Silly Saturday Slowly

First there was slow food, then there was slow television, the antidote to 24 hour news, sport and noisy, violent dramas. With slow TV you can spend two hours drifting down a canal or take a real time steam train journey.

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At this time of year in the northern hemisphere you may be settling down on winter evenings to watch your favourite dramas and probably your favourite crime dramas. January 2020 saw the start of new series of two popular and enduring detectives.
As Vera drove her Land Rover through the wilds of Northumberland a thought occurred. What if she just kept driving and didn’t bother to arrive at the police station, didn’t get any urgent calls on her mobile about a murder? Two hours of lowering Northumberland skies and rugged green landscape, advertisements providing the only drama. How relaxing.

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Vera Stanhope is the creation of a crime writer I enjoy, Anne Cleaves and is played by one of our national treasures, Brenda Blethyn. Antidote to glamorous cops, a middle aged woman in sensible, scruffy clothes and the muddy Land Rover. Some of her team have changed but she’s still going strong in this tenth series.

http://www.anncleeves.com/vera/

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A complete contrast is Granchester, set in a delightful village near Cambridge in the nineteen fifties. The stories were originally written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His crime solving vicar Sidney Chambers has been replaced by an impossibly handsome young vicar who rides a motorbike and fortunately also has a talent for talking to people ( getting confessions out of them ) and solving crimes, helped by the police inspector Geordie Keating. Life in the lovely village is slow, but a surprising number of murders occur. Life in the village would be pleasantly slower if there were no murders or crime of any sort and the police inspector became a lay reader and helped the vicar with his church services instead.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-17/grantchester-series-five-cast-characters/

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Slow Crime, No Crime could be applied to dramas set in any part of the world. There is always ‘the drive’ – through Scandinavian snow or the red dust of The Kimberleys at the top of Western Australia. Frantic chase scenes in cities could easily be slowed to a halt with road works or green protestors.
But how soon before the novelty wore off for viewers? The truth is, most of us don’t want people being killed just for our Sunday evening entertainment. We want to see scenery and in winter we like to watch anything filmed in summer, but we also want to peep into other people’s lives. The advantage of murders is that they give the perfect excuse for screen writers, the police and us to dissect every detail of the life of the victim and the lives of every person known to the victim.

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Do you like fast crime, slow crime or no crime?

Silly Saturday – How to Cheat at Best Sellers

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If there is anything better than writing a best seller, it is writing a best selling series and a best selling series in a popular genre is sure to be a winner. The way to fame is for your series to be adapted for television, so that everyone knows you have written lots of best selling books, even if they haven’t read them.

Fame may come at a price, murder. Crime thrillers are always popular with the public and that’s not hard to understand; we all like to participate in the thrills without actually being killed ourselves. We all like to guess who did it from the comfort of the sofa without having to pound dark alleyways or lonely moors.

You only need three things for your fabulous fiction.

One or more dead bodies.

One or more detectives.

An interesting setting.

Optional extras are a few interesting characters who insist on getting involved in the investigation.

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I love a good crime thriller and some knitting after dinner, we all need a break from writing and computers. At Cheztidalscribe sub titles are our favourites; everything from gritty Paris to dark brooding Wales, from sunny Sicily to bracing Iceland. At present we are watching Trapped, set in a small town in Iceland; the fact that this fascinating country only has three hundred thousand people does not hold them back from having plenty of murders.

Much as I love hearing different languages and seeing a change of scenery, not speaking the language and never having visited are good reasons not to try and write novels set in another country. But there is still plenty of scope for new crime thrillers set in the British Isles. Popular novels can be set in ancient university towns; Morse in Oxford, Granchester in Cambridge. Then there are gritty cities such as Rebus in Edinburgh. Equally popular are quiet villages with an unbelievably high rate of crime, Midsomer Murders or islands such as Shetland where bodies appear at an alarming rate for Jimmy Perez to deal with.

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So let’s choose a place with beautiful scenery and scattered remote houses which the police can never get to in time. A detective who must be divorced or widowed and a local population who don’t trust him, because he is an outsider. His only friends are a simmering love interest with a fisherman’s wife and the local vet, doctor or vicar who helps solve every case. The detective inspector can be of either sex, but their constable or sergeant will always be of the opposite sex.

I am going to set my series on the beautiful Scottish Inner Hebrides island of Iona, I have only been there once, for a few hours, but that won’t deter me. There are only about 120 permanent residents and it is only three miles long, but that needn’t prevent them having a serial killer; with lots of tourists coming over on the little Caledonian MacBrain ferry who knows what could happen and as visitors’ vehicles are banned this gives the police a head start on chasing them.

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When television producers adapt your thrilling best seller there may be some compromise. Your stocky dark brooding hero is replaced by a well known tall blond actor and they film most of it on the mainland because it’s cheaper. The programmes are so popular you have to write more novels at a frantic pace, if not you will find your intelligent stories replaced by increasingly ridiculous plots and your name will appear only at the end of the credits – based on the characters created by…

But the good news is your book will now appear at the front of the book store with the covers your friend designed with his holiday photos replaced by dramatic pictures of the television star on location.

Good luck.