Friday, 23 October 2015

The Emperor's New Clothes

It was W C Fields who once said "Never work with children or animals". Maybe he should have added, "never invite them to your book launch"!

The launch for my latest book (Dead in the Water, published by Joffe Books) took place in George and Delila's ice-cream cafĂ© in Oxford's Cowley Road. I chose the venue because it featured in my third book and it does great ice-cream and I wanted parents to come along and give their offspring a treat as well as themselves. Why not?

So I was delighted when several children did come along. Initially!

The problem with kids is that when they aren't being darlings or sulky or obsessed with their electronic devices, they can ask the most penetrating of questions.

And so it was that I was sitting down with a guest and her two girls when the elder looked up from her two scoops of ice-cream and fixed me with stare.

"Tell me something," she said.

I smiled and nodded, more than happy to engage with a potential future reader.

"Why do you write about such nasty things?"

For the first time that evening my brain and mouth failed to co-operate. I think I probably gawped at her and looked even more blank and stupid than I usually do. As questions go, it was a humdinger. Right to the heart of the matter.

“Actually, my books aren’t that nasty,” I said, doing my best to side-step the question, but failing. She took another scoop of ice-cream. She looked unimpressed.
So I tried again. ‘People like reading that sort of thing.”  It was another feeble reply, though she was polite enough not to say so.

“Why don‘t you ask your father?” I said. Her father, I knew, was halfway through my first book Blood on the Cowley Road.  Even as I said it, I knew it was a cop out. A good honest question requires a good honest answer. I had failed to deliver.
So apologies to her.  I suppose one real answer is that I like writing crime fiction. I like the puzzle element too and I am interested in how normal people can get into situations when they do nasty things.  Only I am not interested in really nasty things or in serial killers who do very nasty things to their victims. Honest!

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