I love it, when I’m researching for my writing, and I have a kind of tenuous plan of where I want to go with something and I’m following the trail along, reading this and that, which leads to the other and then – BOOM! – I find stuff that’s just so perfect for what I want, I feel like I couldn’t have made it up.
Happily, that’s the way the week’s gone with my research on hares. I like hares. I’m not a huge fan of rabbits, although I’ve been reading some interesting things about rabbits and warreners in The Brecks area of Norfolk and Suffolk. But hares are really fascinating.
There’s a scruffy, fugitive-looking hare that I sometimes startle, late at night, as I drive into my suburban street. I love the way they move, and the way they look. And the things that have been believed about hares – the myths and legends that have been passed on as fact – are just sitting there begging to be told in more stories.
I’m happy to oblige. Not the least of these is that hares would change their sex, just as they changed their coats from winter to summer. According to Sir Thomas Browne, writing in 1646, hares may transition from one sex to the other, or they may be hermaphrodites, either way it is the reason for their vices of “unnatural venery and degenerous effemination”.
Well, how can I resist that? If it wasn’t 1834 my main character would be wearing a T-shirt that read “Warning: may display unnatural venery and degenerous effemination”. And really, now that I’ve thought of it, I may have to design one, because who wouldn’t want one of those?
I’ve been writing.
Nothing odd in that, but what I’ve been writing was different, for me at least.
Next Tuesday is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie, so we’re having fun with crime and mystery in the libraries – if you happen to be near Runaway Bay Branch Library at 10am on Tuesday come and talk Christie with me and have some birthday cake.
Last night, I ran a murder mystery event at Robina Branch Library for 50 people. It took me a good deal longer to write The Body in the Library than I had expected, and only two hours for us to play our parts. I had the very best assistance from Sulari Gentill, our special guest crime author and judge, and from the four librarians and four family and friends who were playing the eight suspects.
These suspects were all literary characters who had been shortlisted for an award and so they were based on popular mystery tropes: the elderly amateur sleuth and knitter Miss Syrup; the eccentric crime consultant and genius, Sheldon Harths; the hard-boiled P.I. Jo Hemlock; the ‘Tartan Noir’ Scottish forensics expert Tavish MacDuff; the aristocratic historical investigator Lady Lally Larkworthy; the precocious child detective Hardy de Nancy; the professional police officer D.C.I. Claude Code; and the paranormal psychic investigator Sanya Skorpio.
The suspects had information about their characters and what they knew or had seen. The participants received a short biography of the suspects and the basic facts of the crime – the murder of the third judge, antagonistic librarian Moira Konanowski – then they had to cross-examine the suspects and search the library for clues. People had a whole lot of fun and really got into it. We’d set a 1930s theme and the costuming was fantastic!
Writing the characters and creating alibis, making up clues and sub-plots to serve as red herrings, coming up with funny-because-they’re-cliche back stories and everything else that went with it gave me a whole new respect for crime writers. I had big spreadsheets of characters, clues, alibis, red herrings, suspicions and props. I kept feeling like my head was going to explode.
So, to all the writers of murder mysteries, I salute you! Just this little bit of a fun dabble in the genre has made me realise how cleverly constructed your novels are.