Wednesday, February 9, 2011

THE THRILL OF THE CHASE










Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later. It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream. Her first novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, was published as an e-book by Lyrical Press, Inc. in 2010 (link to book: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_71&products_id=288&zenid=g2s7ehfv228vutultsruf8kv17).

Her next book, DEATH SCENE, is the first in a series about amateur sleuth and Canadian actress Shara Summers, and will be released as an e-book by Lyrical Press, Inc. later this year.

You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website at http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/ and her blog at http://sayssara.wordpress.com/.



My interest in crime fiction started a long time ago – in childhood, in fact. My introduction to Mystery Stories began with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, which I devoured as a child. One of the things I loved about those books was that there was always a mystery to solve – usually suspicious goings-on involving smugglers or some generic unsavoury member of the working-class. I loved following the actions of the story’s young heroes as they followed the clues and worked out who the villain was. As an adolescent, I moved on to Agatha Christie. Whatever else is said about Mrs Christie, there’s no doubt she was mistress of the classic “whodunit.” It was all about setting up the cast of characters, and planting the clues. The observant reader could pick up the clues and work out who the villain was before the detective.

And for me, the fun in crime fiction is the thrill of the chase. The genre has evolved somewhat since Mrs Christie’s day. Nowadays, there are many sub-divisions – crime thriller; police procedural; historical crime; romantic crime; ‘cozy’ crime; ‘hard-boiled’ crime – to name just a few. Sometimes novels are not so much “whodunits” as “howcatchems” – where we know from the start who the murderer is, and the plot involves how they will be caught. To me, it’s still all about the chase, whether it be following the clues to discover the identity of the villain, or casting out the net until the bad guy is reeled in.



I am fondest of novels featuring strong female protagonists. Sara Paretsky, Kathy Reichs, Sue Grafton and Linda Fairstein are among my favourite crime writers. Historical fiction was always less appealing for me because there used to be a lack of strong female characters. This isn’t the case nowadays, however – there are some excellent female protagonists in historical crime. One of my favourite series is “The Mistress of the Art of Death” by Ariana Franklin – who is sadly no longer with us.

Ultimately, through all the sub-genres of crime, a common thread holds them together. There is a victim, and a killer. The exciting part is following the chase, through to the end of the novel when the killer must be a) revealed and b) caught.

I always say the common thread between crime and horror – the other genre I write in – is that someone has to die horribly. I will read other genres, but ultimately if there’s no gruesome death, a book is unlikely to hold my attention. I dip into other genres here and there – science fiction; urban fantasy; classics. But crime is the genre I always get drawn back to. Picking up the latest novel by one of my favourite crime novelists is like visiting an old friend I’ve not seen for a while. It’s always a pleasure to go back there, and I know I’ll be made welcome, no matter how long I’ve been away.