Crime drama: The Thief of Time (and Bookshelf Space)

by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson.
by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson.

If you were to walk into any bookshop or library, and run your hand across the shelves before randomly stopping, the likelihood of you selecting a book belonging to the crime drama genre would be exceptionally high. We live in a society that just loves a good murder (no matter how oxymoronic that sounds). And this popularity has gradually led to the construction of an elaborate and complex labyrinth of sub genres, archetypes and plots that is still expanding to this day. I’m guilty (pun intended) of reading an abundance of literature in this genre too, having read many novels that trace lone wolves, dynamic duos and loyal teams in their quest to bring justice to the wronged. †

So why, exactly, do we love crime drama?

This question has been a hotbed for critical debate for years, and the reasons appear to be endless.

After a little bit of personal reflection, I’ve pinpointed four ideas which I believe to be some of the most inherent components of the successful formula that is literary crime drama:

Places of Experimentation with Literary Style, Genre and Narrative Structure

From Victorian novels such as Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone, with its innovative narrative structure (being one of the first to be written in the format of first person letters, journal entries and  transcripts) to the creation of modern day sub-sub genres such as the controversial Nordic noir genre (expanding the [spider’s] web even further) , crime drama has always been, as its themes suggest, an area where boundaries are pushed and waters are tested – and it appears to have worked so far!

Catharsis (Bakhtin and the Carnivalesque – a Really Interesting Concept!)

This one is a psychological theory, traditionally associated with the purpose of tragic plays (which, depending on your reading, can be seen to have close parallels with the themes and characters of crime dramas). In short, the theory suggests that reading texts where ‘socially unacceptable’ activities are played out enables audiences to purge subconscious emotions such as those of pity and fear within a safe environment. Reading and writing is a lot more than just a way of passing the time!

Places of Experimentation with Characterisation, Gender Roles and Identity

The literary crime drama landscape is saturated with iconic characters, from Conan Doyle’s world-famous super sleuth Sherlock Holmes to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the genre isn’t short of complex, morally flawed heroes and villains. Opportunities for writers to explore issues of identity, including those of gender, race and sexuality are thrown wide open within this genre, so if you’re considering writing a crime drama novel yourself, don’t hesitate to go all out. Sherlock Holmes was the world’s first (and ‘only’) consulting detective remember, with supernatural powers of deduction, sociopathic tendencies and a chronic opium addiction. There aren’t many, if any routes that are closed off to you!

A Reflection of Our Times

Security has always been something mankind has sought, and in an era where threats of terrorism, climate change, and political upheaval are becoming increasingly inherent (at least, social media appears to be telling us this), reading texts where the heroes aren’t perfect, but where justice is restored (usually), a perfect source of illusory comfort can be argued to be provided here.

There are many crime dramas to sink your teeth into out there, including David J Grunter’s novel I’m a Killer that is available to purchase via the Scott Martin Productions web store. If you’re looking for a morally flawed, highly controversial character, with twists and turns galore to reignite your love of the genre, then you needn’t look much further than this.

#guestblogger, #rebeccawilson, #davidjgrunter, #imakiller, #crimefiction,

Review of Bolton: The Positives, by Lesley Atherton

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad.

Second, some goods.

