September 11 – 17: “Describe fiction’s regard and disregard for the long-term unemployed.”

thriller-roundtable-logo5People who don’t have jobs can become quite desperate and disheartened. This week we’re joined by ITW Members Vincent Zandri, Jean Rabe and D. J. Adamson as they describe fiction’s regard and disregard for the long-term unemployed. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow this thrilling discussion!


D. J. Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and the Deviation science fiction-suspense trilogy. Suppose, the second in the Lillian series has just been released. She also teaches writing and literature at Los Angeles colleges. And to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she is the Membership Director of the Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, Vice President of Central Coast Sisters in Crime and an active member of the Southern California Mystery Writers. Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon. Make friends with her on Facebook or Goodreads and LinkedIn.


Winner of the 2015 PWA Shamus Award and the 2015 ITW Thriller Award for Best Original Paperback Novel for MOONLIGHT WEEPS, Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and AMAZON KINDLE No.1 bestselling author of more than 25 novels including THE REMAINS, EVERYTHING BURNS, ORCHARD GROVE and THE CORRUPTIONS. He is also the author of numerous Amazon bestselling digital shorts, PATHOLOGICAL and DOG DAY MOONLIGHT among them. Harlan Coben has described THE INNOCENT (formerly As Catch Can) as “…gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting,” while the New York Post called it “Sensational…Masterful…Brilliant!” Zandri’s list of domestic publishers include Delacorte, Dell, Down & Out Books, Thomas & Mercer, and Polis Books. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri’s work is translated in the Dutch, Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese. Recently, Zandri was the subject of a major feature by the New York Times. He has also made appearances on Bloomberg TV and FOX news. In December 2014, Suspense Magazine named Zandri’s, THE SHROUD KEY, as one of the “Best Books of 2014.” Recently, Suspense Magazine selected WHEN SHADOWS COME as one of the “Best Books of 2016”. A freelance photo-journalist and the author of the popular “lit blog,” The Vincent Zandri Vox, Zandri has written for Living Ready Magazine, RT, New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, The Times Union (Albany), Game & Fish Magazine, and many more. He lives in Albany, New York. For more go to WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM


Jean Rabe is the author of thirty-eight novels, more short stories than she cares to count, and has edited magazines and anthologies. She’s new the mystery field, as her earlier works were in fantasy and science fiction. The Dead of Night is her second Piper Blackwell book, an uncozy-cozy with a big dash of police procedural thrown in. The first, The Dead of Winter, was released in 2016. Jean attends game conventions, works as a mentor for graduate-level writing students, and tosses tennis balls for her dogs in her spare time. She makes sure she has spare time for three or four toss sessions a day. You can find her website at


  1. As a noir and hard-boiled writer, I can’t think of a better way for my Private Investigator protagonists to be than unemployed or, at the very least, possessing a bank account that is perpetually in the red. In this sense, fiction’s regard for desperate characters is great. Often times my sleuths will take on a case no one else would think of accepting…be it too dangerous, too risky, or just too much of a pain in the ass… simply because they need the payday. You know, the casheshe infusion.

    I’m not the first hard-boiled/noir author to take advantage of a protagonist’s empty bank account or unemployed status in order to propel a plot. James Crumley’s Milo was often struggling over unemployment, often having to take on the worst of the worst night watchman or part time security gigs. Jobs that Milo could tolerate only by downing schnapps and snorting cocaine. Robert Parker’s Spenser would often times talk about not having been employed in a while, making whatever job that just happened to fall at his feet, all the more enticing. And Charlie Huston’s Henry Thompson is an ex-high school baseball star who is trying to make it as a bartender with a bit of an alcohol problem. His employment problems really kick in when a gang of Russian thugs shoot up his bar over something he apparently stole from his neighbor.

    My brand new Steve Jobz PI series features an anti-hero who was fired from the police force after having no choice but to shoot a handgun wielding African American youth who was sticking up a convenient store. After suffering through unemployment, not to mention political backlash, for months, he finally lands a gig with the New York State Unemployment Insurance Fraud Agency. But the cops decide to bring him back in on certain jobs that not only involve UI fraud, but that also involve murder in the first. What this all means, is that my personal fictional regard for the long term unemployed, or mostly unemployed anyway, is still of paramount importance to me as an author.

    But the thesis of this round-table does not have to be limited to craft. It can also be interpreted another way. Fiction’s regard for the “long-term unemployed” can be summed up in one word: Writer.

  2. If we mean not having a steady, or any income as long term unemployed then we should include housewives, especially of earlier generations when a working wife and mother was frowned upon. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t work—ever looked after a house and little kids? aaaghh–but a housewife gives a writer a lot of scope. Housewives in fiction get up to all sorts of mischief.

  3. Ha, as a single male author, living with two teenage boys, I was often mother, father, writer, cook, housefrau, and unemployed aside from the money coming in from the words…But it was an exciting time too…romantic in its own way.

  4. Unfortunately, my prejudices come into play when I write down-on-their luck characters.

    I have a couple of friends who “game the system,” who spend more time trying to get free services, free cell phones, unemployment payments, etc. than they spend trying to get a job. They’ve explained to me in detail how they’re able to “get all this stuff” without going to work.

    These aren’t people who can’t work…these are people who won’t work.

    And I get that chip on my shoulder. My taxes help to give them a free ride. Years back I had a friend who listed me as one of his failed attempts to find a job. He’d filled out paperwork with the employment office saying he’d applied to me, and I didn’t hire him. He was required to document two job attempts a week so he could continue getting unemployment. I was editing a magazine at the time…and I couldn’t hire him. I didn’t have a staff. I purchased articles.

    Upset, I called the state employment office and explained that I could not be used as a failed attempt to gain employment…because I didn’t have employees, wasn’t going to be hiring. I got shuffled up the chain to a supervisor who said while she appreciated my honesty and notifying the state, “everybody games the system” and so I shouldn’t worry about it.

    And so I don’t paint unemployed characters in a good light. My prejudice shines through.

    I am convinced there are good souls who are down on their luck and who honestly can’t get a job. And I -should- put such a character in my fiction.

    In fact, I’ll do that in my next book, set my prejudices and personal experience aside.

    So this topic is good for me.

    Do other authors out there right the unemployed with prejudice?

  5. Ah, Vincent, one of my unemployed friends (laid off and hasn’t started a job hunt yet), -just- asked me for money to cover food for his pets. And so my soul grumbles.

    BUT I am indeed putting a ‘good’ long-time unemployed character in my work in progress. I’m liking this character quite a bit, and hopefully he’ll serve to provide crucial clues to the murder mystery.

    AND, as much as I love critters (I have four dogs), I’m not kicking my friend money for pet food. I just gave some money to the ASPCA for their work with animals in the Harvey and Irma endeavors.

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