The Lineup Day 21: Crime And Perception

I did a recent read-through of the latest edition of The Lineup, the poetry collection edited by Gerald So and Reed Farrel Coleman, among others.

The poems range from the violent to the simplistic,  a pair of burglaries and Ken Bruen’s elegy for a petty thief.

One passage, however, struck me as I started to read, this one from Michael Casey’s “mitrailleur”:

maybe the crack security team
would stop him
he were entering the building that way
but leaving??

The poem tells of a man who sneaks what he steals out of the plant where he works. The narrator wonders if people saw him going in the way he came up, if he’d have been busted.

When crime succeeds, it’s usually because of perception. When it fails, it’s because the perpetrator does not think through the consequences. He doesn’t consider the evidence he leaves behind. He commits the crime, especially violent crime, in a moment of passion. Con artists depend heavily on perception and misdirection fleece their victims.

The best example of this in fiction is in Goodfellas. When most mob wives are confronted with search warrants, they are abusive to the federal agents and police officers, which, ironically, is a big red flag that they’re hiding something. Lorraine Bracco welcomes them, makes them coffee, and asks if they need anything while they do their jobs. Ray Liotta comes home to an intact house and endures fewer prying eyes from the feds for the better part of the movie.


In the real world, despite being written about extensively and under the watchful eyes of the FBI, crime boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante walked around New York City in his bathrobe having conversations with trees and fire hydrants. Mob journalists knew Gigante was the godfather. The feds knew. The jury only knew that this elderly Italian man as an addle-brained ex-boxer suffering from dementia.

Criminals succeed when they know how to manage their smoke and mirrors. Of course, the downfall comes when someone can penetrate the smoke and mirrors.

But then that’s the drama we all love to watch unfold, isn’t it?

The Lineup #3, Edited By Gerald So, Anthony Rainone, R. Navaez, And Sarah Cortez

Annually, Gerald So, the fiction editor at Thrilling Detective, heads up a volume of crime-related poetry called The Lineup.  As National Poetry Month draws to a close today, I thought I’d take a look at the latest issue.

The Lineup #3 begins strong with co-editor Sarah Cortez’s tale of a ride-along gone wrong.  An officer is shot, and his civilian rider is unable to call for help.  James W. Hall ponders the women found murdered from time to time, never where they were taken from.  And Carrie McGrath wonders if the crimes of men cat-calling her might cause her to commit a crime herself.

It’s Amy McLennan who provides the strongest pair of poems.  In “Prowling,” she gets into the head of a burglar who never leaves any sign of his presence, despite not wearing gloves.  In “A Life of Vice,” a woman has no regrets over her life of using lovers and drugs, even if she’s reached the end of her rope in a bus station john.

The Lineup is largely blank verse and free verse, which works best for this type of subject matter.  It’s poetry that has a spoken feel to it, almost as if it’s reaching toward the poetic prose of some of its writers.  This is especially evident with veteran poet and author Reed Farrel Coleman’s effort, “Victim’s Kiss.”  Like many of the poets in this volume, their verse reads very much like their prose.  It’s a dark eye-opener.