Last weekend Northumbria University hosted Crime Story, a conference which looked at the facts behind the crime fiction that we write and read. I provided a short scenario using the brief provided to me by New Writing North, the organisation that brought everyone together. Ben, a young man who works in a bike shop, was found dead by his foster mother. She discovered him in his room in a shared house, sitting in front of his computer and he'd been murdered.
I'd chosen my victim carefully. Despite an increase in fiction that describes the torture and mutilation of young women in graphic detail, most victims of murder are young men. And many have been through the care system. The conference in Northumbria took us through the judicial system from crime to punishment. We heard from forensic scientists, an 'ethical hacker' who would have looked at Ben's computer, barristers, a judge, criminologists, an ex-prisoner turned journalist and a prison governor. There were workshops around criminal psychiatry, script-writing and novelists talked about how they wrote.
It seemed to me that most of the people attending were aspiring writers rather than readers and the feedback I received was that the day had been incredibly useful. I could only attend on the Sunday but I was deeply impressed by the intense concentration of the participants and by the generosity of all the speakers in sharing their insights and expertise. I hope this becomes a regular fixture in the New Writing North programme.