Detecting

The reason I want to write a detective novel:

They are about finding things out. I try to avoid using words like epistemological on this blog, as I’m fairly unsure of the spelling and I wonder sometimes if words like that don’t mean exactly what I think they mean. You wouldn’t want to look like a wally, would you?

There are always a couple of stories. The event, which is the murder or the stealing or whathaveyou. Which is often not really there – sort of between the lines. And then the actual story, which is the uncovering.

Like unreliable narrators have two stories – what they think they mean, and what you think they mean. And the magic of how the other story gets in there, when you haven’t used words to write it at all.

Ping!

And the way you can monkey about with the detective form. The not-finding out. The impossibility of finding things out. Of knowing things.

I think that’s a regular theme with me. The Annie book is really about the impossibility of knowing someone else, because we only have words to touch each other with, and they’re not very good for that. And Cold Light is, I realise now I’m reading through my almost final draft and cursing the typos and the awkward sentences and the non-nonsensical things I’ve made my characters say now and again, sort of about the same thing – I’ve been reading Elizabeth Loftus and there’s something coming out in this book that I already knew. Our memories aren’t the way that books with flashbacks in pretend they are at all. And still I like to write books with flashbacks in.

I don’t think it is possible to find things out. To know things. Not by interrogating other people, or ourselves, or the past. The evidence is unreliable.

So why not write a detective novel? 

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