I am writing, though not as much as I should. There's a plot of sorts, a narrator who's also the protagonist, and a form. Here's a taste, though if I ever finish it, the parts probably won't be in this order.

There is a famous article by George Orwell called Decline of the English Murder.

It's about the peculiarly English fascination with murder in fact and fiction, and how it has, in his view, degenerated from an interest in elegant puzzles of detection, to a morbid obsession with tacky meaningless killing.

I think he's wrong.

Carol. My sister, two years older. When I was fifteen, I found a school essay she'd written when she was nine. It was about how she'd broken a window and blamed it on her younger brother, but when she saw how he'd be punished, she owned up, and her mother had forgiven her because she'd been honest.

Of course it never happened. She'd been set the homework to write a story about why it's always best to tell the truth, and the teacher had given her the story in case she couldn't think of a real incident to demonstrate.

The same teacher gave me the same story two years later, and I wrote the same essay with the roles reversed.

Agatha Christie broke a lot of rules. In Murder on the Orient Express it's all the suspects who are guilty. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd the narrator is the killer. In The Mousetrap one of the suspects is really the detective undercover, and the detective is really the killer in disguise.

In Poirot's final case, Curtain, there are two killers. One is a man so supernaturally skilled in psychological manipulation he guides others into committing murders they would never otherwise have considered, but the manipulator's only motive is pleasure in the manipulation.

The de facto detective is Poirot's sidekick Hastings, after Poirot's death. Hastings deduces that the manipulator must have been killed by Poirot himself - because there way no legal way to stop him. Poirot, having effectively become the enemy he spent his life tracking down, sees no other honourable way out.

Christie broke a lot of rules, but only ones that weren't needed for logic and plausibility. There were no long lost identical twins, no locked rooms with impossibly intricate deadly mechanisms hidden in the grandfather clock, no murders with zero motive except the killer being a deranged foaming psychopath who'd somehow managed to pass as normal for forty years.

Jenny. I don't remember what she looked like. She sat on the other side of class and we probably never spoke.

Girls and boys didn't mix much - girls played their games of skipping and hopscotch, and boys shot each other with pretend guns, or kicked around and improvised football.

It was sometime in November, she started telling the other girls about her father. About how he took her on little weekend holidays to Blackpool or Brighton, about the enormous ice cream cone he'd bought her with five scoops, each a different flavour. Then about how he touched her at night.

Word got around, and soon she was telling the headmaster, then the police. Suddenly all the teachers were telling us we could confide in them if any grownups touched us in a "wrong way".

Some of the playground games changed. "Perv" was basically tag, but we passed on the tag with a slightly different touch. I remember playing a varient on kisschase called lickchase - just one time, before a teacher broke it up and smacked some of us around, shouting. And at the center of it all, Jenny, who was more upset by the attention than anything else.

Then suddenly it all stopped. She didn't have a father - he'd died when she was two. She'd invented an imaginary father-friend, and mixed him with a documentary she'd seen on TV.

Was Jenny her name? It might have been Gemma.

All narrators are unreliable, even when the author doesn't intend them that way, because all authors are unreliable.

Detectives don't have romance. Occasionally they have sex, and they're even sometimes married, but if it's a good marriage the wife is invisible, and it's usually not a good marriage.

Poirot was a confirmed batchelor. Which is to say, a gay stereotype. An epicure as opposed to a hedonist, a vain man as opposed to a handsome man, a solitary man as opposed to a lonely man, a solver of puzzles as opposed to to a resolver of problems.

Miss Marple is a lesbian stereotype, though a benign one - elderly and never married, wise and cynical, rather private and a little bit prissy.

Holmes was more-or-less asexual, and impatient with Watson's habit of adding romantic interest to cases. There was of course one woman, Irene Adler, who he felt a kind of affection for - but that was strictly in terms of admiration. At least, that's how he permitted himself to express it to watson.

Jason King was metrosexual three decades before the term was coined - by a gay man. Patrick Steed is similar. For that matter, Lord Peter Wimsey is a dandy - though not a fopp. The main difference between the dandy and the chorusboy was social class, not intellect or behavior.

King, Steed and Wimsey were all nominally straight, and all three had female sidekicks who were hopelessly in love with them. But even if you can find subtextual hints that they reciprocated the emotion, you can't deny the obvious fact that you had to delve and search hard in the subtext to find those hints.

These men were happy for women to love them, but they didn't feel the need or indeed the capacity to love them back. The women knew that, and seemingly accepted it without bitterness. Which means Emma Peel...was a fag hag.

Thomas and Timothy. The twins. when I was five, at school there were twin boys in my class. They always sat opposite each other, always dressed alike and had the same haircuts. They had name tags - Tom and Tim - pinned to their shirts, but they were always swapping them over, so sometimes only they knew who was who.

It took me a long time to realise, but it wasn't their choice, and they hated it. Their parents - especially the mother, I think - made them wear identical clothes. We all expected them to go everywhere together, do everything together, do it in the same way, so they did.

We shared our sweets with them when they made us laugh by completing each others sentences, or eating their packed lunches in unison. And we stopped when they were different.

One thing tipped me off. They were far too young to shave, but one night one of them had tried, and cut his cheek. I think it was Thomas. The next morning he came in with a plaster placed neatly over the cut.

The other twin had an identical plaster, over the same spot. But at some point during the day, he ripped it off.

We made the other one take off his plaster too. The next day both were back.

I should have realised earlier. They never liked it when we called them Tom and Tim - they prefered Thomas and Timothy. It was more different.

If you could kill one person, and be sure of getting away with it, who would you kill?

A politician? A historical figure? A parent?

The one who bullied you at school, the one who mugged you, the one who made you feel like a fool in front of your friends?

the one who broke your heart, the one who stole away the one you loved, the one who never returned your glances?

My Mother. She had me when she was twenty, and I don't think I got to know her till I was that old myself.

It was only then she felt able to tell me I'd been a mistake, and after I'd been born the doctors hadn't expected me to live. When she told me, I wondered whether I should respond with a secret of my own, but decided that wasn't what she wanted.

I don't think she wanted anything from me - certainly not forgiveness or understanding. She just wanted me to know.

Presumably the father was the man I'd grown up calling Father, and that was why she married him. Maybe that's what she was trying to tell me.

she took up music after I left home - piano, a little guitar, even some saxophone. I saw her play in a smooth jazz band booked for someone's birthday party - it was pretty good, though I think I was the only one listening.

It was like she'd been waiting for her children to go before getting on with her life.

Who would you kill? Who's worth it, even if you get caught?


  1. Who would you kill? Who's worth it, even if you get caught?

    I once killed a chicken back on the farm...he was delicious, deep fried and with a side of potatoes and corn!

    Emma Peel is a goddess!

    Looking forward to seeing what the final product is going to look like.

  2. Detectives don't have romance.

    Interesting observation and one that I'd pondered before.

    I'd always assumed it was so as not to detract from the business at hand of solving crimes.

    And of benefit to those viewers who might "have a thing" for the detective.

  3. Emma Peel is a goddess!

    Nope, for me it's Purdey - but odd how they're both from the same show. And then there's Felicity Kendal! :)

    I wonder, will the novel be finished?