  • Skaters yell to each other. Despite the heat and brightness of the day, they wear long sleeves and beanies and there isn’t a single t-shirt or pair of sunglasses to be seen. We watch as they zoom about, but we’re mainly looking at their facial expressions – pride, cool, nonchalance… The joys of being young.
  • We park in the multi storey where weekend parking is free, and we manage to find a spot on the first floor.  It’s never happened before.   
  • Thirsty, we flop into a café for a much-needed drink. I can’t place the accent of the man who takes our order, but he’s so friendly and recognises us from our previous visits. He asks about the family and gives us each a toasted teacake on the house.
  • We spend two hours rummaging round X-Records and emerge with music, DVDs and a pretty funky Led Zepp-inspired shirt. I absolutely love the friendly organised chaos of this place.
  • We decide to eat at the Cherry Moon café, just up the road. It is a place for gamers of all types, for comic book fans, and for diners who like good food. We certainly go mad for their halloumi fries, and my crushed avocado on sourdough toast is superb. Yep, this has to be the coolest and friendliest place ever. Oh, happy days.
  • A community police officer smiles at us and comments ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ If he’d been wearing a bowler hat or flat cap I’m sure he would have raised it for me. ‘It’s certainly warm, I reply. ‘I think the lions are happy’. I gesture over to the distinctive town hall step statues, and note the affection for the town’s people in the officer’s eyes. †††† ‘Good job. We don’t want hungry lions rampaging round Bolton. We have enough problems.’
  • We do our fish and vegetable shopping in the covered market. The place is clean and bustling and the choice is fantastic. We purchase Caribbean curry to accompany the fish, and I suspect the man dishing out the chickpeas is the cheeriest person in the whole town. We leave, arms clutching food bags and faces glowing with anticipation of our evening meal. It feels like Christmas.
  • We take a trip round the museum and gallery and discuss the photographic exhibition and Egyptian displays. Another two hours happily spent. We don’t call in at the aquarium this time, as we need to get home.
  • The roads are busy, but I’m astonished when a pedestrian stranger leads us from the car park and onto the road. He holds up the traffic with a grin, and waves as we drive away.

#lesleyfridayreads

Elmer and Louise, Part 2

Image: Pngtree

The cure for depression is to purchase and use something expensive and new. That’s what Elmer’s mum had always told him, hence the suit and his manicure. He knew from experience that it didn’t always work. And when this was the case, doing good deeds was the only way to go.

†Elmer leaned against the door, and looked again at the nun who immediately began apologising for the dog-hair covered tartan blanket, but Elmer liked its digestive biscuits and dog paws smell.

‘How did you get here if you can’t drive?’

‘She can. She started, anyway. But then we stopped at traffic lights and this man went mad at us and she got out to tell him off. That was when he went at her with his fists and started saying she was a (swear word) god-botherer.’

‘Can she walk?’

‘She can’t see and her leg is all bloody. Don’t think so.’

‘I’ll drive her to the hospital. Then you can get help.’

‘How long will that take?’

‘Thirty seconds.’

‘Can she wait that long?’

‘She’ll have to. And the longer we wait here, the worse she’s going to be.’

‘Thank you, angel,’ came the whispered voice as I got into the driver’s seat and started it up.

‘Seat belt, seat belt,’ said the loony, throwing herself into the car next to Elmer while he plugged himself in.

That was when he heard the click of the car’s central locking.

That was when he heard the loony nun’s cackle.

‘Straight on, mate, and no funny business or this’ll go straight through your brain. ’

She brandished a tiny pistol that had been pulled from her coat’s inner pocket.

‘What’s going on? The hospital is next right.’

‘That might be the case,’ said the now very much recovered back seat passenger, ‘but that’s not where we’re going.’

‘That’s true, Mr Elmer Bartholomew Cross.’ The front seat loony had by that point removed her angling wellies and coat, and was beginning to look remarkably familiar.

‘I gave you enough clues, Elmer, Didn’t you guess it was me when you saw Scamp’s dog blankey?’

She clearly was not a nun. Not A sister. HIS sister. And the loony next to him was peeling off her facial prosthesis. He should have known it. His sister Louise, and his girlfriend, Dulcie. The drama school graduate. As she peeled off the final piece she grinned and removed her fake upper teeth. ‘That’s better.’

She sighed happily. ‘Remember telling me that there was no point in my going or that audition? Because I’ve never been much of an actress? Remember, Elmer? Well, I got the job. First proper one I’ve been to. It’s telly, and a long series, so will be good money too. So I guess your girlfriend really CAN act. What do you say to that?’

Elmer nodded his head and continued the driving.

‘Well done, you two,’ he said. ‘Good jape. But where’s the car come from?’

That was likely a different story.

Elmer steeled himself to hear it.

Sentiment: Man’s Golden Hamartia

By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson

Sentiment: Man’s Golden Hamartia

No strings
they say,
Love will only tear you apart,
but let’s be honest,
how many people can say
they really listened to that advice,
they told you
from the start?

Sentiment: Man’s Golden Hamartia

A stage of lights,
we dim them when it gets hard.
Because no one
wants to play the lead part,
when inside,
you feel yourself
crumbling,
Shards of glass sticking
in your chest.

