I recommend an excellent book called ‘Crime Fiction’ by John Scaggs. It is a comprehensive reference of the history of mystery and detective fiction.
There is a chapter where I have come across Father Knox’s ‘Detective Story Decalogue’ from 1929. Now, for all you experts out there, I’m sure this is old news but it was a very interesting revelation to me.
The Golden Age of crime fiction was codified by Father Knox with his ten commandments:
- The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
- All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
- Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
- No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
- No Chinaman must figure in the story.
- No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
- The detective himself must not commit the crime.
- The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
- The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
- Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Have you read crime fiction lately? Did it follow the rules?
They do seem a bit dated – especially rule 5! Not sure that’s very pc these days or where the rule came from. I wasn’t even sure it was wise to list it, but it’s there in 1929.
Some say the Golden Age of crime fiction is actually now. Crime Fiction has never been better! Take a look now!
(Image courtesy of https://nisolo.com/products/oliver-oxford-noir)
When I googled Oxford Noir, I found pictures of black shoes. That makes sense I suppose. Then I started wondering what it would take to invent a new subgenre and have it appear on google so that Oxford Noir becomes crime fiction about Oxford, with Graham Dinton being its main exponent.
Perhaps Emma, my main character, is not dark enough or flawed enough. Noir fiction definitions say that the main protagonist should include self-destructive qualities. Does Emma have enough of those? Maybe more so next time.
Domestic Noir is a subgenre label invented by the excellent novelist Julia Crouch. See my post regarding lessons learned at CrimeFest. It can be described as fiction taking place in the domestic sphere with a challenging and somewhat dangerous prospect for the inhabitants.
So why not Oxford Noir then? It can be a dangerous place for the inhabitants at times too. At least in the world of fiction.
Take a look at Held to Ransom. Oxford Noir? You decide. If you do, surely Google will follow.
1. Crime authors work incredibly hard:
At every panel, I am astounded by their dedication and productivity. When someone says their 21st novel is out next month, you have to be impressed. Where do these people find the time and dedication? To be an author, you need to be committed – literally!
2. Everything has gone noir:
Genres can be invented. The wonderful Julia Crouch (if you haven’t read Cuckoo, please do. You won’t be inviting any old school friends to stay ever again) invented the term ‘Domestic Noir’. There’s plenty of talk in the sessions about many different noirs. Ann Cleeves likes Village Noir. Someone from Hull at the back of the room thinks Erotic Noir might be worth a go. You know who you are.
3. Sitting next to crime writing heroes:
CrimeFest is the place to bump into your favourites. Someone who wrote a book you invested a week of your life reading sits right next to you. We all have our favourites. ‘Into the Darkest Corner’ by Elizabeth Haynes introduced me to psychological thrillers and it’s still the best for me. How cool to say hello to her? Psychological thriller? Psychological suspense? Perhaps Obsession Noir.
Talking of Obsession, there’s another one. A brand new author not even on a panel and already racing up the charts as a best seller – Amanda Robson. I said hello to her too.
Then there’s Emma Kavanagh whose book ‘The Missing Hours’ I read after last year’s CrimeFest and loved it. Then suddenly she’s sitting next to me.
I love CrimeFest for that. It turns out your heroes are actually just normal people. Well, as normal as we all are. They just work harder.
4. Crime authors are born with two livers:
I’ve learned their secret. Crime authors are born to it. It’s something they just have to do, and they have to write stories. They don’t have a choice, and that’s because they have two livers. It’s the only way they can possibly survive CrimeFest to the last day.
5. Crime authors are patient:
Rome was built more quickly. One novel, two novels, three novels in. Keep going. It’s relentless. Build the back catalogue. Write a dozen novels before even one sees the light of day. Never give up.
6. CrimeFest inspires crime ideas:
Listening to panels can fill your notebook with ideas for plots. Is that plagiarism? Could anyone prove it? A mashup of ideas that can last a year.
7. Fill your bag with crime books for the year:
Or in my case a Kindle. Thanks CrimeFest. This year’s reading list is now full. See you next time.
Of course, saving the best for last is my new novel Held to Ransom. Take a look, there’s more to come from Emma Hawkins. If I work harder!!
According to Wikipedia:
Cowley Road is an arterial road in the city of Oxford, England, running southeast from near the city centre at The Plain near Magdalen Bridge, through the inner city area of East Oxford, and to the industrial suburb of Cowley. The central shopping is at 51.746°N 1.232°W
Cowley Road is also the main shopping street of east Oxford, and in the evenings it is the area’s main leisure district.
