I am absolutely THRILLED to be hosting todays stop on the CWA ANTHOLOGY blog tour with an interesting and somewhat awesome guest author post from Sarah Rayne! Woohoo! First though, let’s find out a bit more about this book! My thanks, as always to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for including me!
About The Book
Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick
TRAVELLING THROUGH FICTION… It’s not what it used to be
By Sarah Rayne
There was a time when a degree of glamour attached itself to a journey – when journeys themselves could provide a writer with a good setting. In those days, you could place your characters on a train or a ship and cast them into all manner of perilous, murderous, or even merely romantic situations. You could bump people off, cause annoying bit-part players to vanish, and you could develop relationships over a civilized meal in the restaurant car or at the captain’s table, (assuming you had remembered to allot to the pair the income needed to travel First Class). You could even allow a casual encounter to become an actual liaison – providing that if the characters were destined to enjoy the railway’s equivalent of the Mile High Club, you were careful to avoid such busy intersections as Crewe and most of the main London termini.
But although travel is nowadays fast, clean, and efficient, (we could possibly exclude the train networks on that last one), something’s been lost for authors. Because if there had been a high-speed, open-carriage service, would Agatha Christie’s redoubtable Miss Marple have become imbroiled in the murder on the 4.50 from Paddington? And would the English lady have vanished so completely and so intriguingly in Ethel Lina White’s classic, The Wheel Spins, filmed as The Lady Vanishes?
Would the ill-starred Anna Karenina have had quite such a complex relationship with Vronsky if they had not been shut into a railway carriage for several chapters?
It’s difficult, as well, to picture the lovers in Brief Encounter bravely playing out their grand renunciation scene without the swirling smoke of steam engines shrouding them, the relentless chug of trains blurring the dialogue, and the crashing of crockery from the seedy buffet. Even if you imported all three movements of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto and had Lang Lang playing them, gut-wrenching farewells just aren’t the same on a modern, multi-platformed station, with indecipherable announcements assaulting the senses, and soulless machines dispensing tea, coffee and soup.
To be fair, murders can still be staged on inter-continental journeys, but Dame Agatha did really corner the market on that one, and the Inland Revenue are annoyingly suspicious of expense claims for a trip on today’s version of the Orient Express.
The old story-tellers knew the value of adding a bit of mystery to a journey. Travellers on the brink of unexplored lands (perhaps running out of energy, courage, or simply food), would instruct the map-makers to write, ‘Here be dragons’, on the uncharted areas. Thus conjuring up all kinds of alluring lands for future journeys, and far more fun than losing the signal on a sat-nav, or running out of petrol on the M25. Although both these events can open up intriguing possibilities for plot developments.
James Elroy Flecker, in his 1913 verse-drama Hassan – The Golden Road to Samarkand, wrote:
We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further; it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea.
The words conjure up the ancient silk routes and the caravanserai of Persia and Isfahan. And the lines of John Masefield in Cargoes, (probably learned by heart by every British schoolchild up to at least the 1960s), are just as evocative. The opening verse starts with,Quinquereme of Nineveh and distant Ophir, and the final verse begins with, Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack.
Standing on a railway platform, sipping a plastic cup of instant coffee, listening to automated announcements about delays due to snow on the line, doesn’t have quite the same resonance as the dimly-lit night corridors of Hercule Poirot, or of Flecker’s glimmering sea…
Perching on an uncomfortable chair in an airport lounge for five hours because your flight is cancelled owing to fog or an air traffic control computer crash can’t compare with Rider Haggard’s doughty travellers trekking across deserts and braving shipwreck fever to discover King Solomon’s mines…
Nor is there any comparison with the romantic allure contained in the plane crash in a Tibetan snowstorm in Lost Horizon – causing the passengers to find Shangri-La.
Those really were journeys.