The second day of the St Helens Detective Club meeting day started off very early, with a radio interview at Radio Merseyside’s Tony Snell in the Morning. If you were up and about at 7:30 in the morning you might have caught our chat about the club’s plans to put a body in the library. Hope the listeners were intrigued, and they come along later when we present our mystery to the public. Photo to prove it happened!
Later in the afternoon our members welcomed a few new recruits and we started getting down to the business of detection. Our focus was the scene of the crime.
We know the body will be found in the library, but where specifically? Armed with a floor plan the group spread out to explore the nooks and crannies of the library and the particulars of the building. We wanted to get to know the space, to convey the attributes of a location and start crafting a mood and atmosphere to the environment. Many Golden Age (GA) novels often had maps and diagrams to help the reader solve the crime, all in the name of ‘fair play’.
Here is an example from Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, where we are introduced to the Belgian Hercule Poirot. It can be seen as a gimmick, but where’s it’s crucial to the plot point, it’s nice to have a visual interpretation to look at the mystery from different angles.
Some thoughts to consider when ‘scouting a location’ are –
- Where do the people congregate?
- How do they move about?
- What kind of security systems are in place?
- Are there blind spots?
- What access levels are there?
- What would it be like when it’s closed?
- Are there any secret hiding places or chambers?
We thought about these questions, but also largely of St Helens, the community as a location. As we are using the format of a detective novel to explore life in St Helens and the people who live and work in it, we started thinking about the history of St Helens, the make up of the community and started imagining the back stories of library users.
This brought up some very interesting discussions. The Detective Club is a good mixture of long time St Heleners and recent arrivals. The born and bred can show us the area the way only locals can, and the new comers can give a fresh insight into differences that the natives might take from granted. Some observations that were made, and we hope to use in the stories are
- The three main industries that made St Helens a leader world wide (Pharmaceuticals, Glass, Mining) are now all gone.
- There are many different accents in the area.
- 93% of the population say they are Christians.
- Ethnically very homogeneous (white).
- Rugby is a big deal.
There were some other idiomatic sayings that were mentioned, rivalry with neighbouring areas (Newton – we’re looking at you!) and local scandals from years back.
All this will feed into our detective and side-kick, who are now starting to take shape. I’d like to keep that one under wraps for the moment. You’ll just have to wait till our big event in September, or if you want to take part – come along to the third meeting on the 16th, where will discuss Motives and Methods.