Where to set your crime novel…

Posted: December 21, 2011 in Posts on books and writing
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I attended an excellent crime novel writing event at the Portsmouth Festival (end Nov). Pauline Rowson gave a first class presentation on her approach to writing her detective Inspector Andy Horton novels. She sets her stories in the south coast of England – Portsmouth/Solent/Isle of Wight locations – that she knows intimately and the sense of place shines through as her detective protagonist pursues villains and solves crimes across real locations.

I like this idea of using settings that are well known to the writer and will strike chords with readers who are also familiar with the locations. Even if they don’t personally know the area, the detailed ‘feel’ of the writer for the places will bring them to life in a vivid manner.

In my own novel TOO SMART TO DIE, DCI Matt Proctor operates in Birmingham and the Black Country and I’ve been most encouraged by the feedback I’ve had from readers who say ‘I’ve been there, walked that street, know well the building where the murder happened’. This kind of connection holds a great appeal to regional readers (90% of the UK populations live outside the Met area!) and can imbue a story with a special feeling for them. (Crime writers like Nick Oldham and Ian Rankin, for example bring us graphic pictures of Lancashire and Edinburgh respectively.) However – the characters, the storytelling, pace and plot must be the primary concerns of the writer; the setting should be shown in snatches, be relevant and integrated and always carry the story forward, help drive the action.

A novel is not a travel guide.

Pauline Rowson’s website is http://www.rowmark.co.uk

Click to view or sample TOO SMART TO DIE  on amazon.

  1. Thank you for the article and I am glad you enjoyed the crime writing talk I gave at CSI Portsmouth in November. It was nice to meet you. Good luck with your writing and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

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