Saturday Sixers: On being 60
The Crime Writer’s Association is 60 this year and so am I. I passed that dubious landmark just a few weeks ago. There, that is my confession, out in the open.
And while I am getting things off my chest, perhaps I should admit too that I was terrified by crime stories when I was a growing lad. My introduction to the likes of Agatha Christie came via black and white film rather than the printed page. Murder at the Gallop and Murder She Said are two I remember. They both starred the great Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple and they both caused me to have nightmares. I meant that literally – waking at 3.00 a.m. at boarding school and not, of course, being able to tell anyone in case they thought I was a wimp.
I am no different from millions (and I mean millions quite literally) of people in that it was Agatha Christie who first inveigled me into the written world of crime fiction, and once I was there I found it impossible to escape. It was the ingenuity of Agatha Christie’s plots that were so addictive. She dazzles the reader with her technical brilliance, she keeps the killer in full view and yet at the end I was always surprised (and delighted) by her coup de theatre.
I did not start writing crime fiction until a few years ago. Following the old adage of ‘write about what you know’, I set my crime in the side streets of Oxford because I had lived there for some 25 years. I’ve peopled my Blood on Oxford series ( Blood on the Marsh (Blood in Oxford)) with characters with mental health problems, Oxford United obsessions (these are not the same thing!) and the gamut of vices and secrets that are typically found in the pages of any crime novel. I try to be authentic in my urban geography and yet I do occasionally invent or move buildings to suit the purposes of my plots. I generally ignore the university, which occasionally surprises readers who somehow think Oxford doesn’t exist outside the hallowed stone walls of libraries and colleges. But ultimately that’s my choice: to create my own world and my own characters and my own unpleasantnesses, but within an authentic setting. My characters are, of course, figments of my imagination (to protect myself again charges of libel I have to say that, don’t I?). Only the dogs are real!
For more information on Peter Tickler visit his website