Murder Most Yorkshire – Tea and Trench Coats

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It was a rare rainless day on Friday 5th July when a gathering of crime writers took place at Bilton and Woodfield Library.

The event was taking place as part of the Murder Most Yorkshire festival organised by Books and Beverages. Various events were taking place across 3 days with over a dozen of Yorkshire’s finest crime writers, and this time it was the turn of the ‘Cosy Crime’ genre.

Cosy crime, according to the bastion of all truths Wikipedia, can be described as ‘a sub-genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence occur offstage, the detective is an amateur sleuth’ so no blood and guts here then. Just great stories where the reader is invited to solve the crime along with the sleuth. Or so we thought!

Helping us on our journey into the genre were acclaimed writers Anne Wedgwood, Angela Wren and Ginetta Murray – all carefully watched over by host Sue Williams, lest they run amok!

Sue started lightly, easing the authors into a false sense of security by asking What makes a good fictional detective?

All agreed that whatever gender they must be engaging, curious, intelligent and relatable. Angela went further to say that an eye for detail with the ability to blend into the background though the foundations of the character must have some foundation in reality. (Columbo anyone?)

As the conversation flowed between the authors, Sue steered the conversation towards the ideas and inspiration. Anne was quick to answer with her view that she’d looked over the 99p crap available on Amazon and decided she could write better herself (there were knowing nods around the whole room to this!)

There was a distinct divide between the writers as some professed to be plotters (those who plot out each chapter, know the ending and likely who the killer is!) and a veritable pantser (one who flys by the seat of their pants, rarely knowing where the story will go). This led nicely to conversation about characters and if they spoke to the authors. Now, I’m a writer and I can say hand on heart that all my characters speak to me as the story unfolds, and the panel agreed – but not before a considerable amount of work had gone into creating them. Creating a background, understanding the psyche of the character, what circles they move in. So while the reader may not see the majority of this, it is imperative to know this so that the characters don’t run away with the plot!

Sue then moved the conversation on to the importance of setting. Did it matter? There was a resounding Yes all round.

Anne, with her female protagonist Ronnie, deliberately sets her books in Beverley. It’s an area she knows well, and she makes the most of local landmarks. It’s not unheard of for Anne to pop into her local theatre and ask if it’s ok to deposit a dead body – thankfully they said yes!

Gianetta is a Californian who moved to the UK, Doncaster to be exact and enjoys setting her books in the region. Her books look at the expectation versus reality of an American living in rural UK particularly set in a small village and close community.

Angela relayed an intriguing story of how the setting chose her. Whilst on holiday in France, where her books are set, she went to bed one night with a thoroughly Autumnal view out of her window only to wake to scene from White Christmas, everything covered with crisp white snow changing the mood and feeling of the view. The first thing that popped into Angela’s mind was ‘if you wanted to murder someone and hide the body, you should have done it last night.’ I’ll leave that with you!

Moving swiftly on, the conversation took a controversial turn when Sue posed the thought that cosy crime is often not seen as ‘real’ crime fiction.

Anne summed it up eloquently. ‘It’s the Why that keeps people reading and turning the pages, not the how.’

Netta followed that up with commenting that there is perhaps enough drama going on in the world and what readers want sometimes is a ‘comfort’ read with a good outcome. Angela agreed, saying that it was more accessible to wider audience, think of Vera or Midsummer Murder.

There was a veritable intake of breath when Sue admitted that she had actually never seen an episode of Midsummer Murder, but the crowd seemed to be quite forgiving.

Finally, Sue continued to create controversy by asking – If you were a victim in another authors book, how would you like to be bumped off?

And then things took a darker turn..

Angela, admitting to being squeamish opted for no blood, no weapons, no pain and then she’d probably have a happy death.

Netta, who may (or may not) have considered this previously opted for insulin overload – though she did think once about killing a character by stinging them to death with killer bee’s.

Anne, again opted no pain but however she went it would be kicking and screaming while leaving the world with a good amount of the killers DNA under her fingernails.

Our hostess with the mostest insisted that her fictional death should again be painless but while sipping a glass or two of champagne.

I mean, I can think of worse ways to leave this mortal coil!

That wrapped up an eventful and engaging afternoon that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

My biggest takeaway? The crime might be cosy, but the authors (and host) were not averse to a touch of controversy.

Special thanks to the authors, the organisers and also the volunteers for providing much needed tea and biscuits.

Table full of books Author panel Anne Wedgwood, Gianetta Murray, Angela Wren Anne Wedgwood, Gianetta Murray, Angela Wren Anne Wedgwood, Gianetta Murray, Angela Wren Anne Wedgwood, Gianetta Murray, Angela Wren Books & Beverages Banner Anne Wedgwood, Gianetta Murray, Angela Wren

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