May 4 2012 By Louise Jordan
I have made a surprising discovery about my mother-in-law, and that is that she has an appetite for murder!
I don’t mean that I have discovered anything untoward under the patio, although I have to confess I enjoyed writing that first sentence very much. More on that later. What I have actually discovered is that my MIL is a big fan of the murder-mystery genre. I found this out while plundering her bookshelves for reading matter. I’m a voracious reader, to an extent that makes me quite antisocial. I can easily get through a book in a day if it’s a real page-turner.
So, what a delight to discover Mary Higgins Clark and her beautifully-drawn plots and characters. Yes, I know, I’m decades behind everyone else, as she’s already written more than 30 books and as far as I know is still going strong, but crime fiction isn’t really something I’ve been particularly interested in before (apart from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, of course, which was inescapable at the time, and which I devoured in three large chomps).
There’s something about Mary’s characters that is so dignified and well-rounded, at odds with the appearance of the books themselves - her name in gold capitals on the black front cover, the cover art featuring black crows or shadowy figures like any other cheap thriller.
I sped through the five available to me at home and then, keen to search for more, headed off to West Drayton library to sign up. It’s only a small library, but my card entitles me to read every book in Hillingdon, so I shall be touring the borough seeking out Mary Higgins Clark until I have read the entire oeuvre.
The change of reading matter has inspired me to try my hand at writing a book again. I tried to write a novel ten years ago, got 20,000 words into it, and decided it was rubbish. Funnily enough, the manuscript was uncovered in the move, and I read it again recently. I was surprised to discover it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought (although there were lots of amusing references to “the world-wide web” which dates it terribly, and which I’d have to take out if I ever decided to carry on with it).
However, my recent foray into the ‘black-covers’ section has given me a hankering to have a go at a murder mystery myself, and I’ve been encouraged to get on and do it by noticing a competition currently running in Stylist magazine, which is looking for a crime story featuring a female protagonist.
The prize is a Faber and Faber book deal and an advance of £5,000. The second prize looks rather tempting too, a place on a three-month writing course – can you imagine how much better my blog posts would be after that?
So, I’m off to kill someone (gruesomely) and then conceal it (cunningly), I’ll let you know how I get on. Come to think of it, I know exactly who to use as my test-reader, someone not a million miles from here who likes a bit of death and detective-work in her evening entertainment….
Louise Jordan is a journalist currently not quite 'sofa-surfing' at her mother in law's in West Drayton while between jobs.