Pity the poor crime writers. Our earnings, like those of all authors, are diminishing for reasons far beyond our control. Our fictional criminals and detectives are being outsmarted by genetic fingerprinting, omnipresent security cameras and telltale mobile phones. Who needs Sherlock Holmes to solve a tricky crime when you have computers, with their unsporting ability to transmit and analyse enormous quantities of data and identify culprits? But the bigger problem for us novelists (if not for everyone else) is that murder itself is dying.
My first courtroom murder case could have come straight from one of Andrew Taylor’s novels. A gruesome crime — the death of a child. And the murderer was brought to justice by exquisite detective work: police established that the killer had dug a grave but then abandoned it. They also found a witness. That was 20 years ago. The prosecution for cases that I’m involved in now have changed beyond recognition.
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[/audioplayer]At 19, I dropped out of university to pursue a career as a rave promoter. I went into business with a schoolfriend. We rose through the ranks of party promotion, founded a record label, and started an annual dance music festival.
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[/audioplayer]Here’s another stock joke for your collection: Pembroke College, Cambridge, has cancelled a fancy dress party themed on Around the World in Eighty Days to ‘avoid the potential for offence’. One college has objected to the serving of sushi as ‘cultural appropriation’; another cancelled yoga lessons for the same reason.
Amber Rudd isn’t a flashy politician; her office at the Department for Energy and Climate Change has almost no personal touches. She has a poster on the wall for the new Edinburgh tram (she was a student there). Her one concession to vanity is a framed ‘Minister of the Year’ award from this magazine: awarded for uprooting the legacy of the Liberal Democrat energy policy and being (in the words of the commendation) the ‘slayer of windmills’.
Shops in a rundown neighbourhood sell fake life jackets to refugees planning to brave the Aegean Sea. Last year, nearly 4,000 refugees died trying to make this journey. ‘But what am I to do?’ says Erkan, a shopkeeper, as he pushes me out of his shop. ‘I tell them they are fake but the poor souls continue to buy them. The genuine ones don’t sell so well.’
We’re in the suburb of Aksaray, the makeshift centre of the smuggling trade in the city.
One of the most appealing arguments for Brexit is that it will make British citizens freer than they are now. The greatness of Great Britain lies, after all, in its long history of relative freedom. But now, so the proponents of Brexit like to claim, Britain is shackled by the tyranny of the EU, as though ‘Brussels’ were some alien dictatorship in which Britain plays no part.
Columnists huff that Britain is now just a colony of this ‘foreign superpower’.
Some rogue has been writing in my bedside book. A fastidious hand has crossed out misspelled words and written neat pencil corrections in the margin. ‘Dennis’ has become ‘Denis’, quotations have been reattributed and dates amended. More than one book scribbler has been at it. At times, the pedantic pencil becomes a biro, thrilled to have spotted mistakes the first reader missed. The book is The Golden Echo, memoirs of the Bloomsbury novelist David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, a scattershot speller and fact-checker.