LEGAL EAGLES – Harrogate Crime Writing Festival

Unfortunately I had to miss the next event on the schedule (the Readers’ Book Group with Martyn Waites discussing novels by Cathi Unsworth and Christa Faust) – a real shame as it was Christa’s only event other than the dinner event that I knew I was also having to miss (more of that later).

So, after a much needed break and another great lunch, it was back to the main hall for ‘Legal Eagles’.

Chaired by the hilarious Peter McCormick (Senior Partner of McCormick’s Solicitor, who sponsored the panel) this was an insightful discussion between MR Hall, Frances Fyfield, Martin Edwards and Helen Black concerning how much of their professional legal careers they now bring to bear on the pages of their novels.

Peter’s opening was first class and a pleasant surprise from a speaker who would not have been known to pretty much anybody in the room.  He managed to get his office’s telephone number into the opening presentation several times over, introduced MR Hall as ‘Mr Hall’ – as that was how his secretary had typed his notes.  He also had a few pops at Martin Edwards just to get the ball rolling, saying he’s best described as a man locked in the music of the 60’s – often taking his titles from album or song titles. 

Starting with MR (or Matthew) Hall.  His next book ‘The Flight’ is due out early 2012.  He works a lot with juvenile prisoners – often with very tragic backgrounds – which often move him.  He once wrote a thriller about a youngster dying in the cells as a television drama – he was never made, but he re-used the idea to a certain extent in his novel ‘The Coroner’.

Francis Fyfield was a prosecutor and strongly believes there is no black and white, just various shades of grey.  Her work enabled her to look at people’s lives, to pity their lives.  It entered her bloodstream.  She said she’d love to write a romance with jokes, a book with angels and fairies and true love – but, as a lawyer, she feels conditioned to only put forward the truth.

Martin Edwards always wanted to be a crime writer but continues to write legal books and articles too.  As his legal expertise grows, so does the list of disclaimers in the back of his novels !

Helen Black has photos from when she was younger, outside 10 Downing Street and the National Theatre, so must have originally wanted to be Prime Minister or a famous actor.  She never imagined she’d become a writer, but she never imagined she’d become a solicitor either, so maybe she’d still in with a chance of becoming Prime Minister after all.  She only gives her character one case to work on  – so that’s not too close to the truth!

Martin chipped in with the fact that everyone has bad days at the office but, as crime novelists, they get to go home and kill someone.

They all then spoke about their series characters and the routes/developments of the stories over those series.

Martin spoke of the art of the modern crime writer having to be able to write for continuing readers and new readers – just how much backstory is enough/too much?

And, what’s coming up next from the four authors?

MR Hall – ‘The Flight’ – a tale of the Airbus (piloted by computer) – set to fly London to New York, but it never arrives!

Francis Fyfield – Currently working on Radio Four music programmes – and easy distraction from her writing.  She’s also just finished a standalone novel ‘Gold Digger’ about a collector of paintings.

Martin Edwards – ‘The Hanging Wood’ – just published – another in his Lake District series.  He describes it as a book where ‘something terrible and dark happens’ at the beginning and at the end.

Helen Black – working on a standalone book called ‘2012’ – featuring a politician in an ‘all singing all dancing thriller – bombs going off (during the Olympics) and people saving the world.’

Francis Fyfield asked if perhaps they are all living vicariously through their books, giving their characters attributes and possessions that they’d want to have themselves?

Martin Edwards said ‘It’s all about making stuff up!’

And Francis dispelled myths about plotting by saying she simply writes scenes she wants to write.  Hers are ‘True novels of suspense, as even the author doesn’t know how they are going to end.’   🙂


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Filed under Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Harrogate 2011

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