John Connolly writes a lot about professional killers. In The Reapers, published in 2008, he provides a virtual manual of the trade, including the etiquette required among the practitioners and between the killers and their victims. For one thing, associates of victims are supposed to distinguish between the hired killer, who is merely a weapon, and the person who hired him and is therefore the one really responsible for the death. Also, a paymaster who is actually under contract to the government should be recognized as not acting out of personal interest, and is out of bounds. Not surprisingly, this system seems to work only slightly better than your average set of rules and regulations.
Connolly’s assassins tend to be soulful and philosophical. In this book we learn something about the backgrounds of his characters Detective Charlie Parker and his friends Louis and Angel, and the tragic backgrounds that led them to adopt their present vocation. I give Connolly the benefit of the doubt here. I assume that unless he has been a soldier in combat he has never killed anyone, so he’s doing his best to imagine a presumably foreign personality. On the other hand, Connolly’s killers aren’t much like the only actual hired killer I know anything about. This was from an article in a Chicago newspaper about a former mafia hit man who wrote his memoirs. Apparently this guy wasn’t any more introspective about his line of work than a milk man or a plumber. He killed fellow gangsters under orders from his boss because that was his job. Most memorably, he never actually had the urge to kill anyone until he had to deal with some of the people he met as a law abiding citizen.