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Last Updated: 03/10/2013 12:37:04
So You Wanna be a Crime Writer? at Heads Up Festival - Saturday 28th September 2013 at The Other Space
By Michelle Dee
Michelle Dee enters the grisly world of crime fiction, a place where a black inkwell resides at the heart of every writer, and attempts to piece together, from the thoughts expressed by a select gathering of authors, a rough guide to crime writing.
On the panel alongside host Nick Triplow were Nick Quantrill promoting 'The Crooked Beat', the third title following Private Investigator Joe Geraghty; author David Mark with 'Original Skin', his second in the series featuring Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy; and blogger and online crime reviewer, Luca Veste, whose debut novel 'Dead Gone' is due out January next year.

Nick Triplow stated very clearly how and why a crime title works.
'There is a question posed to the reader,' he began, 'A question that demands an answer, and at the end you hope to have provided an answer that is engaging, and will satisfy the reader.'

All of the writers on the panel stated how important it was to read, and not just other crime titles but work from any genre. Each author had a story about reading a particular book that had inspired them, stirred them and had ultimately played a role in their career path.
David Mark read from 'Being Dead' by Jim Grace, exulting the power of the forensic detail of the body.

As he reads an excerpt from his first novel 'Dark Winter', the opening where his hero, McAvoy, first lays eyes on the victim's body, the humanity behind the attention to detail comes across.

The sense of life being a precious thing, rather than a means to an end. A character's life is not just a plot device to be pushed into the firing line and then wheeled out on a gurney...
Nick Quantrill has Ian Rankin to thank, for showing him the importance of place when describing the Hull streets filled with past lives, which his flawed hero, Joe Geraghty lives in and operates. Rankin has such a strong sense of place, the old stone streets and alleyways and the outlying estates of Edinburgh are given just as much time and thought as the killer or the crime.

Nick describes Rebus and his world as leaping off the page and setting the benchmark for his own stories. He freely admits that writers are magpies: as he himself reads different writers, he will pick up on certain aspects, tools, devices, approaches and experiment with them in his own work.

Triplow suggested that for him it was BAFTA award-winning documentary 'The Tower - A Tale of Two Cities', filmed on a Deptford estate in South East London, that really drove home the importance and authenticity of place, whereas Luca Veste chose something other than place as the linchpin for his pending title.

Luca spoke about the importance of pace; the sense of creeping horror, that he first encountered reading Steve Mosby's 'The 50:50 Killer'. A story where it wasn't so important where the narrative was taking place, but that the narrative moved inexorably forward, and that the reader is drawn slowly and surely into a nightmare world.
Triplow said that one of the things that can draw him in is the tension afforded by the secrets that family keep from each other, and the potential for gripping story telling which that allows.

What is that mystery of finding your own voice? When you write for yourself, not tailoring, manipulating the work perhaps thinking about it fitting, appealing to an audience is that it?

Or perhaps it is when you draw a character to the nth detail and only allow them to say and do things that they really would do.
Triplow talked about the power of a character who is dead. A character who although is not physically in the story, directly affects the narrative. Reading from 'Last Orders' by Graham Swift he caused quite a stir on the panel as they all agreed and reaffirmed how well he draws his characters and develops atmosphere.

As Veste read from his Mosby game-changer he made reference to the author's usage of religious iconography, in this case the devil, thus making connections with and drawing battle lines for the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. The killer as the embodiment of evil and the police/detective as representing the good.
The mystery or secret behind finding your own voice can only be revealed over time and perseverance which we look at in the next segment. On the subject of voice Triplow stated categorically he wanted to get as far away from the modish one dimensional London gangster tone put forward by Lock Stock Dir. Guy Ritchie and repeatedly and ridiculously portrayed by the actor Danny Dyer and his ilk.

'The idea of writing filled me with dread.' Veste says, 'Coming from Liverpool, I started with an idea for a gangster on the estates.' Although some within the online community (where Luca is a prominent and respected figure) thought the character had potential, his Editor thought it wasn't right.
Luca went away and continued reviewing others work. It wasn't until he started researching the animal experimentation conducted by eminent psychologist Harry F. Harlow that he had his moment of revelation and for me, the most chilling moment of the entire session: 'What would happen if you did this to a person?' Thus the idea for 'Dead Gone' was borne.
The panel members talked about getting numerous rejection letters for previous titles and the need to develop a thick skin that all writers must, and continue to send out manuscripts to publishers. Coupled with this need for perseverance was the key importance of finding a good agent to represent you and your title.

