We ask authors to give us their very own list of crime writing pet peeves and we want you to decide if each one should make it into Room 101!
Our latest feature comes rom David Mark, who appeared in the sell out New Blood panel at the 2012 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. David Mark has been a journalist for over fifteen years, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post in its Hull office. Original Skin is his second novel, out March 2013, and the follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut, Dark Winter, out now. To find out more about the debut novel and David’s journey from journalist to author, click here to read our exclusive interview.
So, what are David Mark’s top crime writing pet hates and do they really warrant a place in the deadly Room 101?
Bring it on. David, it’s over to you…
1) Forced dialogue.
There are several book-shaped dents in my bedroom wall where hardbacks have been flung with gusto. I think that’s the ultimate form of literary criticism. Forget your one-star Amazon review. Have you ever flung a book at a wall? They tend to get flung most regularly in my house when the dialogue tries too hard. You don’t make a character sound cool by using the word ‘yo’. Let’s take that as a jumping-off point. Then there are the passages in which the cop and the villain trade insults. Sometimes, they can be quite fun. But too often it’s excruciating. In my experience, neither coppers nor the bad guys in real life try very hard to make their insults and threats witty. It’s more just grunts and swear-words and the unspoken insinuation that both parties would like to hit the other in the face with a billiard ball in a sock.
2) The copper did it.
Seriously, how many times? I feel instantly let down and decidedly weary when I get to the penultimate chapter of an otherwise decent crime novel and find that, yet again, the copper who has been helping our hero all the way through, is actually the bad guy. It was probably shocking around 80 years ago but to me, it’s been done to death. Let’s have a break. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some superbly enjoyable books out there that employ this device but it just seems as though we have reached a state of overkill.
3) The genius psychopath.
I was a journalist for a good few years and covered dozens of murders and court cases and it’s very rare that anybody in real life goes to the time and trouble that killers seem to in the world of fiction. Usually, a murder is an unplanned, chaotic thing. A drunk bloke loses his temper and hits another bloke over the head with something heavy, or a wife catches her husband at it with the neighbour and takes it upon herself to deliver a swift smack to the skull with a bedside lamp. Yes, there are occasional clever insurance scams but by and large, human beings don’t tend to pin notes from the Bible on their victims or insert cellophane bags of Weetabix in the stomach cavities of the freshly deceased in order to show to the bumbling cops they are a cereal killer. I do love it when it’s done well, of course. The grisly stuff in Boris Starling’s Messiah is brilliantly done and a calling-card from a murderer does add an enjoyable psycho dimension to a yarn, but we seem to have reached the stage now where people are coming up with grisly deaths first, and reasons why people would perform them, second. It’s only a matter of time until every kind of death sequence has been done and we’ll all go back to writing about poisonings and bludgeonings, like in the good old days.
So there you have it! Which of these pet hates, 1, 2 or 3, should make it into Room 101 or should perhaps all make it, or none at all? You decide! Share your thoughts below.