Criminal Poetry

Interview with a late Crime Fiction great

I was delighted to catch the re-run of Mark Lawson’s 2006 interview with crime author PD James on BBC4 a few weeks’ ago.  What a wonderful woman! And a wonderful writer! Hard to believe she was 86 at the time of the interview and still had a few novels in her before she died in November last year aged 94. I hope I’m as active as her at that age (wouldn’t mind being that active at my present age!!).

I was particularly interested in her comments about the thorny problem of gruesome murder scenes: yes, they are gruesome, she acknowledged, and they should be realistic, but what was most important was that they conveyed the horror of murder to the reader. Which is why she chose mostly to describe the discovery of a body through the eyes of the person doing the discovering. The example used was from her novel A Taste for Death: a gentile lady arriving to do some church cleaning finds two bodies in the in vestry with their throats cut. Certainly a day less ordinary! And it is this incongruity that PD James found so fascinating: murder as a violent tear in the fabric of our ordered lives and the disorder and chaos it brings with it. A detective’s job therefore is all about bringing or restoring order. Intriguing stuff and Katie B. has to say that she concurs most heartily.

When ‘tecs get poetic

Baroness James also talked about creating her detective character, Adam Dalgleish, and how the downside of making him a published poet was that readers actually wanted to read some of his poetry. For all of you quaking in your boots at the thoughts that this author might be about to follow in her heroine’s footsteps and unleash some investigative verse on an unsuspecting public, you can all rest easy: none of Katie B.’s detectives will be writing poetry any time soon. I learned early on in my writing career that poetry is best left to the professionals, or at least to those with at least a modicum of talent for it.  My gifts – as I like to tell myself – lie elsewhere.

The sheer 30,000 feet drop from the sublime to the ridiculous…

And just to conclusively prove why there is definitely no place for one’s poetic output in one’s crime fiction , here’s a  short ditty I threw together earlier:

 There’s a green-eyed yellow idol to the North of Kathmandu; /He was on his way to Birmingham, but forgot to change at Crewe. /And so he sat on Platform Four, dejected and forlorn, /With misty eyes and deep regret that ever he was born./ ‘Alas, says he, I am a-Freud, oh, woe is me, oh woe! /No longer Jung, my id I see subsumed by my e-go!’

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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