The First Person and Crime Writing

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

This afternoon we had four authors speaking across two events. The first focused on the use of the first person in a novel, and the second explored the genre of crime fiction.

Chaired by our LitFest chairman, Mavis Cheek,  the writers Chris Wakling and Stephen May, both talked about their new novels, where both, coincidentally were written using the voice of a young boy named Billy. Wakling’s book, ‘What I Did’, sees the consequences of a father smacking his 6 year old son in public, though seen through the eyes of, and written in the voice of, the 6 year old Billy. May also looks at a male versus male family relationship in his book, ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’, where a 19 year old Billy is left to look after his very younger brother following their parent’s death. The talk explored the use of the first person and how the authors wrote from a perspective of a very young person in comparison to themselves. Both authors commented on how the use of the first person frames the structure of a work,  and the use of which can also prove to be a challenge in furthering the plot.

The talk was probably the most technical of the events at the LitFest this year, emphasised by the fact that both authors are also tutors at the Arvon Foundation, which holds creative writing courses for writers.

The second of our events this afternoon was chaired by Tony Mulliken, who introduced the noted crime writers Nicola Upson and Simon Brett. They both read from their books, Upson’s ‘Fear in the Sunlight’ and Brett’s ‘Guns in the Gallery’, and then concluded with a discussion on humour, characterisation and location in their novels.

Both books are set in small communities, Upson’s in the small, closed-off Welsh village of Portmeirion, and Brett’s in the fictional West Sussex village of Fethering, and both told the audience of the fascination they had with the relationships between people in small communities. Upson particularly stressed the importance of having her novel set in Portmeirion, a village which is closed off to all but its residents at 7:30pm.

The characterisation and humour also was stressed by both authors about being fundamental to their novels. Humour especially for Simon Brett being crucial in his novel, the chair Mulliken at one point even quoting one of the jokes from the novel, one that he stated he was going to definitely steal, ‘How can you recognise a dyslexic Yorkshire man? He’s the one wearing a cat flap!’

Both talks again incredibly successful and their end marks the beginning of the last evening at Marlborough’s LitFest 2012.