Monday, April 30, 2018

Conference Time

I'm just back from the Crime Writers Association annual conference, when we get together purely as a group of writers with no readers around. We relax and socialise, but we also have speakers who give us insights into the workings of the world of crime that would be hard, or even impossible, to access on our own.

As usual, they were varied, informative and even entertaining. DCI Paul Burrows, a Scene of Crime Officer, took us through his investigation into The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, bringing it of course to a triumphant conclusion.

We were also fascinated by retired DCI Jackie Bailey who was Linda la Plante's inspiration for the character of Jane Tennison in the hugely successful Prime Suspect series. She acted as consultant to that and talked as well about the brutal misogyny she'd encountered as the first woman to join the London Met's Flying Squad. It was hard to believe that it all happened comparatively recently, when you think that the head of the Met is now a woman.

I was interested, too, when she was talking about the relationship between the police and the legal profession, since my son is a criminal defence lawyer. There was a case where the defendant had been accused of carrying a weapon, but the jury found him not guilty, after being convinced that the police had planted it on him.

After the verdict, Jackie saw the top QC who had been running the defence and told him she wanted him to know that the weapon genuinely hadn't been planted. He only smiled gently and said, 'My dear, I don't defend innocent men.' When I told my son he looked a bit sheepish then said, 'Yup, that's the job.' How the law operates in a free society!

The lecture I found most revealing was the one delivered by a psychiatrist. When she was talking about schizophrenia, she got us all to form groups of three, one to be the interviewer, one to be the interviewee and the other to be the demoralizing voice in the interviewee's ear.

The woman who played the demon voice was brilliant, starting with comments like, 'Why did you apply for this job? You know you won't be able to do it,' then moving on to, 'What made you wear those shoes? Did you even brush your hair before you came?' When she said, 'You're looking at her squinty-eyed now,' we all burst out laughing and the interview collapsed in disorder.

But it had become evident already that the interviewee was quite unable to answer the questions properly, having to ask for them to be repeated, starting an answer then losing the thread, just blanking out completely. It was a startling demonstration of what it feels like to suffer from alien voices speaking inside your brain.

As usual we all went away with ideas churning in our heads for the next book. And a few new friends as well.


Anne Canadeo said...

Thanks for the interesting report of those conference highlights, Aline. I now regret missing the gathering this year, but hope to attend next time. I can see that, in addition to meeting fellow mystery writers, I'll be gathering a lot of great information and inspiration.

Aline Templeton said...

Do come, Anne! Looks like Lake Windermere next time, so you could be inspire by the scenery as well as the talks.