Agents can be found in the Writers and Artists Year Book. Although finding an agent can be pot luck, you should choose one who is already representing writers similar to yourself.
All writers have a 'good luck' story; that moment of being in the right time and place that allowed something incredibly auspicious to happen. And although it is possible to wax lyrical about the existence of luck, good or bad, to talk of chance and coincidence, as many have done before, you can increase your chances of having a stroke of good fortune.

By attending the many and varied crime events on the calendar, new writers can learn tools of the trade from best selling authors, share their work with those similarly minded, perhaps find an agent or publisher or walk into a life changing situation.

There are undoubtedly more that you could add to the list, but the importance of those outlined above was highlighted time and again by the writers at the Crime Writing event - part of Hull's Heads Up Festival
Links:
Heads Up Festival:
Nick Triplow:
Nick Quantrill:
Luca Veste:
Karl Holtby Photograph
David Mark:
Reviews, Theatre City Sketch Heralds a New Dawn for Storytelling in Hull - At The Other Space, Hull By Michelle Dee
City Sketch is a site-specific theatre work that takes place inside The Other Space, a converted office block at No 94 Alfred Gelder Street in Hull city centre. Unusual theatre, immersive theatre, interactive theatre is making all the traditional theatre practitioners sit up and take notice. Just as audiences want to interact with news and entertainment online, so they want to be part of the story in theatre. Read more...

Reviews, Art Rhythm is a Danza! By Dark Clerk Photos by Philip Rhodes.
I'm shouting in a gallery, I'm shouting in a gallery, just one of the many taboos that dancer/performer Ellen Turner broke at Danza! in Hull. Ellen delivered an outrageous finale, to a rip-roaring third annual Danza! the Contemporary Dance event this year gravitating from Fruit to the Live Art Space at Ferens Gallery. Whereas live music in the city and theatre is enjoying a popular resurgence, dance is still under-represented in the city. Read more...

Reviews, Books - Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory by Mike Watts Reviewed by Helen Mort
Mike Watts' second collection is darker than his debut, dealing with relationships, sex, debts and the difficulty of chasing your dreams while still making ends meet. But despite the gravity and grit of the subject matter, the poems always have a kind of exuberance to them, and energy that's almost infectious. Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Michael Black's New Play Pride Debuts at Adelphi - Tuesday 18th June 2013 By Michelle Dee
'No-one will love you - you will be alone forever' The new play Pride by Michael Black conjures up images of the barbaric treatment of homosexuality in the latter half of the 20th Century; a play that explores issues of societal division, segregation and rejection which are as relevant today as they were then. It is appalling to think that from 1950 and then for the next three decades, Behavioural Aversion Therapy was being administered to homosexuals in NHS hospitals across the country. Read more...

Reviews, Books - Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory by Mike Watts Reviewed by Terry Ireland
Just spent an hour dipping in and out Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory by Mike Watts. Always did like his style - no words wasted, tight and sparse. Controversial at times but always readable. Really enjoyed. Another good 'un Mike. Looking forward to hearing some of them performed. Mike is a superb performance poet that I have had the privilege of working with and attending his work shops. I can hear his voice in every poem. Read more...

Reviews, Books - Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory by Mike Watts Reviewed by Michelle Dee
Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory crashes through life in quick-fire stanzas that whack the unsuspecting reader over the head. This, his second anthology available now at Waterstones Hull, sees the popular writer flexing muscles, girding loins, easing into the self-made role of Hull street poet. The poems are accessible, something you can pick up during a cigarette break and immediately share in a sense of solidarity. You and he versus the rest of 'em. Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Adelphi Club Stages Theatre Double Bill By Michelle Dee
Crisis can strike at any time as the television is so fond of telling us. It can take many different forms but the important thing is how you respond. Do you have the tools in the locker to manage the crisis to recover; to survive? Joanna Morris' A Delicate Man explores the unknowable quantity that is human nature. What is an all too familiar set of circumstances: a family torn apart Read more...

