This year's Crime Fiction Weekend may be online, but that's no reason to miss out on a taste of the full Oxford experience. Our guest blogger - bestselling author and Oxford resident Cara Hunter - uncovers what this criminally good event is all about and provides a few handy tip-offs for fans of crime fiction.
Oxford must have had more murders per square foot than pretty much anywhere else in the country. I’m talking fictional murders, of course: between them Morse, Lewis and Endeavour have made this city the killing capital of the UK. You can’t take a turning without being reminded that this is where some ambitious don met their maker, or pass a pub without a sign telling you ‘Morse drank here’. And that doesn’t include all the other authors who’ve set at least one whodunnit in this town. It adds a pleasantly chilling frisson to the many joys of living in this place, but it also makes for one hell of a challenge if you’re a crime writer, trying to find any corner (literally) to call your own. So how do you do it? I found one answer and other contemporary writers have developed their own. You can uncover all this – and, yes, more Morse – at St Hilda's Crime Fiction Weekend, which is online 13-15 August 2021, and comes with its own murder mystery to be solved by one lucky winner...
DAILY INFO: What's your favourite place in Oxford for ideas and inspiration?
CH: I don't tend to set my books in the centre of town - I'm more interested in the interlocking communities that ring the 'gown' part of the city, so for me, I get ideas from driving round the outer edges of town, just looking at the differences between places that are actually quite close together geographically. Though there is one place in the centre of town that inspired a scene (and theme) in Close to Home, and that's the Pitt Rivers Museum. My favourite museum in Oxford, and absolutely fascinating (and more than a bit scary, too).
DAILY INFO: What's your favourite Oxford bookshop for crime fiction?
CH: We're so lucky to have such fabulous bookshops in Oxford, including the lovely new Daunt Books in Summertown. But if you force me to choose it would have to be the main Blackwell's on Broad Street - they always have great Oxford-related displays and are really good for crime as well.
DAILY INFO: What advice would you give aspiring crime writers?
CH: Never give up! I had a whole career before I started writing crime, so it's never too late to try something new, or strive for that dream. In terms of pure practicalities, writing is just like everything else: the more you practise the better you get. So don't get hung up on needing to find that one wonderful idea - just get writing. Short stories are a great way to learn your craft, and are actually very demanding as a form, especially if you're writing crime. It takes a lot of skill to develop a satisfying narrative in a relatively short space. And keep a notebook - get in the habit of jotting things down - a place that intrigued you, a story in the news, someone you see on the street. You never know where that idea might eventually spring from....
About this event:
St Hilda's Crime Fiction Weekend celebrates Oxford in all its marvellous, murky colours, as a spired city of lofty ideals and grave motives, High Tables and low intentions ... For the second year running, the weekend will be online, offering crime fiction fans the world over the unique experience of hearing their favourite authors discuss the books that inspire and intrigue them. Val McDermid, Mick Herron, Jane Casey, Lucy Atkins, Guillermo Martinez and Cara Hunter are among the line-up. There's even a special guest appearance by Anton Lesser who will be assisting with the solving of a whodunit penned by Andrew Taylor. A beautiful first edition prize from Blackwell's Rare Books goes to whoever cracks The Case of the Cambridge Corpse.
About Cara Hunter
Cara Hunter is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling crime novels Close to Home, In the Dark, No Way Out and All the Rage, all featuring DI Adam Fawley and his Oxford-based police team. Close to Home was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and was shortlisted for Crime Book of the Year in the British Book Awards 2019. No Way Out was selected by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 best crime novels since 1945. Cara's novels have sold more than a million copies worldwide, and the TV rights to the series have now been acquired by the Fremantle group. She lives in Oxford, on a street not unlike those featured in her books.
Images: Liv Cashman and Maxim Hopman via Unsplash, Oxonist under Creative Commons