Friday, 24 September 2010

How Old Should Someone Be Before You Can Kill Them?

By Richard Jay Parker

This was one of the questions that constituted the casual conversation over dainty sandwiches and tea in the green room at The Reading Festival of Crime Writing. A number of authors had gathered there as they waited to do their various talks and anybody who had walked in after the preamble would have been shocked to hear about the body count generated by the group of outwardly respectable people gathered there.

There was a consensus about teenagers. You could off them by the truckload and nobody bats an eyelid. Younger than that and you might have some problems. Strangling cats was a definite no no. Author X (I'm protecting their identity) had received serious flak for this.

What about poison? Had anybody posioned anybody? There was a momentary racking of brains before misty nostalgia clouded some of the eyes there and they nodded gleefully that they had.

I've done a few festivals this year but I have to say that Reading had every element right. The Town Hall was a great venue and it was impeccably organised. More importantly they had some great authors there and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. They're doing it again next year so I recommend it to fans of crime as well as aspiring authors everywhere.

I was on a panel with Elizabeth Corley and Zoe Sharp. We had a great audience and the hour we had to discuss thrillers as well as share our own experiences trying to get published felt like it was over in five minutes.

We were all agreed - it's getting easier to submit material to agents. Many of them will accept email submissions now rather than writers having to go to the expense of printing off sample chapters. This does, of course, mean that the volume of submissions will increase because it can all be done with a click of a mouse. Good work does get picked up though and even though we all had tales of frustration to share we hope it encouraged many of the ambitious crime writers there - perseverance pays off.

Zoe had the address of a great website dedicated to locating the right agent. I'll try and include it in an update to this blog or post it next Friday.

Zoe's partner Andy was there to take some pics and these are now being used in a caption competition put together by Chiara Priorelli, our publicity co-odinator at Allison & Busby. Click HERE and have a go. There's a copy of THIRD STRIKE by Zoe Sharp, INNOCENT BLOOD By Elizabeth Corley and my own book STOP ME to win.

Happy, creative weekend.

More info about Richard and his novel at


  1. having just written a piece where a baby is killed and not so long ago deep fried a cat (in a story) I guess my feeling is you have to write whatever's there to be written.
    the fried cat story has done really well.
    the baby one I'm yet to send out, but i'm guessing there will be no takers. a crime-novelist fried of mine suggested it was'very dark'.

  2. Well Richard i think any age is fair game. I have read some authors where anything goes Mo Hayders The Treatment and Birdman spring to mind .
    If you need any inspiration just come To were i live some pesky teens in my area need dispatching !

  3. I would think that, if done tastefully, any age is fair game. I'd hate to think my book would get rejected just because I killed a minor. Interesting question though.

  4. Hi Nigel,

    Personally I don't think any age is taboo but if you are going to touch on material that is potentially controversial you have to think even harder about its contextual relevance.

    You're right, Humpty. There are some good writers who refuse to pull their punches and I think they're writing the sort of crime fiction that I want to read.

    Hi J C. Yes - it's certainly worthy of a debate. Everyone has different thresholds but again it's how a writer can justify the death of a character within a story that's most important. If an author just does it to push the envelope and get noticed it often backfires in terms of reader reaction.