Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When a city is a character in a crime novel

Kevin Sampson on writing 'The Killing Pool' from Red Union Films on Vimeo.

To the Manchester Literature Festival to a panel discussion featuring Val McDermid, Cath Staincliffe and Tom Benn. All have featured Manchester in their work - not always by name, but the city works as a location as it is big enough to have a lot going on, but not so big that it swamps the characters.

This was all in my mind over summer when I read Kevin Sampson's first hard boiled crime book - The Killing Pool, which painted a very detailed, well researched picture of Liverpool's murky underworld. It was a good story, but it was Liverpool that seeped out from every page - warts and all. The video, above, sets out how the author set about creating such a story. I've been fascinated by this whole period ever since I read Cocky by Peter Walsh way back when. But he really brings the city to life, which was his aim.

Manchester similarly loomed large in the debut digital download novel of AK Nawaz's The Cotton Harvest. Again, another work produced from someone close to the centre of crime and the underclass in the city.

As Val McDermid said tonight, if the author does it well, then you visit a place and feel you know it. Think Ian Rankin's Edinburgh, Sarah Paretsky's Chicago and Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles.

Apologies to Helen Carter, in the chair tonight, for asking her if the portrayal of journalists in crime stories has changed and whether any of the panel were any good at it. I asked, because I think many get the workload and pressures of the journalist woefully wrong - AK Nawaz didn't, by the way. I didn't mean to put her on the spot regarding how Val McDermid does anything. A greater, more impressive force and a yet massively warm presence on a stage at a book event I have yet to see. Had I been offered an invitation to nit pick her work, I would have passed on it too. Soz.

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