Thursday 26 November 2015

Guest Post: Claire McGowan on Crime and Romance

Crime and Romance
Claire McGowan

I like a little romance with my death. Is that so wrong? The characters are rushing around, trying to solve the mystery or find the lost artefact or evade the crazed killer. Why wouldn’t that put you in the mood for a little romance? When my first book, The Fall, came out, I received a review that described it (scathingly) as ‘somewhere between chick lit and crime’. Since then, I’ve taken that as my brand. In my crime series, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has a personal life that’s as messy as some of the crime scenes she goes to. In the third book, The Silent Dead, she’s grappling with pregnancy and motherhood, all the while confused about her relationships with her boss DI Guy Brooking, and her ex-boyfriend Aidan O’Hara, who edits the local paper. Either man could be the baby’s father, which adds up to a very tense situation.

But it’s not just a love interest that I like in crime fiction. Paula’s father also features heavily, and her best friend, who’s a doctor, and her colleagues, and other recurring characters. I wanted to reflect the reality of a small Irish town, where everyone knows each other and isn’t afraid to meddle in your business. Where you can’t go to the doctor without the postman asking what’s the matter with you. I love books about small towns – Stephen King is particularly good at this – and do my best to show that web of relationships. For a loner like Paula, this is both comforting and terrifying. Especially with her baby soon to arrive.

So I say, why not have a love story in a crime novel? After all, most of the drama the average person experiences is through their relationships, and most of the crimes we’ll encounter will be of the love variety (sadly not actually illegal). I love reading stories where the character feels real and rounded, where they have a network of friends and family, and where they struggle with love, and work, and bosses, and parents and/or children – just like the rest of us. I think it’s great that we’re now seeing crime fiction which moves away from the stereotype of the alcoholic male cop, reflecting the real-life variety of the police force. Long may it continue.

The Silent Dead is out now.


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