your few copies and it cost ten cents a page to make another one. Back then there were few markets outside the digest magazines for short mystery fiction.
Then came the revolution, the Internet and the revival of the small press. I was at the time submitting stories to very small presses who printed out their magazines on copiers. I was still a crime writer. Then someone asked me if I could write a horror story. I was new but not stupid so of course I said yes then had to make good. That led to zombie stories, vampire stories and stories about extra dimensional monsters. More recently it’s been science fiction, fantasy and steampunk. I have written stories about bad-assed fairies and tortoise-shaped space ships.
But it’s a funny thing. Somehow, no matter what the genre, most of my stories still remain crime stories. A zombie who wants to know who murdered him, a SWAT team based in a fairie world, a locked airlock mystery. They’re various genres but they’re all still crime fiction.
“What’s the point?” I imagine some of you asking. “You write a lot of stories. So what?” The point is that while there are more markets for crime fiction than there used to be, there are still not enough, not compared to the other genres out there. By expanding my scope I’ve been able to get several books of my collected fiction published. True, I had some connections, but those connections were made because when asked, “Can you?” I almost always said “yes.” For those of you looking for that first, or next, break, look at other genres and ask yourself, “Can you?”
Thanks to Donna Andrews and the Femmes Fatales for the invite to guest blog - John
John L. French is a crime scene supervisor with the [Big City Name redacted] Police Department Crime Laboratory. As a break from the realities of his job he writes science fiction, pulp, horror, fantasy and, of course, crime fiction. His latest book is PARADISE DENIED from Books of the Dead Press), a collection of stories of various genres. John does not have a website and has yet to join Facebook but can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, comments or if you need advice with the forensic aspect of your story.