The Role of Potty Mouth in Crime Fiction

When I wrote the second book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series, I asked some people to read it, one of whom was my mother. The feedback was extremely encouraging and quite helpful (let me know if you’d like to be a beta reader for my upcoming books!). The characters rang true, the dialogue worked, the story was exciting–all of the things a reader wants to see and an author wants to create.

Except for my mother.

Don’t get me wrong. She liked the story. She liked the characters. She especially liked that her son had written a book. But she thought that there was too much swearing. Real police officers don’t talk that way, she told me.

What could I say?

When I was growing up, we were told that people swore because they either had very little education, lacked the ability to express themselves, or they just wanted to shock whomever was in earshot.

During my three decades as a real cop, I have to say: People swear. Cops swear. Rounders swear. Upstanding citizens swear. Hell, even lawyers and judges swear (you be the one to decide which side of the fence they sit on!).

Sorry, Mom.

Mike O’Shea swears because he wants to make a point. Or he’s exhausted. Or in pain. Julia Vendramini does not swear because she also wants to make a point, which is, as my mother would have you know, real police officers don’t talk that way. Or, at least, they don’t have to.

I wrote the characters in 10-33 Assist PC and the rest of the Mike O’Shea series to be reflective of the people, situations, and emotions I encountered on a daily basis. Most of it was raw, very little of it was kind, but all of it was authentic. As both a writer and a reader of crime fiction, what I enjoy in a book is getting as close to real as I can, even if that means dropping the f-bomb too much for some peoples’ liking.

I’d love to hear your opinions on the subject. Drop a comment below. Is there too much swearing in the crime fiction genre for your liking? Is swearing something we’re seeing more of in contemporary crime fiction? Is it an issue?


Until next week, I’m 10-7 for shift.

Desmond Ryan – Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction

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