Exploring True Crime in Salford

Just wanted to say thank you our hosts at the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences at Salford University on Saturday. I was invited along by Ian Cummins to take part in the all-day event on the subject of True Crime: Fiction Is Far More True than Any Journalism. 

The process of writing, why people read crime and various ways writers have explored real crimes were all covered. Ian and his colleagues Marian Foley and Martin King were terrific hosts.

We went for a delightful drink in Manchester the night before – my first time in the city – before meeting at the university in Media City on Saturday, which is a rather strange jumble of modern architecture.

Ripper tours and female psychopaths

Mark Blacklock, author of I'm Jack, about Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer John Humble, was great company.

Caroline Jones gave us a tour of, well, Ripper Tours and what a strange entertainment they are. And Caroline Logan, a consultant forensic clinical psychologist, was really interesting in discussing the subject of female psychopaths in fiction.

Beastly subjects, convivial company. I hope their plans to expand the event in future work out…

Secrets of ghostwriting

Andrew Crofts and Mark McCrum spoke entertainingly about their specialism, ghostwriting, at a Society of Authors talk in Piccadilly last week.

Writing Handbooks: Ghostwriting by Andrew Crofts

Ghostwriting by Andrew Crofts

They have written a huge variety of autobiographies and memoirs on behalf of people with stories to tell, from pop stars to soldiers to adventurers to victims of abuse. Though it sounds like a job that can be fascinating and occasionally well rewarded, it seems the gold-rush days are over.

Not so long ago, for penning Robbie Williams’ life story you could have got £200,000 up front and royalties that started at £100,000. However, in today’s shrivelled publishing landscape, huge advances and generous royalties are rare.

The two writers also outlined the frustrations of the work. Subjects who decided they don’t like your writing, celebrity egos and the ‘beauty contests’. This is where several writers are paraded before a celeb, who then picks whoever he/she finds least offensive.

Sean Connery and Robbie Williams

However, the upside is that the work can be fascinating. Travelling the world meeting extraordinary people with remarkable experiences to relate clearly beats most office jobs.

Not all the subjects are laudable. Crofts, whose manual on ghostwriting is quoted in Robert Harris’s thriller The Ghost, talked about various dictators and criminals he has ghosted for.

His advice on this is straightforward. You don’t have to like or admire the person. If they interest you, take the work. If not, walk away. Continue reading