Guide to Crime Writing | Reviews
edited by Barry Turner
Macmillan 156 pages
‘a new publication from The Writer’s Handbook stable should prove very useful indeed.’
'a "seminar" in printed form'
'This may be a slim book but it’s packed with detail. Every aspiring crime writer should have a copy close at hand.'
The Writer’s Handbook is a handy vade mecum for any author, published or not. But for those who specialise in a particular form or genre it can be a little – well, general, really. However, for those who are working in crime fiction, a new publication from The Writer’s Handbook stable should prove very useful indeed.
It calls itself a ‘guide’, a usefully baggy term which can conceal a multitude of sins and omissions. However, in the capable hands of Barry Turner, it might be more appropriate to call this a ‘seminar’ in printed form, for that’s pretty much what it is. This book will not tell you how to write crime fiction. There are already plenty of books in existence that will take you by the hand, introduce you to your PC and explain the intricacies of manuscript layout, and explain the basics of plot, narrative, character creation and dialogue. These are universals, and they need to be learned before you settle into a genre niche. But if you’re comfortable with your writing and crime fiction is your chosen field, then this is going to be a valuable addition to your bookshelf.
There’s no doubt that crime fiction is popular. Book sales demonstrate it, and there seems to be an insatiable desire for crime novels which can be adapted into tv series. And crime is so broad a field, featuring everything from cosy mysteries with traditional village settings to hard-boiled mysteries set in urban no-go areas. This very variety is something Ian Rankin addresses in the opening article, which provides an overview of the development of the crime novel. Rankin charts a shift from the crime novel as entertainment and reassurance, with the world tidily explained, to the crime novel as an incomplete form, reflecting the messy complexity of modern life, and incidentally Rankin’s preferred view of the genre. When this is coupled with Bob Ritchie’s article on the legendary heroes of crime fiction, the two provide an excellent introduction to the historical background of the genre.
But history is one thing: more important to most writers is the business of getting published now. Interviews with editors and successful writer Tony Strong chart the process of getting into print, while bestselling author, Minette Walters, reveals some of the tricks of her trade, in particular, how to create believable characters, and Val McDermid talks about the business of being a writer. And at the heart of the books are the addresses, lots of them. There are addresses of agents handling crime fiction, and of publishers handling crime fiction. There’s information about literary societies and online resources for writers. This may be a slim book but it’s packed with detail. Every aspiring crime writer should have a copy close at hand.
|© Maureen Kincaid Speller a reviewer, writer, editor and former librarian, is our book reviewer and also works for WritersServices as a freelance editor. 2003||Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller|