Yesterday I made a rash promise. I wasn’t entirely myself at the time – quite possibly someone else. So I need your help. All you budding crime novelists out there.
See, I went through a phase, several years back, when I read crime thrillers. I dined out on dissection and drooled over death and disintegrating cadavers. The gorier the better - y’know, Patricia Cornwell and all that jazz. But then I got…a bit murdered out. I just sort of lost the trail. I never followed the plotlines anyhow, rarely figured out the murderer (if it was a whodunit) and just generally became a bit desensitized to all the slashing and stabbing. Why am I reading this, I wondered?
Nowadays I don’t even watch them on TV. Okay, so the odd Morse for old time’s sake – and then mainly for Oxford and John Thaw and the nostalgia of Barrington Phelong’s music. Lewis? Nah. Adrian and James like it but I tend to sit reading a book or staring into mid-space, poking my head up every so often to say, lugubriously, ‘She’s dead’ or ‘He’s had it’. Adrian loves crime though. Mainly on TV. And preferably foreign, ideally European – Italian or Scandinavian or French – never American. He’s funny like that.
But hey, it’s horses for courses, right? I'm sure most of you would rather read a cereal packet than Sivananda Buried Yoga or The Magdalen Manuscript, right? And I know a lot of you love crime and thrillers and all. So maybe you can help me out. I get asked all kinds of weird stuff in regard to this blog. Like, would I test out baby buggies (er, with what? The Soul Puppy?) or would I try out the latest flavor of BEAR Yo Yo’s (mango, as it happens)*
But yesterday, I got asked something that really surprised me. Could I come up with the opening sentence to a crime thriller? It was so unlikely and bizarre that, before I knew what I was doing (still thick – in every sense - with cold) I’d said, ‘Huh? What? Oh yeah, okay, why not?’
It’s to tie in with the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards – you know, the one where they win Daggers instead of Oscars. Hang about…The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, huh? When did that happen? Do all the protagonists have to wear contact lenses? Murder by monocle?
Anyhow, the idea is a mini Twitter crime novel, to be written by Specsavers' Twitter followers. The crime author Peter James has come up with the settings and the three main characters and now all it needs before it kicks off is an opening line.
· Setting: Brighton and London
· Three main character names: John Benson, Terence Lucas, Sarah Wilde
· Four key things that happen:
1. A woman's body is found on an expensive boat in Brighton Marina.
2. A suitcase, hidden on the boat, contains £100,000 in cash.
3. The boat's owner is missing.
4. The boat owner's mobile phone is found in the toilet of a train heading north from Brighton to London.
Anyhow, I realized at this point that a) I was already bored and b) I really didn’t have much of a clue where to begin.
But Mr James was prepared for that (the not a clue bit anyhow). “Always set up a situation in the very first line of a book,’ he says. ‘Ideally someone who has a problem.”
Well I never.
He then gives some examples of his own first lines.
Dead Simple: "So far, apart from just a couple of hitches, Plan A was working out fine. Which was fortunate, since they didn’t really have a Plan B."
Dead Man's Footsteps: "If Ronnie Wilson had known, as he woke up, that in just a couple of hours’ time he would be dead, he would have planned his day somewhat differently."
Dead Man's Grip: "On the morning of the accident, Carly had forgotten to set the alarm, and overslept. She woke with a bad hangover, a damp dog crushing her, and the demented pounding of drums and cymbals coming from her son’s bedroom. To add to her gloom, it was pelting with rain outside."
Not Dead Yet: "I am warning you, and I won’t repeat this warning. Don’t take the part. You’d better believe me. Take the part and you are dead. Bitch.”
Aggh, my inner editor is itching to get out the red pen. But I shall sit on my hands. Now, seriously though, I really haven’t got the foggiest. Any thoughts? Over to you. Let me know your best and I will pass them onto the Specsaver people. What do you get out of it, other than the glory? Well, I’m sure I can rustle up a prize, something suitably gory, for the best. What do I get out of it? Hopefully an eye test. J
The awards will be broadcast on ITV3 on 23rd October. There will be a six-week run-up of crime and drama programming. Joy incarnate!
*btw the Bear Yo Yo’s really are nice. Well, the mango ones are. I dunno about the others cos they only sent the one roll. But I asked James and he says that the others are pretty good apart from the apple one which is ‘mank’. Can recommend for your child’s lunchbox as they are full of fibre, count as one of the 5 a day, and are absolutely not packed with added anything nasty).
My only gripe – make them longer and thinner please.