Sentiment: Man’s Golden hamartia.

With each day you love someone,
a new string finds itself
wrapping around your heart, loosely at first
So you don’t know how vulnerable you really are.
A few times maybe, you’ll feel a harsh tug,
a warning, a reminder
of the blood that’s to come.

And then one day,
when Time decides that the web
Is complete,
all those strings will pull tight,
and you’ll feel your whole body constrict.
Love, love, blood and loss,
since when did I let myself become a play thing for Grief?

A strange desire,
to feel numb, cold,
knowing that you’ll remain trapped inside the warmth of attachment,
even if you try to throw open
all the windows.

And then
In an ironic twist of fate,
Grand old Time,
Love’s initial thief
Will walk in and decide to give you
at least some form of relief

He doesn’t cut the strings,
or allow them to dissolve
Instead he covers them,
in liquid gold,
to set and shine in your chest as


He slackens the grip of the strings still clinging to your heart,
letting the blood flow stop,
at least in part.

His work of art
comes to life in your chest,
a gradual sculpture of forged golden acceptance,
That to do this day,
is still shining with
the memories, the laughter, the tears

And never once forgetting the ones who made up all those years.

An absence of love, Man’s real Hamartia.
And sentiment, the Golden one,
punished and scorned, for the ruthless Truth
its voice cries out.

And
In spite of our attempts
to vainly silence him,
He will speak, he will speak.
He will be heard, there will be light.

And now his voice
Will echo all the way through,
The longest and darkest
of all our nights.

#rebeccawilson

Review of Bolton: The Negatives, by Lesley Atherton

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad. First, some bads.

  • The car park’s one we’ve been to hundreds of times, but they’ve changed the entry method. We assume it’s owing to the homeless people who regularly slept on the landings, and perhaps also the drug transactions we’ve seen occurring in this place which stinks of urine and is peppered with pigeon guano.
  • Three men sprawl on the ground, backs leaning up against a wall. One is more lying than sitting and the other two surround this incapacitated friend. ‘Spice’ a woman says, as we pass. Sugar and spice and things not nice.
  • A woman squats on the corner wearing a filthy, navy blue sleeping bag. We pass a little later when she’s being questioned by the community police officers who wander the town centre. She is insisting that she was innocent of a crime, while they are insistent on her guilt. A small crowd gather to listen. Meanwhile, a young near-toothless man, lies on a nearby bench and watches with open mouth.
  • Undeterred by cardboard policemen at the pound shop’s entrance, an elderly lady in an unseasonably heavy camel coat pockets a chocolate block.
  • In a large health and beauty shop, a dead-faced woman hovers by the make-up stands. She opens tubes, installing their contents on her face inexpertly and with speed. When two young staff members inform her that this is not acceptable, she immediately scurries away without a word.
  • A charity shop assistant discusses their recent spate of shoplifting, and the cheek and sense of entitlement of such people. Another customer comments: ‘They must be pretty desperate to steal from this place’. The two workers ignore her slight.
  • Three young boys scare an elderly woman with their play fighting. She stumbles, and the boys disperse.
  • Two teen girls mock a larger than average woman who is reclining in an arcade-salon chair to get her eyebrows done. Her body spills over, and the teens, with perfect skin and perfect bodies, point and laugh. The woman hears, and her smile freezes.

#lesleyfridayreads

Elmer and Louise, Part 1

Elmer’s daydreams of escape and relief at having finally left the office, were disturbed within a minute or so of him arriving at the bus stop. The disturber was a disheveled eccentric woman anxiously circling a car that she seemed far too poverty-stricken to have ever owned. His own hair, primped, preened and moussed to perfection, bristled as he took a proper look. He shuddered, clearly being as fit, healthy and self-contained as she was demented. It’s what came from working at the hospital, surrounded by sickness and by healthy living posters. There was something to be said for saturation advertising.

It wasn’t only the woman’s actions that were demented. Her legs were clad in filthy long anglers’ wellies and her trenchoat, face and hair were blood-streaked and filthy. Later, he’d remember her as flapping like a vampire bat, but as she called him, he was far more concerned that she didn’t get run over.

Image: Pngtree

‘Are you alright, lady?’

