Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mind for Murder - AWRF: A review...

today - mother's day, after a breakfast of pikelets made for me by my middle child (excellent job Geneva, thank you) I hied myself off to the big smoke for an hour of discussion on the levels of violence in contemporary crime novels with, sensibly enough, crime novelists Greg McGee, Paul Thomas and Peter James, with Craig Sisterson as Chair. It is my lone Auckland Writers and Readers festival event this year. I wish I could have gone to more. Actually I wish there were more I wanted to go to. Last years Wordy Day out filled with YA writers was terrific. I felt sad it wasn't being repeated this year. Okay, I had wanted to attend the gala opening, but thursday is already enough of a stretch for us as a family without adding in an event which is, no matter how interesting or relevant to my writing life, still an indulgence. The Friday session with Eoin Colfer and Emily Rodda was appealing but 5.30 on a Friday is when I give a big sigh of relief that the rushing around for the week is over and I can pour myself something ruinous and dress in comfy trousers that should not be seen by the public at large. Enough said. So sadly it came down to one. I was not disappointed although lord knows I have been disappointed in the past. I always come away from these things with mixed feelings, uncertain about what compelled me to go in the first place, unsure what I am taking away. There are no insights about writing or the writers life that I have not heard before, even if they have been expressed in fresh ways. And if I want this kind of info I can tap my way to  a Titanic's load of epithets, advice and homily's online. I confess, while I do read some crime fiction, including by NZ authors (both women - one of whom was in the audience today) I hadn't read any of the participants books so I wasn't going as an ardent fan. But I am interested in this genre, both as a reader and a writer, and I am interested in the process of giving a talk and being a participant in a panel session. I want to do more of this in the future. I wanted to be up there today. I fancy their job.

Props to Craig Sisterson who was a great chair. I have seen some doozies in the past, even from some of NZ's most luminous spheres literary lights lites lights. Being intelligent and/or a writer doesn't make you a skilled chair. Greg McGee (aka Alix Bosco) replaced Jennifer Rowe (aka Emily Rodda - how appropriate for crime writers to have an alias)who had to head home due to illness in the family, and while McGee was interesting I missed the chance to have a female perspective on crime writing, especially as the issue of misogyny in the genre was raised. Today's discussion wended its way from the levels of violence in crime thrillers, the need for crime novels to explore the social connections that drive crime, through the elitisim of literary writing (and the presence or absence of a plot and what this signifies), how serial killers don't make the best antagonists in crime writing (although Hannibal Lecter would argue there are always exceptions), the importance of opening lines, first pages and last lines, how science and television are driving crime fiction away from the cosy mystery end of the spectrum and toward violence. There were anecdotes. I enjoyed the grumble about the snobbery of the literary writing community toward crime fiction. It definitely isn't just children's writers who feel this then?

As with any of these talks I always think of questions to ask as I slide in to the driver's seat for the drive home. Is a rise in graphic violence an attempt by authors to keep their novel novel and fresh? After all if crime novel's reflect society, how many different societal forces can there be driving crime? Is crime writing easier to sell overseas? Is it easier to sell overseas if its more graphic/ technologically up-to-date/ deviant? Did all the panellists have links to police or specialists working within crime or forensic detection to support their writing (as Peter James definitely did)? I guess I need to up-skill as a literary event participant so these questions turn up when I still have a chance to ask them.

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

Happy Mother's Day!!! Yay for pikelets! I have no idea what they are but you enjoyed them and they were made with love so that's great!

I guess the last crime novel I read was the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Great prologue, horrible boring first chapter, thrilling chapters 2-27 - with bouts of overwriting and long paras that should have been edited out - I mean did we really have to know the fine technical details of what was wrong with Lisbeth's laptop when it broke for over two pages? nope! Then boring, boring, boring chapters 28 onwards. LOL! Yet it's a best selling world wide hit!

Anyway!! Glad you had a most riveting discussion. What is this with literary snobbishness?!!? Where'd that come from?

Take care