Cowley Road has an ethnically and economically diverse population. This includes significant, long-standing South-Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, who have been joined more recently by East European, Chinese and African arrivals. Alongside these ethnic groups, East Oxford plays host to many members of the city’s academic population, both undergraduate and academic staff, and is home to many politically active groups.
Hence it is the perfect setting for crime and mystery.
Take a look at the special CrimeFest price(£1.99) for Held to Ransom(new price coming soon):
#CrimeFest17 here we come! Yes, I’m looking forward to the annual pilgrimage to attend www.crimefest.com.
The inspiration will be fantastic, the buzz of new crime fiction, the atmosphere of tension and the creation of a reading list that will last me all year.
A highlight will be hearing from Ann Cleeves. I wonder if she’ll arrive in an old Land Rover and wear a tatty raincoat and floppy green hat.
Emma regularly meets her long-standing friend Gary in the churchyard near Saint Giles’ church in North Oxford. It is at the northern end of the wide road called St Giles’, where Woodstock Road meets Banbury Road. It happens to be a short walk from her office.
The church was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. Beside the graveyard is Oxford’s main war memorial.
Fortunately for Emma and Gary, there are a few benches around to sit on and the place is usually pretty quiet, so it makes a perfect place to meet and discuss the case.
Next time you’re in Oxford, take a walk and have a look.
St Giles’ church website
WIkipedia re St Giles’ church
(Image courtesy link here – I daren’t use a real Hockney ☺ )
Back in 2012 I visited the big David Hockney exhibition in London at the time and wrote a blog piece about it. Looking back at the statistics, it was the most popular page so I thought it would be good to revisit it after attending the new Tate Britain exhibition recently.
Here’s the link to the original posting: Drawing inspiration from Hockney – 9 lessons
What has changed in five years?
Lesson 1 – he’s still prolific:
Sure, he’s been around a long time, but he has produced an enormous amount of work in his lifetime. He’s changed in style and content over the years and has always experimented with different media. The result is a comprehensive “back catalogue” of art.
Inspiration: Write every day. No excuse. Are you a professional or not? Write across many genres and try new styles. Experiment, produce and ship. Build your catalogue.
Lesson 2 – he’s big and bold:
He uses bright colours and large canvasses. He displays a real talent for drawing and perspective producing pieces that fill the wall. They absorb your attention, masking the crowd around you in the room. They can’t be ignored. You can’t just walk by.
Inspiration: Write books that fill the reader’s minds and can’t be put down. Sounds so simple.
Lesson 3 – he repeats himself:
This is something that many famous artists do. Monet’s water lilies. Cezanne’s Mont Saint-Victoire. Hockney takes a landscape and paints it in all weathers and all seasons, from the same angle and from different angles. Why? Isn’t that boring? Perhaps it’s something about the challenge of art reflecting life. We think it’s a repeat but no two days are the same.
Inspiration: Write the same locations again and again at different times of the year and for different occasions. An Oxford street is never the same twice. Describe what you see in detail to make it different every time.
It’s a good question. She lives in an upstairs flat near the double roundabout in Marston. It’s a fictional house in a pleasant, neat and friendly suburb of Oxford.
I’ve always liked the name Emma for some reason that I can’t explain as I don’t think I’ve ever actually known an Emma. To me, it has a sound of someone in her thirties, and it has a literary pedigree from Jane Austen. Not that Emma Hawkins is much like Emma Woodhouse at first sight, though there are perhaps a few similarities. They can both be considered attractive and high-sprited and both had sadness in childhood with the death of their mothers. Hopefully mine is a bit more likeable.
At this point I should post a photograph of her, but of course I won’t. Your imagination is important and although I have a picture of her in my writing den, I wouldn’t want to spoil the image you have built up from reading the book (as I hope you will).
To me Hawkins is a Cornish surname, but Emma comes from Thame near Oxford where she grew up living with her Aunt Hazel and Uncle Jack after the death of her own mother, Linda. Of course, there’s a story there which will unfold over the next book or two hopefully. Suffice to say, the events of her childhood have influenced her views of life and men in particular, and she has a close bond with friends from schooldays and a strong moral compass.
More to come about Emma. She has a few stories to tell…
Yes, it’s finally here. My novel!
Please take a look at your local Amazon site or click this link:
Held to Ransom
Here’s my author page: