– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Coldharbour’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
John was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub, he writes.
John is currently working on a seies of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.
The Met Police’s Major Investigation Team East has its hands full: a rash of tit for tat gang related stabbings, a strangled housewife, the decomposed remains of a woman found in a ditch and more to come. Adding to their woes is their boss, Chief Inspector Matthew Merry, being distracted by his problems at home.
For Matthew’s wife, Kathy, her only concern is dealing with the aftermath of being drugged and raped by a co-worker. Will the trial of the man responsible be enough to give her the justice she demands. Or, as her therapist states, is it revenge she really desires. She doesn’t know. As her emotions see-saw from elation to depression, her only certainty is that her husband seems more concerned about his work than her.
And Matthew is only too aware of his failings both at home and work. But the police machine grinds on, seeking information and sifting evidence — justice is not their concern.
Guest Post :
My loves and pet hates
It is probably worth starting with an initial note about book genres: they are a necessary evil for the publishing industry, how else do you advertise a book or list it on Amazon, but are otherwise meaningless. Like all authors – he said, shaking his head as he did so, to emphasise the disdain he felt for publishers and agents – I write about life. Although… if there are any publishers or agents reading this: I write Crime Fiction / Police Procedurals — just in case you are interested in such things, they are well worth a read.
In reality there is no definition of a crime novel. Bertie Wooster stole a silver cow-creamer (The Code of the Woosters), Smeagol (AKA Gollum) stole a ring (The Hobbit), Count Dracula assaulted people and sucked their blood (Count Dracula) and Daenerys Targaryen would undoubtedly have ended up doing time for her misuse of dragons to destroy whole towns (Game of Thrones); the fact remains that none of these are crime stories.
There is no requirement to include a detective in a crime novel, not a professional one, nor even a private investigator, paid or unpaid. Any interested amateur is enough. Occasionally journalists and lawyers are used and, given they have reasonable investigative skills, are not bad choices. However, in practice, any old busybody will do. Just look at the qualification base of the likes of Agatha Raisin, Phryne Fisher or the unrivalled Miss Marple. Sherlock Holmes had, at least, studied for his profession, as consulting detective, focusing only on the knowledge he needed to solve crimes to the exclusion of everything else — to the extent that he seemed unaware that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
However, as with all other investigators of the non-professional kind, Holmes only had to prove his suspect guilty to his own satisfaction. No need for trial by a jury of his peers and chains of evidence, his own judgement was sufficient. And, of course, if the accused dies, hopefully in some ironic way, at the very end then justice is served. All those legal requirements that can make things messy, and let’s not mention appeals and pardons, are done away with. Everyone is happy, people are never wrongly suspected and accused — not in the world of sleuthing.
If, however, this doesn’t quite tie things up as neatly as readers demand then one way round the issue is to have the baddie confess. Preferably in front of a group of witnesses and probable alternative suspects who have been gathered together deliberately for dramatic effect. In fact this is such a popular way to bring about an ending, in order to completely confirm that the investigator has fingered the correct suspect, that it often occurs in investigations conducted by police inspectors. No caution is ever given, no reading of rights, no need for the accused to have legal representation. The entire case is laid out before witnesses and other probable suspects, just to ensure everyone is speaking from the same page and pointing their finger at the same person. No wonder the accused always cave in and owns up, not that it matters as the confession would be thrown out of court but that’s an inconsequential detail.
Of course, like everyone else, I love these type of crime stories. Who wouldn’t want a world where the baddie is always unmasked and punished for their crimes, where the death of a loved one is a plot device and no grey exists. Reality is very different but not always as enjoyable. However, there is some Crime Fiction that is both realistic and enjoyable. Look at a couple of recent TV shows, such as Broadchurch and Unforgotten, they show it is possible to tell crime stories that are both realistic, harrowing and yet entertaining.
In the final analysis, all writers of Crime Fiction cut corners and take a degree of licence with reality, in order to tell their story. Inspectors and DCI’s are managers and rarely do the investigative work their fictional counterparts do. The police are part of large organisations which tend to be highly regulated and usually have authoritarian structures. A lot of the day to day grind is just that, a boring grind. The police are ordinary men and women dealing with ordinary people, victim and suspect alike, going through a terrible situation. And as for crime, whether it is the theft of a few coins or a murder, in reality it is never fun for the victim — never justifiable as a reason for someone to exercise their little grey cells or stave off boredom (both Poirot and Holmes are great fictional characters, but have a tendency to be self-satisfied and smug).
However you like your crime stories, whether artificial and contrived or realistic and harrowing, they should – unlike the real thing – always be entertaining.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds