Friday, April 23, 2021

Is the Moby the biggest threat to crime fiction?

I remember a pal of mine, an award winning smart person, who said that the discovery of DNA would be the death of crime fiction. This of course is nonsense and was probably said by somebody with no imagination.  And no urgent desire to kill somebody.

 And I remembered a book called ‘200 ways not to write a novel’. Or something.

It’s  actually a very funny book and incredibly well observed for any of us who have taken a writers’ group or waded through a first attempt at a typescript.

 There is a whole chapter in this book about dealing with the mobile phone – the moby as it’s called in Scotland. I do believe some other countries refer to it as the ‘cell’.

 It brought to mind me reading a book (unpublished at the time but now available at all good bookshops )  that had been  written by a friend. The hero in question  gets nibbled by alligators, locked in a tower, hides at the back of the wardrobe, gets floored by swamp fever and generally  has to  get himself out of more corners than an Aston Villa striker.

And then…. on page 427…. The hero pulled out his mobile phone and called the FBI for help. His moby had been in his pocket all along.

Being a cruel and vindictive person, I sent back one line of edit note;  “get him to pull the phone out on page 5 and then you don’t have to bother writing the rest of the book”.

We are still pals.


So here’s a list to help deal with the tricksy mobile phone scenario:

1 Lose it ; the hero loses the phone. But if he’s a good enough hero he wouldn’t lose it would he?  But I guess it could fall out his pocket while wrestling with afore mentioned alligator. However having observed the creature that is ‘the teenager’ , I think the moby is often glued to the hand.   

2 Not have it with you. See above, what hero worth his salt would be without his phone, and if he’s a proper hero type, he’ll have a burner in his sock.

3 The baddie steals the phone; ah this is better, baddie takes phone and scrunchies it underfoot.  Female baddie grinds it under stiletto heel.   Best done just as hero pulls phone from pocket to call FBI.

4 No signal; Very useful in Scotland. The book suggested the lack of signal  was a cheapsey cop out but half our house has no signal. There’s a phone mast at the top of the hill that bounces the signal around with the accuracy of a drunk pool player. All you need to do is hide behind a mountain if you want to lose the signal.

5 No charge; again, a rookie mistake for a natural born hero but maybe after a long car chase following google maps on the phone, it might just work.

6 No data;  Does it matter? Nope. Unless you need the moby to google how to turn off a nuclear bomb,  how to charm a crocodile or how to effectively hide in a wardrobe.

7 Phone falls from pocket.  Is this a man thing? Women would have the moby somewhere  more secure ( at the bottom of her handbag and therefore well out of reach in any heroine type emergency). My pal’s moby has more dangleoriums than a Christmas tree, the noise effectively  announces her presence  better than an irritated rattle snake.

8 Writer ignores presence of mobile phone. Yip. I’ve read a book that did just that!

9 Write in the 1960s. As long as the hero doesn’t go to the puggy for cash, or  use google. Or many other things.

10 Drops it in panic and damages screen, ahh chance of tension here. In the struggle, the hero  has phone knocked from hand. He’s on the ground, his fingers reach out and just manage to grasp the phone… only to find the screen smashed to smithereens .

11 Dog has eaten phone in previous chapter. The author obviously used  this excuse when he was due to hand in his homework at school.

12 Picked up the wrong phone.  Obs somebody without a distinctive phone cover but I have seen this used twice, once in Jonathon Creek, once in something forgettable. Can you  still emergency dial  on  another phone? I presume so.

13 Hero has to swim to get to baddies lair…. Or get away from shark, or alligator…. Hero has had no chance to clingfilm phone.

14 New mobile phone and the hero can’t work it. This would work if the hero was my mother.

oops, need to go now , my moby's ringing. There's another one- just can't find the thing!



  1. Hilarious as ever, Caro! I even read a manuscript where two boys set up elaborate smoke signals to communicate. Once the smoke was out of sight, they used their phones!
    Fortunately, we have a get out of jail free card in Botswana. (4) applies even today a LOT, and (9) applies up to the late 90s (as in Facets of Death).
    Actually, it tends to be more of a pain NOT having mobies. We have to spend words getting to telephones, leaving messages, etc. etc. You are too young to recall those days...

  2. Cara, While you and the rest of our MIE crowd are having your support group about this traumatic issue, Sujata, Susan, and I will out on the town.