This is the last post I am doing from this Google blog. Please come and join me at my new website/blog at
Scarborough Consequences, the story I wrote following the collaborative story project I facilitated at the 2013 Scarborough Literature Festival, has been up-loaded onto the SLF site:

Once you're on the above page you have to click through twice to get the download....

I hope you enjoy it!


My friend who is a fan of Dorothy L Sayers queried my previous post about Sayers' writing lacking intense emotion and it made me think more deeply about it.

I think it comes down to technique and how technique in fiction writing has changed over time. I am now deep into Gaudy Night (dug out of the library vaults!) and am loving it, however, I think it has a couple of examples of what I mean. On page 9, the protagonist Harriet Vane finds a tie belonging to Philip Boyes (the ex-lover who she was accused of murdering in Strong Poison) and the comment in the text is: ‘how horrible that that should still be hanging about!’ On page 34, Harriet is talking about finding the dead body with the cut throat (described in Have His Carcass), she says, ‘It was beastlier than anything you can imagine.’

Of course, there’s intense emotion behind these phrases, however, I think in more modern fiction they would be accentuated by (a) some kind of internal monologue and/or (b) a bodily feeling within the character. It doesn’t happen here at least partly because of the way third person is being used. We get much closer to characters (including inside their heads) in modern fiction even in third person, whereas in Sayers' day there was more of a sharp distinction between first and third person. With the former the reader was inside the character, with latter they were most definitely outside. I believe that distinction has collapsed to a certain extent in more modern writing. And I enjoy that both as a writer as well as a reader.


I am doing what I always tell my students to do - reading the genre/form I am writing. I have heard some would-be writers declaring that they won't read others authoring in their chosen genre or form. They claim it will contaminate their style or their inspiration. And yet artists, dancers, musicians and anyone else working in the creative arts will study what has come before them and their contemporary colleagues' output, so why not writers?

I am, therefore, delving into crime/mystery fiction. One of my writing friends put me onto Dorothy L Sayers. My only previous brush with this author was the TV series with Ian Carmichael in the title role, now only very hazily remembered. I was surprised to find, then, that the edition of 'Have His Carcase' I found in the library got me hooked. For sure, the language and dialogue are very dated, but for anyone interested in pace and plotting, this story fairly rattles along.

There's no doubt that crime/fiction has changed its focus since Sayers' time away from intricate story-lines. These days there is more emphasis on character building and the psychological layering of those involved. I can't imagine a modern writer attempting as complex a plot as 'Have His Carcase' which involves letters in code, people in disguises and numerous false alibis. Still I think there is something to be garnered from the skill with which Sayers sets her riddles and unravels them. And even she has started down the path of the 'flawed hero' which is so beloved of present day crime fiction. Lord Peter Wimsey is far from the perfect leading man I recall from the small screen.

In some ways, because of the lack of intense emotion expressed in the pages of her novel, she does capture something I heard a forensic pathologist comment on in an interview I saw recently. He said that, in general, crime fiction fails to portray the casualness and the indifference of the perpetrators of the violence he encounters in his job every day. Sadly, that perhaps hasn't changed in the last eighty years.