Friday, December 15, 2017

What would you put into Room 101?


There are some  things in crime fiction that  drive me mad. When I reach that point in the book, I want to throw it at the wall, where it will rebound to the floor where it will be attacked by any  cats or dogs present.

 During my whirlwind round about tour of here and there, I have been interviewing authors- and interviewing the audience when it seemed appropriate, about what they would banish into the dreaded room 101.

Here’s  my top ten  crime fiction no-nos.

1)      Never going to the toilet, eating or blowing their nose.
 I think Cagney and Lacey were the last tv detectives to go to the loo. Some detectives do of course, do nothing but eat. Frost can’t get to the first ad break without a bacon sarnie.

2)      Never growing old
Those weird characters who live a half life in some temporal ether; they exist but they do not age. Their kids go to uni, but their hips don’t wear out. And nobody ever pensions them off.

3)       Not suffering the consequences of physical injury.
This really winds me up.  A dislocated elbow on page 208 will still bring tears to the eye on page 232. And, in one famous book the hero is stabbed, shot, knocked unconscious then buried underground – shallow grave that was filled in with earth – for a few chapters. Then his hand appeared, scraping at the ground, bullet in the head, and suffering from a loss of blood and credibility.

4)      In serial fiction,  no carry over of PTSD, as if reborn emotionally in the gap between one book and the next. People who suffer loss carry it with them in real life and should do so in fiction.

5)      An ailing relative for no reason than to give a cardboard cut out hero a  bit of empathetic back story.  This was a common one talked about during the tour, not one I had noticed in my reading but it really gets the goat of some Tartan Noir authors. I sat red faced, as my fictional fiscal (Coroner type)  has just put his wife into a  home with early onset dementia. I did point this out, and they replied that I was really following point 2. People get to an age where stuff like that happens.


6)      Stupid women, running in graveyards at midnight because they heard a noise. Leaving the mobile phone, the pit bull and the hatchet behind.  Sometimes they move so quickly they don’t have time to put clothes on the poor darlings.

7)      The mobile phone coming to the rescue…on page 320. It has been in their pocket since page 1, so why didn’t they just call Police Scotland, The FBI and Auchtermurchty Tourist Rescue on page 2 and save us all the bother. Having said that, the mobile signal in Auchtermurchty is iffy at best.

8)      Too much harping on about soap box issues. If you want to be an activist, then do so, but leave the crime fiction to tell its own story and the reader will get the idea by osmosis.

9)      A really stupid argumentative boss. How often do we see that? Drives me mad. The boss wouldn’t be more superior in ranking than the hero if he didn’t have some talent for the job surely. Personality conflicts ok, conflicts of interest ok but not a lack of the little grey cells.

10)   Bending facts just a wee bit too far……fiction is fiction. But there are boundaries to what I acceptable. And if it has to happen to make the plot work, then the writer should go back to the drawing board with a rubber.


So what twists your lemon?

Caro Ramsay 15 12 2017 


  1. Guns that never runout of bullets or need reloading.

  2. What about firing a gun then sticking it down the belt of your trousers/pants? Do they get a tad hot? Zoe?

    1. Yes, they do get a tad hot. As does the ejected brass casing from the immediately fired round. And I speak as someone who has had hot brass spin out of the ejection port of the shooter to my left, and go straight down the front of my shirt. That puts you off your aim, I can tell you!

  3. I agree with all your points except the "really stupid argumentative boss." I've worked for and around enough of them that I completely buy that character. As the aphorism (wildly generalizing) states: Shit floats.

  4. Go back to the drawing board with a what? Oh, eraser. For a moment I thought you were anticipating something to ward off the consequences of what prompted your question to Zoe.

    1. You might think that, Jeff, but I couldn't possibly comment ...

  5. Jeff, I do my best to be bi lingual!

    And EvKa, I had the pleasure (?) of watching Die Hard (voted one of the best Christmas films ever!) for the first time last week and there was the stupid boss I was talking about. No doubt written like that so the two lowly cops can be buddy buddy over the radio while one wears a vest and suffers none of the effects of blood loss and the other goes schmaltzy and introspective at the concept of being a dad. What a pair of dudes.

  6. Caro, I am sorry to say that I have to disagree with you about the prevalence of bad bosses. The only bestseller that I have ever produced was the book called Never Work for a Jerk! It stayed in print for 17 years, after which I wrote the sequel Monster Boss. That one came out in 2008 and is still in print. Both instances I researched the topic of bad management. Over that 20 year period, it hovered around 60 percent. You are very lucky to have had career without running into a whole parade of slave drivers, abusers, milquetoasts, screwballs, psychopaths, and just garden variety idiots. People get into managerial positions for wide variety of reasons, not only because they are competent.

    Otherwise, I agree with you 100 percent! Of course.

  7. Ah, I confess that I have never had a boss myself but seeing those around me developing mental health issues due to poor management from above, I take your point. I hope I am never THAT sort of boss.
    But in fiction, the type of boss that Frost has always seems to me a little unbelievable. My cop friends say different though...

  8. There are nice, humane bosses and then there are their polar opposites.
    Much better to work with the former than the latter. Causes stress and health problems, tension between co-workers, less productivity, etc.