Friday, 9 August 2013

South of The Equator

'Miserable weather is as much a character of the crime milieu as the murderers and detectives in Britain. Temperatures it seems dictate our temperaments as well as our tans. Sunnier climes like South Africa and Australia swelter under a brighter spotlight as they march to a different beat under mid-day heat. But when it boils down to it, is crime on the other side of the world really that different? Join us on a memorable long-haul flight to far-flung destinations with a sizzling showcase of authors from the Southern Hemisphere . Authors Lauren Beukes, Helen Fitzgerald, Michael Robotham, and M D Villiers join chair Paul Johnston for a journey you won’t forget.'

Lauren Beukes is a South African novelist, short story writer, journalist and TV scriptwriter who's book The Shining Girls, set in Chicago, centres around a time-travelling serial killer (I bought this book following the Festival, as it had sold out during the event, and read it on my recent holiday - review to follow).

Helen Fitzgerald is an Australian novelist and screenwriter best known for her first novel Dead Lovely, who now lives in Glasgow.  She was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award in America despite never living there.

Michael Robotham, author of psychological thrillers such as Watching You and Say You're Sorry, is an Australian who was born in Casino, New South Wales and has been nominated for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Dagger in the Library and Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel.  In Say You're Sorry, two teenagers disappear and nothing is discovered for two years, then it is believed that one of the missing girls is still alive.

M D Villiers (Marty) was born in Johannesburg and she was shortlisted for the CWA debut dagger in 2007.  She now lives in South-West London and her first novel, City of Blood, was published in May this year.

All of the authors do not live where they set their novels, so Paul started by saying he thought the title of the event should be Crossing The Equator.  Marty said that she found it easier to write about South Africa now she doesn't live there and Helen agreed in that although she lives in Scotland, she set her novel in her home country of Australia so that she could get more of a sense of space.

Lauren explained that although The Shining Girls is about a time-travelling serial killer from Depression-era Chicago, she has used the 20th Century women's role and the sociological impact of motorways etc. so that it is also a novel of our time.  She had a Murder Wall above her desk, plotting in 3 different time zones as the killer gets more violent the further back in time he goes, so the detectives struggle to catch him for this reason as normal MO would mean that violence escalates with time. 

Michael Robotham used real-life knowledge of a convicted killer that had escaped that was going to events and rubbing shoulders with the heart of police etc. and nobody recognising him.  Raymond John Denning disappeared to Queensland and was on the run for 20 months.  Michael talked to him 2/3 times a week when Denning was 21 and he looked normal and ordinary to him as a 19-year-old journalist.  This caused him to wonder what sliding door effect had put them either side of the dock.

Marty finds that the psychology of characters grow and develop and if they don't, they have to go.

There are various narrators in Helen's The Cry, the main one being a woman whose baby has died.  She has a social work background so it sparks an interest in what put them there on the guilty line, i.e. parents in a dysfunctional relationship.

Lauren has a male baddie and a female survivor and as she feels that popular culture has glamorised serial killers, she thinks that there is some kind of impotence issue - twin obsessions that he and she cannot escape from.

Shatter is written in a dual narrative and Michael found this the hardest thing to write, but he feels if he puts it on the page it will never happen - 'talismatic.'

Lauren feels that in fiction you get a resolution, which has a resonance with her due to a girl she knew who was murdered and the killer was never tried in Court.

They all agreed that although writers sometimes used to have to write in exile and readers used to stick to authors from their own Country, this is not the case now.  They write about what interests them, what they want to learn about and they would advise aspiring writers to do the same.  Challenge yourself and your readers.


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