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Celebrated UK Crime Writers Discuss ‘Whodunnit’ Plot Construction at SIBF 2017



By Solomon Nda-Isaiah

…Bestselling authors Mark Billingham, B.A. Paris and Mark Ellis participate in panel discussion to speak about their craft

How to plot a story and create characters for an effective ‘whodunnit’ crime novel were two of the topics under discussion at Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Wednesday evening, when three celebrated crime fiction writers from the UK participated in a panel discussion.

Taking part in the audience conversation to share the secrets of their craft were Mark Billingham, B.A. Paris and Mark Ellis. The trio of bestselling authors was attending the fair as part of its hosting of the UK as its ‘Guest of Honour’ a programme.

Speaking on the subject of research for his novels, actor, screen play writer, stand-up comedian and novelist Mark Billingham, who achieved literary fame with his first novel Sleepyhead, revealed that in-depth research has become less important to him the more he writes.

“I started to read an awful lot of books where it became very clear to me that the person who had done all this research was then going to make sure the reader knew about it. That can be the danger of research – you’re attempted to crowbar every single thing you’ve discovered into it at the expense of the story. If it doesn’t serve the story, it doesn’t need to be there,” he said.

Revealing the storyline of her latest novel, The Breakdown, B.A. Paris, the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, said that she enjoyed getting into the mind of a man who was trying to make his wife think she was suffering from dementia.

“My book is about a term called ‘gaslighting’ which I hadn’t heard of before – I’ve only recently discovered this term – which is making someone think they’re going mad. I really enjoyed putting myself in the husband’s place and trying to think of ways in which he could trick her into thinking she was going mad, when in fact she was not,” she said

Talking about the forensic world of his character DCI Frank Merlin, an Anglo-Spanish police detective in World War 2, former barrister and thriller writer Marc Ellis revealed that the science at the time was more advanced than many people give credit for. He cited a true-life case of a man who killed his wife and hid her body in a bombed out church, believing that the authorities would think she had met her fate in the bombing.

“Harry Dobkin strangled his wife and put her in the crypt of a destroyed church. The body wasn’t discovered for over a year and it was slightly mummified by the way it had lain, so the doctor was able to analyse the body. Initially it was thought the victim had died of suffocation from being caught in the bombing. However, the doctor was able to determine that she had been strangled and Harry Dobkin went to the gallows,” he said.

The panellists were just three of the 393 guests from 48 countries taking part in SIBF 2017. Themed ‘A World in my Book,’ the 36th edition of the fair is seeing the participation of 1,650 publishing houses from 60 countries. More than 1.5 million titles are on display throughout the 11-day celebration of literature, knowledge and culture, which concludes Saturday.






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