Nobody likes to read soap-box speeches from the page when they're in the mood for a nifty caper, a clever mystery, or a stroll down a noirish alley with wet sidewalks and echoing footsteps. Bald statements of political belief belong on Fox and MSNBC and the Op-Ed pages.
But for me, the political is personal. Rooting for the underdog, eyeing rich people with suspicion, questioning a status quo that keeps so many in poverty, and sharing that vision is one of the ways I hope to earn my keep here on earth. Child of privilege, I was tucked in at night in the white suburban security that was much of my life. My shrink asked me once why I thought I had to earn back my life's advantages. She had a good point about my self-esteem or whatever, no doubt, but I could only look at her in amazement. Sitting at the top of the economic food chain, how could I feel otherwise? And how can I keep that out of the stories I write? Why would I want to?
As my wiser LadyKillers have mentioned, subtext is in everything--your only choice as a creator is to put it there deliberately, or discover in horror as your readers write reviews about things you never intended. But don't take my word for it. Watch the first season of Columbo. He's fighting The Man in every episode. Rockford Files, same thing. Yes, it was the '70s and we honestly thought (American) civilization was going to collapse under the weight of crumbling infrastructure and runaway inflation. But still, even in popular entertainment designed to sell soap, the personal is inseparable from the political. The spirit of the times, naive enthusiasm grown weary mixed with a healthy distrust of our social institutions, is stamped all over these episodes.
Today, you can see the same thing in crime fiction everywhere, from Catriona McPherson's darker studies to Juliet Blackwell's sunny noir stories, the political is personal. In real life, the software titans of today need reining in just as much as the coal and railroad barons of a bygone era did, and even though my paychecks come from this world, I write about it with the same politics I approach everything. Being political doesn't mean being dogmatic. It doesn't mean mindless adherence to party leaders. It means asking questions, and listening, really listening, to the answers, not monologuing like a mad cartoon super-villain.
There's another thing, though, a more basic and important thing. Some people believe in the world. They don't expect their parents to drop dead. They don't expect the earth to heave or to feel their only option is to run away. Those things have happened to me, and they shape my vision. Instead of trying to mold my voice to offend none, I'm quite happy to hone it until it's the Mysti-est voice possible. People who will enjoy my books don't have to share my joy of political debate, or my specific political views. God knows I didn't agree with everything Travis McGee said in John D. MacDonald's famous series. Readers just need an open mind, a clear knowledge of what's a fact and what's an opinion, and a curious spirit. Which is pretty much every crime fiction reader.