Write a Scene in which the Victim of the Crime is Found
Our adjudicator was Carl Major, of Waterstones, West Quay, Southampton, and although Carl was unable to be with us he said he thoroughly enjoyed reading all the entries. Carl’s criteria and adjudications follow:
“Firstly, I was very grateful for being asked to judge this competition. Booksellers – like book browsers – see a lot of books and read a lot of first pages. If a reader has got as far as reading the first few sentences of a book or scene it is worth considering the things they might be subconsciously weighing up about the writing and the writer. The main one must be ‘Is this a story or writer I am intrigued enough to commit money and (more importantly) time to reading?’ The temptation is to grab at the reader with a ‘hooking’ sensational opening or the imagined vividness of the first person. But often – for this reader, at least – it is a kind of confidence in the grasp of the writer and that could be a nice touch of humour, a willingness to trust the reader with a gradual revelation, a telling and interesting detail or simply some small grace of language or observation. I think the reader always wants to know that whatever horrors or twists the story may contain that they are in good hands and often it is the small detail of the writing rather than the sensational content that provides the reassurance. I felt the three winners here all absolutely knew that and put it firmly into practice. It is no small skill. In the case of these three writers I was disappointed that I only had 300 words and would happily have trusted them to lead me on into the world behind this scene.”
1st Place: David Eadsforth, (pseudonym Alec Russell) The Artist
“Extremely well-crafted. The unsensational language heightened the gruesome revelation. Much information about the place and personnel conveyed in passing – and a welcome levening of dark humour! My feeling was that I was in the safe hands of a writer fully in charge of their subject and style. I immediately wanted to know more and read on.”
2nd Place: David Lea, Home to Roost
“Conjured the protagonist’s world in a few deft strokes. The mix of humour and grim detail of Jason’s job set up a scenario in which the discovery of a body was somehow of a piece with the violence of industrial farming. I valued the detail of this writing and the skill of the writer in allowing the content rather than the language to provide the sensational effect”.
3rd Place: Anne Eckersley, Too Soon to Die
“This piece intrigued me from the first mention of the missing street lights. I believed the scene I was seeing had a real social context. I felt certain that in this writer’s world murder victims, murderers and police would have a wider context of family, friends, society. The plausible weariness of our protagonist and the deft use of ironic humour sealed the deal. I wanted to read on.”
Highly Commended: Louise Morrish, Dogsbody
Highly Commended: Avril Stephenson, Untitled
Prizes and Awards:
The lucky winners each received two signed books by our main speakers, James Marrison and MJ Arlidge as well as certificates of adjudication by Carl Major.
1st Place: The Artist – Copyright © David Eadsforth, 2015
Detective Inspector Ian Chambers stepped out of his car and stared at the blank wall that comprised the front of the industrial unit. Of all of the crime scenes he had been called to in his career, this would probably have been the least likely candidate. Detective Sergeant Terman, who had been waiting by the entrance, now approached him.
“Good morning, Sir; sorry it was such an early call, but the shift here starts early…”
Chambers nodded and waved his subordinate to silence.
“Okay, okay; what have we got?”
“Um, I think you just better see for yourself, Sir.”
Chambers shot him a dubious look.
“The last time you said that it was a naked curate with a plastic bag over his head and a noose around his neck…”
“This is a bit different, Sir.”
Terman led the way through the entrance and on to a series of huge doors, around which stood a number of men in white overalls. Chambers nodded to the chief of the forensic team, a man in his fifties who wore a somewhat grim expression.
“Morning, Alfred; well, what have you got for me?”
Alfred Bingham did not reply, but instead grasped the huge lever that was placed on the front of the door and swung it open. A gust of bitterly cold air hit Chambers’s face and Bingham indicated that Chambers should enter. Chambers entered the huge refrigerator and stared at the vision before him. In the centre of the chamber stood a huge block of ice, two meters square, and inside it was the naked form of a man, his arms and legs stretched out in an ‘X’. Chambers was silent for a few seconds, then he turned to Bingham.
“Um, we’re not calling this suicide, are we?”
2nd Place: Home to Roost – Copyright © David Lea, 2015
Jason had started at 6:30, as he did every day during the holidays: out of bed by 5:45, cup of coffee, cereal, on his bike and away. No need of a wash because he had bathed very thoroughly the night before. He bathed very thoroughly every night, lying in the suds, knackered and dreaming while his mum and his sister watched the tele down stairs. He dreamed of a future when he wouldn’t have to work on Guy Featherstone’s farm, a future when he could afford a motorbike, or even a car. When he could afford some decent clothes.
When he could afford a girlfriend.
Girlfriends are costly.
Anyway, he smelled.
By 8 0’ clock he had almost finished the cleaning. The electric lights were on eighteen hours a day to give maximum laying time, so it was already hot. The hens were housed in rows of metal cages three tiers high, with three or four birds to a cage. Four long alleyways of birds, all shrieking and squalling and pecking. And shitting. But Jason’s first job before the shit shifting was to remove the bodies – five or six a day. They were so bored and cramped and demented that they pecked each other to death. It usually started when one bird was laying an egg and the other birds pecked around the hole as the egg squeezed out. Jason wondered how they decided which one to attack. Perhaps they chose the weakest, like at school.
Although Jason was a loner, nobody messed with him.
He trundled the awkward, overloaded shit- machine to the trapdoor and pulled the lever to release its load onto the pile below.
It was then he noticed the leg, naked and white.
Except for the Argyll pattern sock.
And then it disappeared under the slurry.
3rd Place: Too Soon to Die – Copyright © Anne Eckersley, 2015
This tax year council savings and vandalism had turned off all street lights in Woodley, so just before midnight Longmoor Road was as dull as a dead man’s eyes. But death in Jonas’ world rarely occurred in broad daylight.
The rain had stopped. Puddles the size of lakes and the stench of sewage its legacy.
Jonas shivered. He wasn’t cold, thick jumpers, waterproof trousers and heavy boots made sure of that. Parking between two police cars he headed towards the motorway flyover. The noise of cars passing overhead amplified by the silence of the night.
Signs warned of danger of death from the electricity substation or the risk of prosecution from trespass although missing sections of fence provided easy access. The area had always attracted graffiti artists and the homeless who clearly ignored the signs too, but then rising water levels over the winter should have worried them more.
The police hadn’t bothered to open the gate and Jonas opted for the shorter route too. His phone’s torch helped him pick his way through floating debris to the blue and white tape stretched round the scene.
A tent had been erected at the river’s edge. A number of silhouetted figures were moving around. Jonas sighed. He would have liked to be alone to assess the scene before anyone demanded answers or foisted information on him. Those first few minutes were crucial. The position of the body. The arrangement of the clothes. Seventeen series of Silent Witness had a lot to answer for. Nowadays everyone in the country was qualified to express an opinion.
A noise on his left made him spin. Suddenly he was face to face with four bundles huddled round a shopping trolley and several cardboard boxes who were watching his progress with evident interest.
The competition secretary, Jim Livesey, thanked everyone who had entered. Crime proved very popular as 18 entries were received, a good start to our new season.
The competition for October is to write a ghost story – 300 words and the adjudicator will be Carolin Esser-Miles, Medievalist, and Senior Lecturer, English Language, University of Winchester.
Please email your entries to the Competition Secretary, Jim Livesey competitions.hwsAThotmail.com by noon (BST) 1st October 2015. (Please replace AT with @)
Please read HWS Competition rules