Tag: detective

True Crime Detection

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Written for one of my writing groups…

This group is crammed with poets; accomplished and expressive writers who create in their preferred format, often carrying out the impossible task of producing more than one fantastic and competent piece per session. The talent and competence of these poets regularly takes my breath away, but I know I will never be able to join their ranks. As you will be aware from listening to my readings over the months, I am naturally wordy and longwinded, and therefore best suited to being a writer of prose. I have my skills and talents, but poetically succinct expression and short, sharp sentences don’t come easily.

So, I thought I’d share with you the sentiments of what my poem was hoping to express. My intention was to explore the dynamics of detective work in the dramas I watch the most. I wanted to explain that solving crimes is dependent on the work of skilled men and women and that the more experience these detectives have, the more chances there are of the crime being solved. This is where my problems begin. I wanted to begin my poem with the line ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery’. It rhymes and says what I wanted it to say, but it’s clunky and juvenile, like a song lyric that 10 year olds might compose. Or it could even have been a rap. ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery.’ Yes, that’s it. It’s a pathetic little rap lyric. Nothing more.

But I wanted to extend my explanation. I wanted to clarify that the mysteries were those ‘Of criminal urges. Intangible surges, Adrenaline rushes, and trilling wire pushes’. There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and I like the way they all sound together. But I couldn’t fit them in as they needed an explanatory first line which would serve the purpose of informing the listener that the lines related to forensic methods and inspiration.

I carried on by writing ‘Detectives think over the crime,’ and genuinely couldn’t find a good way of introducing the idea of fingerprint patterns, DNA testing, and many of the other chemical processes that prove or deny the presence of certain substances within a test sample. So I wrote ‘Detection test fizzes, the rages, the steams it fazes. Wire in the blood. Theoretical stuff. Genetic kinks. Unforseen links’. Not quite a clickety clack rhythm, but also neither flowing nor easily understood. I clearly am unable to master the skill of explaining without the provision of an introductory explanation. Which, of course, renders the entire subsequent poem pointless.

Also, in this poem I almost created, I wanted to explain how the detective drama, ‘Wire in the Blood’ uses as its title, a phrase from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. As so… ‘The trilling wire in the blood / sings below inveterate scars / appeasing long-forgotten wars’. Apparently the star of this drama, Robson Green, believed it was intended to refer to a genetic kink. Such a kink was impure and unusual and of the kind that leads to the form of psychosis that the psychologist, Dr Tony Hill might deal with. Interesting, though Val McDermid believes something different – that the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was ‘a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream’.

So, not only would my hoped-for poem, in tribute to many of the detective greats, have talked of ‘Partnership drinks. Encouragements to think,’ it would have ended, just because I liked it, with the line ‘Might, Flight, Sight and Spite’. I’m guessing that this must be a fairly standard poet’s problem, but how annoying when you come up with something that feels right and sounds right, but doesn’t fit at all. Especially when it is your entire poem that does this.

I do not write good poetry. I do not even write barely competent poetry. What I write is inexplicably shortened prose, and tiny strings of rhyming words.

So, I’m sorry that I couldn’t fulfil the homework mission set for us all this week, but felt the need to relate to you all my attempts at work in progress. I didn’t want to simply say that I had tried yet failed. But it was the truth. Anyway, at least I tried.

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Collecting the Detectives

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One day I tried to write ten short stories inspired by fictionalised detectives and solvers of crime. You see, crime has always been my preferred television genre –

I adored the relentless surliness of Morse, Tom Barnaby the family man, the astonishing prim Miss Marple, and Hercules Poirot with his neat squares of breakfast toast.

I sat at my computer and began to type – but, despite all my interest in the genre, I couldn’t make it work.

Perhaps I was getting hung up on technicalities and legalities: all the problems of copyright and the like. But I couldn’t help but wonder.

How would one go about creating the perfect character?

Perhaps the detective would be Bergerac-like, though less smooth.

Perhaps he would now be retired and back in Jersey, ready to meet up with an old flame – a retired ex-jewel thief?

Or perhaps my hero might be more like ex-police detective, Henry Crabbe, now running his own restaurant, who would be found cooking up something amazing when Tony Hill, criminal profiler and psychologist arrives for a meal. Crabbe and Hill might discuss whodunnits and Tommy Cooper, and over the course of the meal and a couple of after-dinner drinks, the crime would be solved. Or perhaps my detective would be more like Inspector Rebus – a rough-around-the-edges Scot, set apart from society, but who eats, drinks and sleeps crime.

But my plans didn’t turn out. I realised that all I was doing was listing and exaggerating. I was collecting the detectives.

Being an aficionado of televised crime fiction (with Columbo being a personal favourite) I accidentally began writing a short story about the rain-coated, cigar smoking wonder. It led to some experimentation and has been interesting to say the least.

My composite detective is dysfunctional, non-family oriented, and his tale began as ‘The Flag, the Arm and the Chestnut Brown Hair’. Inspector Derek Jones (or Cal Durham, or Vern Smith) scratches his fingers against his chin’s stubble.

Four days now without the flick of the razor, and people were beginning to notice, and to comment. His latest work mission, to infiltrate an unusual outwardly pagan group with links to organised person trafficking, was a total nightmare. The people he met in the group were great and he found it extremely hard to mistrust, dislike or even retain any scepticism about them. They were simply decent people. Sometimes his work was a pain.

The Flag was scruffy and dated bar, and the Inspector fitted in pretty well with the old and dated clientele.

One woman in particular he had his eye on, not for the usual reasons – though he wouldn’t have said no. Her hair was chestnut brown and as wavy as his had been as a child. It shone like the outside of a newly polished conker.

It was simply the most beautiful hair he’d ever seen. His own, once wiry and wayward, was now almost gone.

That which clung on for dear life was shaved to a millimetre’s length and usually hidden under one of a collection of flat caps.

 On this particular mission he had chosen to wear a bandana. God, he felt a prat. In fact, he couldn’t believe his ‘mates’ hadn’t seen through his plain clothes policeman disguise. What a fraud he was.

The woman turned slightly to look towards the doorway, and he realised with a shock to his system that he knew her. He hadn’t nicked her, and he hadn’t slept with her… but he had sat beside her on an evening course.

You know the kind of thing. It was Predictable with a capital P.

That’s what happened on the day I tried to piece together a composite detective.

I failed.

I finished.

It isn’t as easy as you might think.

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