His accent was refined Edinburgh, with the intentional focus on ‘refined’.

‘Thank God. Thank God. Come here. Wounded cargo.’

What?

She grabbed the sleeve of Elmer’s suit jacket and he bristled again. She was not the kind of woman who’d be encouraged to touch any part of him or of his apparel, and she definitely was not allowed to touch his navy blue silk blend. Lee Rager suits weren’t made to be pawed at by unwashed fingers, nor their fibres broken by her rasping, uncut nails. Almost £2000, the suit cost him. £1993, to be exact, once he’d had he pants shortened.  

‘Can you get off me, lady?’

It was more an order than a request, and the woman backed off, beckoned and urged him towards the car’s back seat.

‘Look. Look. Me sister’s been attacked. She’s been attacked. She’s precious, wounded cargo. Make her better. You’re a doctor aren’t you?’

‘I’m not.’

‘A nurse?’

‘No. I work in administration. The hospital’s just there – that big building there.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m here… but I bumped the car.’

Elmer followed the madwoman’s eyes. Lying on the car’s back seat was a woman dressed in black robe with white headpiece. The white was stained with blood, rusty dried and cherry wet. The black was speckled and streaked with dried clay mud and darkened bloody patches. The woman moved her head a little and looked back at him.  

‘You’re an angel. A saint,’ she mumbled, blood bubbling from her mouth’s corners.

‘I’m a hospital administrator. Not an angel.’

‘Oh God, in heaven. I give you thanks for delivering this angel to me.’

Elmer sighed. She was as batty as her sister.

‘She’s in a bad way, kid,’ he said to the crazier of the two. The one not lying collapsed on the back seat. ‘You have to take her to hospital.’

‘I can’t drive.’

Elmer shook his head. It was typical of him to get saddled with each and every lunatic who passed his way. And here were two – one who was demented and the other who thought she was a nun. Perhaps they were on their way to a fancy dress party, but he suspected that both of the poor unfortunates had come straight from the loony bin.

Part two coming soon…

Literary Inadequacy

Walking round an independent bookshop this morning, I experienced overwhelming feelings of anxiety and dread. I wasn’t being followed and I hadn’t forgotten my debit card. My problem was much worse.

I was experiencing artistic anxiety. Literary anxiety, to be precise.

Being an author and publisher, I’m in regular contact with other creative souls – writer who express themselves with a succinct brilliance, and others whose wordy exuberance inspires and challenges me constantly. I love to hear their work and their comments on mine.

But… and it is a big but… I have this very real sense of literary inadequacy. I can’t remember the last time I read a bestseller purchased from the Asda shelves, or from the Waterstones display tables. I can’t converse on the fashionable, the literary, or even on the archaic. In other words, I’m not what anyone would call well-read when it comes to the contemporary classics.

That doesn’t mean I don’t read – what it means is that I don’t read the correct, approved books – the ones that might be raved about on Radio 4, in the pages of a woman’s mag, or at a trendy book club. But should I? I’ve read plenty of classics and I happily select books at random. Unless the subject matter is one I dislike intensely (and there aren’t many – military history, heraldry and monarchic dynasties are three that come to mind!) I’ll give the book a go.

I’m also not afraid to enjoy the sometimes dubious pleasures of film novelisations, low key romances and unpublished, experimental works. Why not? Just because something isn’t out there and on every shelf, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

Perhaps this is down to stubbornness, but I don’t tend to read stuff till any furore has already died down, and I can read without reference to hype. But this means I’m always at least five years behind my more fashionable reading friends. Hence the anxiety.

I suppose I could read reviews, thus pretending that books have been read. I could even actually read the books I ‘should’ read, though I’d have no idea where to start, and which of the famous names to follow as priority.

But I’d rather watch random TV from eras long gone – and I have the same attitude to reading books. Take it at my own pace with no agenda and no ‘must read’ list. This way I come across some real stinkers as well as some perfect classics. I’m not sure I’m prepared to lose that spontaneity.

So, I guess I must live with this literary inadequacy and accept that there’s no way for anyone to read all the decent books that have been written – or all the bad books, for that matter.  

There’s more to life than being at the forefront of fashion. Life’s too short, anyway. I’d rather just read and be happy.