Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Setting a crime novel in a school

by Rick Blechta

You know there's a lot of synchronicity among the posting crew here on Type M. Many times in the past, I've sat down to write my weekly offering only to find that someone in the past week (or coming week since I have access to all the posts) is planning to write on exactly or at least nearly the same topic as I.

Now if this is something that's “trending” as we now tend to say for current news topics, it's understandable that someone else might wish to write on said topic. But when it's something out of the mainstream or even on something rather arcane, then it gets a little creepy.

Such is the case with my post today. I had planned on writing about mysteries set in a school, because that topic came up at a panel I moderated two weekends ago in Brantford, Ontario.

Lo and behold, John wrote about it last week, then Aline wrote about nearly the same thing in her post yesterday! Sort of creepy isn't it? As a matter of fact, I just had a security expert in to sweep my office and computer for hidden listening devices and cameras.

Anyway, on the panel, the topic of setting a crime fiction novel in a school came up. One panelist (a former school teacher) was totally against doing something like this, even though she put forward a terrific plot idea for the murder which would drive the story. To her it somehow seemed wrong, I guess because this sort of thing would take place on what was to her sacred ground.

Another panelist (a retired teacher and school principal) stated that she would have no problems doing something like that.

For my part, I told the story of how in my earliest novels (when I was still teaching), I would often imagine some particularly troublesome student projected, say, thirty years into the future and then use the resulting character as the victim in a particularly gruesome death.

I found it very therapeutic. As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Lark Ascending, was reviewed on CBC in part as having “a body count of positively Shakespearean proportions”. For the record, the novel was written during a year in which I had a large number of particularly odious students.

Coincidence? I think not!

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