David Young’s Room 101

I’m going to cheat a bit first, in saying that one of my crime writing pet hates is … people having pet hates about crime writing. I’m guilty of breaking all the so-called rules I’m sure: too many coincidences – tick, detective throwing up at crime scene – tick, and so it goes on. The important thing for me when reading or writing is a satisfying story overall, and when reading, I’m prepared to overlook these so-called classic errors.

I do, however, have some turn-offs. These are:

1) Senior police officers who are too nice

Some very popular crime series are guilty of this, in my opinion. My own interactions with senior managers in general, tells me that the opposite is more often true.

2) Settings that I’m too familiar with

When I read a novel, I want to escape – preferably to somewhere I know little about, and indeed to a time period I can no longer visit or experience first-hand. So, crime novels set in present day London, for example, hold little appeal. Similarly, present-day thrillers that involve Islamic militants, bombs, fighting in Afghanistan, etc are a turn-off. They remind me too much of my former day job in international journalism. I got out of it for a reason, and don’t want to read reminders of it.

3) Lazy negative representations of journalists in crime stories, particularly local reporters

This seems to be endemic. Most local reporters are over-worked, underpaid, and keen to report things as accurately as possible. Yet fictional depictions generally get them so, so wrong. A nice exception I read recently was Rod Reynolds’ The Dark Inside. A crime story featuring a journalist protagonist, written by a non-journalist, which was utterly believable, and a refreshing change.