Saturday, 27 June 2015

When one is a crime and mystery writer -

- when one visits a garden,

no matter how well laid out,

how well tended,

how well planted,

how colourful,

one is always on the lookout for

a place to hide the body!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Who shall we kill?

I've seen several versions of the story in which someone overhears two people discussing the best way to kill someone. The eavesdropper is always highly alarmed, until it's revealed that the conversation is actually about the plot of a book or a play.

Crime and mystery writers find themselves in this situation every time they begin a new book. Who shall we kill and how shall we do it?

First, is it necessary to kill anyone? Dorothy L. Sayers, one of the greats of the Golden Age of British crime and detective fiction, wrote one book in which nobody died and others in which there was no murder. 

In an Agatha Christie type mystery, the murder happens near the start of the book. The character who is murdered was created solely for that purpose. He or she has no other function in the story. The reader will not have come to know the victim well. He or she is often an unsympathetic character whose death is not greatly regretted by those around him or her. 

What about other types of crime or mystery novels? Is it essential to have a murder? 

A murder, or at least a suspicious death, increases the tension. It raises the stakes; the investigation must succeed, or there will be a murderer going free, with the possibility of more deaths. A murder increases the danger for the character who is investigating the mystery, especially if he or she is an amateur sleuth. 

If the death happens some way into the book, the victim's character will have been developed to some extent. His or her relationship to the central characters will have been established. 

If the victim was an unpleasant person, will anyone, whether the reader or a character within the novel, care very much about his or her death? Will it have any dramatic or emotional impact?

If the victim is someone who was close to the investigator, that will increase his or her determination to solve the mystery and catch the criminal. On the other hand, if the victim was close to other characters in the story, they have to be allowed time to grieve, and also to deal with the practicalities surrounding a death. There is a danger that the plot is neglected while this is happening, and the pace of the story is slowed.

And more importantly, if a writer kills a character whom readers have come to know and like, there is a risk that they will be alienated. They might not finish the book. They might not want to buy any more books by that author.

It might be the case that, in the author's  opinion, killing that character is absolutely the right thing to do in the context of the plot. Should the author go with what feels right for the book, or do what is most likely to please readers?

So, who shall we kill?

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Omnibus Murder available on Kindle

London 1878: Tamar Fleet is proud of her job. She rides the London omnibuses, helping to prevent pilfering from the omnibus company. While the country is deeply divided about whether Britain should go to war with Russia, Tamar takes no interest in world affairs, but occupies herself with her work and her friends.

Then there is a murder on an omnibus and Tamar is drawn into events which may have their origins thousands of miles away. There is trouble for her friends and Tamar has to make decisions about duty and loyalty and face danger herself.

See more at Amazon.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Memories -

I've been having a clear out of some childhood memorabilia and came across my album of Brooke Bond Picture Cards of British Costume. The cards came in packets of tea and one could send away for an album to stick them in.

As an adult, I can see that this was a well-produced collection. Many of the images were taken from well known paintings and the text on the back of each card and in the album was written by Madeleine Ginsburg, a leading fashion historian.

Back then, the priority was to complete the collection. There was always an elusive card or two that never turned up in the packets at our local Co-op or Liptons. I remember having multiple copies of the Victorian lady in blue. but never getting two of the medieval cards. I finally acquired them from a family friend.

I also came across some of my very early writing. Some I remembered, some I had forgotten. It was interesting to read through and see how my style was developing in my early teens. I was already using a lot of dialogue. Originality was not a strong point, however; most of it was heavily influenced by whatever I happened to be reading at the time.

Now I don't know what to do with it. I certainly don't intend ever to show it to anyone else, but can't quite bring myself to rip it up and throw it out for recycling. It will probably go back in the cupboard and continue to take up space for a while longer.

One does not have this problem with computer files!