Friday, October 05, 2007

Crime Does Pay!

Another panel discussion I enjoyed very much at the recent Ubud Writers' and Readers' Festival was the one on crime fiction which featured Marele Day, Kathy Reichs, and Nury Vittachi.

Marele Day, the author of four award-winning crime novels featuring the first Australian PI, Claudia Valentine, says we enjoy reading crime fiction because it enables us to travel to places we wouldn't normally venture into and we feel comforted while we read about danger.

With crime, she says, there's also the pleasure of the narrative. It has a well constructed plot, the stakes are high for the characters and we have characters we care about. The author plays with what we expect, and we like to be teased. She actually reckons it wouldn't be at all a bad thing for all writers to try a crime novel to hone their skills!

It was the she says that the story telling aspect, she says, that drew her to crime fiction in the first place, and she decided to set the novels in the part of Sydney where she lived and to write in the noire style she liked in the work of other crime writers.

Nury Vittachi reckons that science has tried to murder the detective novel and the fun part of solving crime has disappeared into the laboratory. (Which is true really, if you think about it!) So he is making a conscious attempt to put back the fun element in his crime novels. The protagonist of his five novels is feng-shui master C.F. Wong.

When crimes are committed in Hong Kong, the feng shui master is sent for to find out why the balance of harmony is out of kilter. What would happen, Nury found himself wondering, if the feng-shui master was faster than the detective?

Most crime fiction has a western setting, he says, and he wanted to spread the message about a new world by setting his fiction in Asia. One of the underlying themes of the books is the problems that east and west have in communicating with each other, and he plays on the use of English to illustrate this. But, the message is, if they do learn to understand each other, they can solve the world's problems.

Kathy Reichs is a professor of forensic anthropology, and took to writing crime fiction to earn a little side money! She draws on real life cases for her material, and the main character of her novels is Temperance Brennan who is like Reichs herself, a forensic anthropologist. (Temperance works in the lab at night and writes about a character called Kathy Reichs in the daytime!).

Reichs is also an adviser for the Fox TV series, Bones, and says she helps them to keep the science honest. (She has a friend who is adviser for Silent Witness, my favourite TV programme.)

(Nury has a great blog post on having lunch with Kathy Reichs.)

I'm actually wondering why I am so sniffy about crime fiction on the page, but love it on the telly. After this session, that might be set to change!


Nury said...

This is such a great website -- it actually makes you feel you have been at sessions you have missed. I didn't see the one with Madeleine Thien and Tan Twan Eng so I really appreciated the write-up about it. It provides a real service to booklovers.

Some time after midnight last Sunday Sharon and I talked about setting up some sort of "umbrella" website which pulls together all the book-related websites and blogs of Asia. But having re-explored the links on bibliobibuli, I think the idea is redundant. This website has all the best links already in place.

The only thing that worries me is this: while Sharon is working hard at her one-girl mission to keep the rest of us informed about what's happening in the book business, who is feeding her husband, watering her plants, earning her salary, looking after her pets etc etc?!

kam raslan said...

Sharon is a remarkable woman and if her talents could be harnessed exclusively for the service of books then who knows what she could achieve. Unfortunately she also wants to save Malaysian education for future generations. It's a great loss.

I was also at Ubud and it was great fun. The panel with Nury on satire was a highlight, as was meeting the Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan. Although I was too shy to approach Kiran Desai I did inadvertently help her get transport on the last night. I haven't read her book but I can safely say that she's a fine looking lady.

I saw Sharon attending most of the talks and then go straight to the internet cafe to work on this blog. The woman's obsessed.

bibliobibuli said...

such nice things you say, dunno if i deserve ... i write this blog as much for myself as for anyone else. still got lots more entries to blog inc. the one on satire, and lots more pictures(inc of kam!)

the umbrella site i think would be very nice, nury - blogs from all over the region on one page and then how could the west dare ignore us??

kam - as for saving malaysian education haha! well i will have to see what compromises can be made here and there so i can do some stuff that brings in money (which teacher-training does, as well as being v. rewarding) and the bookish things (which is where my heart is).

and i didn't blog much at ubud though checked in most days to see if my readers were behaving themselves, and indeed if they still remembered me!

bibliobibuli said...

ps. nury it wasn't after midnight. i think it was 10.30 when the party ended and ubud sleeps so early! i was in the mood to talk all night but where was everywhere else????

Anonymous said...

Crime has ALWAYS paid. It's just that you risk getting caught. It's honesty that never pays :P