Hall is the BBC's Crime Correspondent for the South West of England. He is author of 'The TV Detective novels,' in which a television reporter and a detective work together to solve a series of extraordinary crimes. According to AmazonPrime U.K
. Hall's books have been warmly praised as a fresh, distinctive and highly entertaining approach to crime writing.
This reporter asked Hall, what do you think is distinctive about mystery writing in England?
All the great mystery writers like Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. They come to my mind quickly. What is it about a mystery set in England - The U.K. or written by a British writer that sets it apart from an American or any other mystery writer or story?
"For me," said Hall, "English crime and mysteries tend to be quirkier than the American versions. I couldn't imagine, for example, a character like Sherlock Holmes to ever come from an American mystery writer. There is something about English writers being a little more idiosyncratic... Or, just plain strange if you prefer."
Hall thought about it further, saying. "I wonder if our plots are also more offbeat. If you look at the Sherlock Holmes stories, there is not what you might call an average or ordinary plot amongst them."
"I also think we tend to make more of our settings and landscapes that American writers, who seem to concentrate more on the plot. Perhaps that's because we are a small island, with a long history of gardening, countryside walks and stately homes. Nature is a large part of our identity. And of course our books will then reflect that. And a final point of course… in England we are fixated with the weather, so that must feature heavily in all our books."
His response intrigued me, and I had to know more. I asked him, how long have you been a crime-mystery writer? What do you think makes your stories distinctive among all the other crime mystery writers out there?
"I was first published in 2008," Hall said, "and remain very excited about it; which is a lovely feeling. That's particularly the case at the moment as my new book, The Justice Mirror is out on April 20 and I'm getting more and more excited by the day."
Hall commented further.
"My books are about a television reporter who covers crimes and gets so involved in the cases he helps the police to solve them — often using the power of television to do so. That's what I believe makes them stand out from the rest; that unique selling point. The police often use the media in cunning and subtle ways to help them provoke criminals into giving themselves away. I have an insider knowledge of the tricks of their trade from my day job as a BBC news correspondent, so I can write with both authority and insight, which I think gives my books their appeal."
I became curious and so wanted to know. What got you inspired to be a mystery writer?
'What inspired me to be a mystery writer... is the wonderful intellectual battle between the reader and the author. I believe crime appeals because of that challenge; can the reader work out who committed the crime and why? So, as an author, I am involved in the continual battle of wits; lacing in the clues which will, if correctly seen, indicate the criminal, but also trying to hide them to make it a satisfying puzzle for the reader."
"Another element," said Hall, "is the age-old battle between good and evil, which is the theme in so many crime, mystery and thriller books. On top of that, I also think the knowledge of the satisfactory and clear ending is an attraction, as people want to feel fulfilled at the end of the story."
I then asked...What are the key ingredients, elements for a page-turning Mystery?
"The key ingredients of a good book in my view," said Hall, "are a compelling plot and fascinating characters. My TV reporter, Dan, is a real Maverick who continually breaks the rules but for the right reasons; to catch the criminals. The detective he works with, Adam, is more straight-laced, but equally committed to bringing the bad guys to justice, which makes him break the rules as well. Together they make a sometimes tense, but strong and quirky, and hopefully fascinating team. If you look at all the famous detectives, he said, they tend to be strong and alluring characters. I also love introducing new characters in every book. In the justice Mirror there is an eccentric judge, an embittered and grieving father, an angry and defiant foreman of the jury, and and apparently innocent civil servant, but which could be a killer?"
"The other element," Hall noted, "is an intriguing plot. You have to be drawn into it from the first page of the book. And as a writer, you need to be continually raising questions which the reader wants to keep going to find out the answers to. And that can be the big question, whodunnit, to the smaller subplot questions, such as will a romance work out?"
Hall then pointed out, "In the 'Justice Mirror,' the central question is which of the four suspects could possibly have committed the killing when all have alibis?" While Hall is committed to his mystery genre, he also understands the need for other elements to offset the intensity.
"The romance element in my books is the continual subplot; between Dan and Detective Sergeant Claire. We are on book six with the 'Justice Mirror' and it's still not resolved… To both their frustrations." Despite the frustration, readers are still pulled in.
I mentioned to Hall that with all the technological advancements lately, no doubt forensic science is pretty much a requirement in telling a mystery story. How have crime mystery stories changed over the last decade? Especially with technology and modern forensic science having a larger roll?
"Detective and mystery stories have definitely changed with advances in science," said Hall. "Some writers will tell you it's harder to come up with a good plot now because the science is so powerful. But I disagree with this.
I always keep science on the margins of my books, because of this reason. I believe good crimes are conceived in the mind and the heart for reasons we all understand; jealousy, lust, greed, vengeance et cetera et cetera…
"Which means," Hall said, "they should be solved in the heart and mind. Fundamentally, crime is a battle of wits between the good guys and the bad guys, and that's how it should be resolved, not in a laboratory by a machine."
And, I agree! Sounds like a good formula for a writer's success to me.
"The 'Justice Mirror' is an example of that," Hall said. "It's all about what victims are forced to do to find justice of their own with the courts and police fail them. So it's about the most raw human emotions and why people feel compelled to go to extraordinary lengths to find justice for themselves."
'Justice Mirror' is not simply one novel. As Hall explained. "The book is number six in my TV detective series. The main characters are the same as in other books, with the minor characters new. Naturally enough, being a bloodthirsty crime writer, some of the minor characters don't last long... Although the books follow the real lives of the characters - I think they have to feel real for me... So, (that way) they do for the reader as well."
For those who might seem a bit reluctant to get caught up in a series, Hall noted. "Each book can be read as a standalone novel. They are not sequels in that respect, in that each is a separate story, and can be read on its own without any knowledge of the others. My hope is that a reader would come into the series at any point, and then want to read the other books to find out more about the characters and their remarkable lives." To learn more about mystery writer Simon Hall and his work, visit his web site.
Also, visit Simon Hall on Twitter.