Wednesday, 15 November 2017

All in the Mix

A Murder To Die For has arrived!

The printers have done their job and there are boxes and boxes of copies in the warehouse now, ready for distribution to shops in January (although subscribers to the special edition will get theirs in the next few weeks). It's all over bar the shouting.

But what inspired the book in the first place?

Britain has a great tradition of comic novel writing and I wanted to add to the canon. We produced Jerome K Jerome, George and Weedon Grossmith, Stephen Potter, Sellar and Yeatman, Frank Richards, Willans and Searle and the glorious P G Wodehouse. The baton then passed to humorists like Richard Gordon, George Macdonald Fraser, John Mortimer, Stella Gibbons, David Nobbs, Sue Townsend, B S Johnson, Helen Fielding, Michael Frayn and the late, great Tom Sharpe. These days it’s hard to find comedy that’s written for a general readership but it can still be found as a subsection of other genres. There are still plenty of laughs in women’s fiction, for example, and, thanks to people like Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett there are chuckles a-plenty to be had among the wizards and aliens too. I also wanted to write a murder mystery - a comedy murder mystery. Admittedly, such things are thin on the ground but they do exist: Mike Ripley’s Angel series, or Simon Brett’s Charles Paris books, for example. Crime comedy is more commonly found in TV shows.





So I set about writing the book. And inspiration came from many directions. The first element in the mix was my own love of classic crime fiction. I thoroughly enjoy a good whodunit and I’ve read almost everything written by the likes of Christie, Marsh, Allingham, Sayers, Conan Doyle et al. I also like TV whodunits … but not cop shows. Like many police officers – or ex-police officer as I am now – I find them difficult to watch because everything is overly-dramatic, the procedures are all wrong and I can't suspend my disbelief if the programme makers try to sell it as ‘real-life’ when I know that it isn’t even close. But classic TV murder mystery is a different thing altogether. It doesn’t pretend to be real. It’s delightfully silly and set in a world far-removed from reality; a world of poisons, elaborate alibis and ridiculous mechanisms. And beyond Poirot and Marple there are shows set in the 20th century that have that same silliness to them as well, such as Murder She Wrote, Columbo, Jonathan Creek and Midsomer Murders. The latter, with its fa├žade of cop show, is deliciously bonkers at times; any script that features someone being staked out on their croquet lawn and then being bludgeoned to death by having their wine collection hurled at them by a replica Roman trebuchet has my vote any day.

The second element in my mind-mix came from visiting a number of fan conventions, most notably Comicon in San Diego, where the fans dress up in costume – cosplayers – and are almost rabidly passionate about their show/film/book/author of choice. These photos I took may give you a flavour of what I mean.









The third element was my own knowledge and experience of being a police officer. When these three elements came together - murder mystery, cosplaying fandom, my policing experience – with my desire to write a comic novel, I suddenly realised that I had the perfect setting. What better place for a murder than a crime fiction convention? It was too good an idea to pass up and, after some seven months of research and writing, I’d produced A Murder To Die For. The novel is set at an annual event held in the little village of Nasely to celebrate its most famous resident, the late Golden Age crime fiction writer Agnes Crabbe. Crabbe’s greatest creation is sassy amateur sleuth Miss Millicent Cutter and most of the attendees at the event have turned up in dressed as her. So, when a grisly murder is committed, the police find themselves having to investigate a case where the victim, the witnesses and very possibly the perpetrator are all dressed much the same – even the men. And, to add their annoyance, they find themselves having to compete with the Crabbe fans. Much of the humour in the book comes from the clash of cultures between the efficient, business-like and procedurally driven modern police service and the hordes of murder mystery fans who believe that they too can solve the crime using skills honed by a lifetime of reading crime fiction.

So that's why I wrote it.

Now all you have to do is read it.


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