Crime Writing

Crime Writing – Minette Walters & Mark Billingham

Minette Walters, Peter Guttridge & Mark Billingham

Minette Walters, Peter Guttridge & Mark Billingham
Minette Walters and Mark Billlingham are two of the top names in the crime-writing world: Minette Walters’ first three novels scooped a hat trick of prizes and she recently received her second Gold Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association for Fox Evil, while Mark Billingham has also picked up a handful of awards for his series of novels featuring London-based DI Tom Thorne. Minette and Mark’s Masterclass was chaired by another expert in the field, author and Observer crime fiction critic, Peter Guttridge, and was enthusiastically received by a large, varied audience of both aspiring and more experienced writers.

Prior to the start of the Masterclass the tutors had provided some atmospheric ‘first lines’, which the audience were invited to build upon. The results of this creative exercise showed a ferment of imagination and talent in the auditorium, with the tutors evidently highly impressed by the level of participation. In return, Minette and Mark gave individual feedback, which was always constructive, inclusive and addressed to the whole audience.

The tutors also provided advice on sources (internet chat rooms and discussion groups are particularly useful apparently), checking police procedure (Mark memorably advising that they could do worse than to “just watch The Bill!”) and the special nature of good crime fiction. Both writers agreed that strong characters were utterly crucial, even proposing that, once firmly established, the characters “write the book for you”. Echoing the previous day’s comments from Anthony Minghella on writing for the cinema, Mark said that, when writing, he can “see the book as a film in my head” – and it was merely a case of setting down what you were ‘watching’ – simple!

In common with all the other successful writers who had given up their time for these Masterclasses, Minette recommended that aspiring writers seek advice and contacts from all quarters, and to recognize and act upon any lucky breaks that come their way, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time. It was a suitably affirming and inspiring end to a weekend dedicated to creative writing across three genres.

English PEN would like to heartily thank Minette Walters, Mark Billingham and Peter Guttridge for donating their time and expertise to the class, as well as Anthony Minghella, Julian Fellowes and Jonathan Myerson, and Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran for their Masterclasses.

Report by Tanya Andrews

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