For me, the question has never been why write about crime but, rather, which crime of many to focus on…. You see, there was the serial killer on my high school paper, the mugger in my apartment building, and, well, I explain it all here in CrimeSpree Magazine:

Which Crime?

by Clea Simon | Nov 12, 2021 | BooksFeatures

For me, the question has never been why write about crime but, rather, which crime.

Before I was ten, a woman I knew had been murdered. The oldest sister of my best friend J. was living on her own. But when she stopped returning calls and then didn’t show up for the holidays, her family feared the worst. During the subsequent police investigation and the horrible, inevitable discovery that followed, J. basically lived at my house – as I would move to hers soon after, when my brother was first hospitalized for the schizophrenia that would eventually lead him to take his own life.

When I was in high school, I edited the school newspaper, working with a shy, socially awkward photographer. In the years that followed, he became a serial killer, murdering sex workers while still living with his parents, blocks from where I grew up. I found out about Joel Rifkin’s crimes as the news broke because I was working at the Boston Globe at the time.  As a copy editor on the night desk, I was waiting for a wire service photo to print out, an annoying but essential process in the years before everything was online. While I was hanging out, cursing the slow-as-molasses printer, I saw that the photo before mine had a familiar dateline – East Meadow, NY – and I grabbed that photo and began to pull.  As far as I knew, nothing newsworthy ever happened in my otherwise utterly nondescript suburban hometown. For a few months, then, that was no longer true.

That same job meant I kept odd hours, often working a shift that ended at midnight – and often going out with my colleagues afterward for food or drink or simply to burn off the adrenaline of deadline. Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that I’d be mugged one night, in the foyer of my own apartment building. In later years, I’d come to realize that I’d been “interviewed” by the mugger – a stranger on the street had asked me the time, and when I’d shrugged and given some noncommittal answer, I’d shown myself to be half asleep and unaware.

In retrospect, maybe it makes sense that when I left journalism and nonfiction, I’d turn to crime fiction. There’s something about making sense of the world, and often bringing justice, that is incredibly comforting. It may also explain why most of my books have been cozies – the gentler kind of puzzle mysteries in which even the violence is once removed. No distraught families, no serial killers. No acute memories of being shoved up against the mailboxes with enough force to bruise my cheek.

Why, then, in my new Hold Me Down, did I instead focus on a different crime, one that left me with a particular form of PTSD – which I share with Gal Raver, the protagonist of this rock and roll psychological suspense? It is, as readers will find out, a more muddled and in some ways ambiguous crime. There were no bodies found in car trunks. No weeping relatives. Instead, there was the taint of complicity, the haunting suspicion that I had played a role in my own victimization, more so, even, than in that long-ago mugging.

The only answer I can give is that maybe that ambivalence is the answer. As a writer, I like to explore the why as much as the who. And, in this case, that meant delving into the victim’s mind, my mind, to understand the crime at the heart of the story.

A former journalist, Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of three nonfiction books and 29 mysteries. including the new psychological suspense HOLD ME DOWN.  While most of these (like A Cat on the Case) are cat “cozies” or amateur sleuth, she also writes darker crime fiction, like the rock and roll mystery World Enough, named a “must read” by the Massachusetts Book Awards. Her new psychological suspense Hold Me Down (Polis Books) returns to the music world, with themes of PTSD and recovery, as well as love in all its forms. She can be reached at, on Twitter @Clea_Simon and on Instagram @cleasimon_author