SCARY STUFF. Six hundred of the world’s most dangerous people met in rural Germany last week. At “Murder on the Hellweg”, Europe’s biggest conference of crime writers, there were masters of poisonings, specialists in stranglings, experts in assassinations, and evil sadists who devote their days to dreaming up new ways to kill people. It was just like school.
I’d never seen so many people dressed in black. I said to the guy next to me: “I guess black clothes are a kind of uniform, like business people wear suits and serial killers have 1970s mustaches on their upper lips. Or is it dentists?”
In the dressing room I sat next to Simon Kernick, a British author of ultra-violent thrillers.
As we chatted, I couldn’t stop myself turning around to keep one eye on the door. It was weird. Having read his books, I was subconsciously waiting for a gunman to burst in and turn me into a red splat on the wall. Even MORE weird was the fact that when this failed to happen, I felt disappointed.
The human brain is a bizarre and perverse thing, or perhaps I am.
Several people noticed I appeared to be the only Asian crime author present.
“Don’t you guys have murders on your side of the world?” one writer asked.
I replied: “No. Murder is illegal in Asia.”
This answer, curiously, satisfied him. He probably came from a place where murder is a normal, accepted part of daily life, like Mexico or Chicago or my school.
The vast majority of attendees were men, but one Woman In Black was present. Tatjana Kruse’s fictional detective has two hobbies: fighting serial killers and learning cushion embroidery. “Wow,” I said. “TWO terrifying challenges.”
Towards the end of the evening, there was a loud bang. Had a Simon Kernick gunman turned up at last? No. Some was opening champagne to celebrate. More than 60 per cent of the bestseller list this week consists of crime books or thrillers. We’re in fashion.
This intrigued me. Why do people go to bookshops to pick up tales of stabbings, shootings and killing? Don’t they get enough of that at home? I know I do.
One novelist said humans evolved to live with stress. “We have a deep-rooted need to do battle with darkness,” he said. “Fictional criminals are the ultimate incarnation of pure evil.”
This puzzled me. “Not Rupert Murdoch?”
One man asked me if there were any killing methods unique to Asia.
I told him that both India and China had these things called “plenary meetings of congress” which specialized in boring people to death. “It’s a horrible way to die,” I told him.
His neighbor asked: “Most Asian countries still have the death penalty. Does it work as a deterrent?”
I said: “Definitely. Once we’ve killed them, they NEVER re-offend.”from the event at this link.]
[The woman sitting next to me in the pictures at the top is Alice Gruenfelder, my brilliant agent]