Reviews, Art Book Launch - Swear Down by Russ Litten at Pave - Wednesday April 10th 2013 By Michelle Dee.
If it is possible for poetry to rock a room, then on Wednesday Joe and Mike did just that. It was author Russ Litten's book launch and a crowd of authors, poets, theatre-makers, movers and shakers from the Arts scene in Hull including local press and radio, all gathered to celebrate the release of Swear Down, Litten's second novel, but his first foray into crime-writing. The night was held at the popular drinking emporium, Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Phantom of the Opera at St. Mary's College, Tuesday 12th March 2013 By Michelle Dee
It has been years since I saw a school production. I remember my own performances as an overfed urchin, an unfunny jester and as a witch-doctor, with a mixture of nostalgic pride laced with pangs of sheer terror. A friend's two daughters were in tonight's show, so I took my seat in the school hall dutifully: poised to cheer and applaud in all the right places. Read more...

Reviews, Art Sunday March 4th 2013 - Northern Elements at Fruit By Terry Ireland.
It was an evening of poetry
Of four different styles
An evening of belly laughs
And wry gentle smiles
As each of the ladies
In their own special way
Read more...

Reviews, Art Sunday March 4th 2013 - Kate Fox Standing Up for Hull Poets By Michelle Dee.
Stand-up poetry or spoken word, call it what you will, is on the rise in Hull. Joe Hakim, curator for Northern Elements, said as much at the Kate Fox show held on Sunday night at Fruit. You can't fail to have noticed the many venues and night dedicated to this vibrant versatile and increasingly popular art form. Poetry is everywhere. Whether it is mixed in on a variety billing of live music and theatre, Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Thursday 5th July 2012 - Fred Voss and Joan Jobe-Smith - The Longbeach Connection at Hull Truck - Humber Mouth Literature Festival By Michelle Dee Photographs by Cilla Wykes
Tonight's poetry performance was the culmination of three years effort, to bring the highly respected Californian writer Fred Voss to Hull. All week I'd been hearing reverential murmurings about the two visiting poets, particularly from the writers in my midst. Wearing dark shades, dressed in black from head to toe, the flame haired Joan Jobe-Smith, Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Theatre Brothel 2.0 at Hull Truck Theatre - Saturday 29th September 2012 By Michelle Dee Photographs by Cilla Wykes
In recent years, film and theatre reviews have become littered with the following: Spoiler Alert! So what can I tell you about Theatre Brothel 2.0 without giving the game away? The Theatre Brothel experience begins as you walk the back corridors and passageways of the theatre. Which two of the four shows you got to see in any given night, depended on what answers you gave to some probing questions. Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Tuesday 3rd July 2012 - Hannah Silva and Helen Mort at Fruit - Humber Mouth Literature Festival By Michelle Dee Photographs by Cilla Wykes
Not very often I'm lost for words after a performance. I can usually begin to frame my response, think in terms of genre, style, influences. Not so for Hannah Silva. Ghost Running was a special collaborative spoken word performance with renowned Yorkshire poet Helen Mort, and took place at Fruit in Hull's historic Fruit market area, for the Humbermouth Literature Festival. Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Monday 2nd July 2012 - Ross Sutherland: The Three Stigmata of Pacman at Fruit - Humber Mouth Literature Festival By Michelle Dee Photographs by Cilla Wykes
The annual Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull moved into its second week; a week filled with innovative and acclaimed spoken word artists curated by Write to Speak and Fresh Ink in the Hard Rhymes & Great Exclamations strand of the festival. The performers are arriving in Hull from as far afield as York, Devon, Los Angeles Read more...

Reviews, Art Revelations On The Edge by Sarah Pennington at Red Gallery - June 2012 By Michelle Dee. Photographs courtesy Sarah Pennington
A whale bone washed up on a distant shoreline; a battered old tin found loch side returning to its place of origin; strange crab claw tools; methodical arrangements of chalky bone fragments from fish and fowl. These are just some of the curios that await you when you visit Revelations on the Edge. Artist and sculptor Sarah Pennington left her home in Hull and spent 3 months on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Read more...

Reviews, Theatre Reclamation at Hull Truck Theatre, Saturday 23rd June 2012 By Michelle Dee
Getting to Edinburgh Fringe is a milestone in every artists career, and performing at the Arts and Culture Festival presents many challenges; least of all financing the escapade paying for travel and lodgings while you attempt to put on a marathon of shows in a month. Reclamation by Joe Hakim, Mike Watts and Ruth E. Dixon is about self discovery not in the namby-pamby Read more...

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