Total Pageviews

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Museum Visit with a Macabre Twist

Membership of the SOA (Society of Authors) brings many perks, one of which is the events and talks they arrange throughout the year. The English events are a tad too far for me to travel, but the SOAiS (Society of Authors in Scotland) is equally energetic in creating events.

A recent one was our visit to the Anatomical Museum which is part of Edinburgh University’s School of Biomedical Science which has a history of 300 years of anatomical teaching.

This was preceded by an excellent lunch at a local restaurant for those who wished to partake. And, of course, there was no way I was going to miss a lovely lunch, and the chance to chat with other writers while we worked our way through the menu.
Waiting to meet the rest of the group at the university after the lunch
We emerged from the restaurant to a sunny, but chilly day, and after negotiating the Edinburgh traffic we arrived at the University to meet up with the rest of our group.
The bodies for dissection were brought in through this gate
Our guide, Malcolm Maccallum, escorted us up multiple sets of stairs to the museum, sidetracking on the way to show us the courtyard outside, and the gate through which the bodies for dissection were brought, then onward and upward to the lecture room where today’s medical students gather to listen to lectures, but where, in the past dissections took place in front of a past generation of students. And upwards again to the museum itself.
The lecture theatre where medical students have been taught for over 300 years
The Grand Entrance Hall
I can only describe this part of the visit because photography was forbidden in this area which was a pity because this was the most informative and interesting part of the tour. It was here we were able to see William Burke’s skeleton. He was the infamous body snatcher who was hanged on 28th January, 1829. Another skeleton of a notorious criminal was that of John Howison, The Cramond murderer, who was the last person to be sentenced to be hanged and dissected, and was therefore the last body to be given to surgeons for dissection.

Malcolm Maccallum, our guide, informed us that the museum had 350 life and death masks, many of which were on display. The collection contained too many masks of famous people to list here, but among them I noticed William Hare, of Burke and Hare notoriety; and Robert Knox, who purchased his cadavers from Burke and Hare. Other masks of a less macabre nature included Sir Walter Scott, Napoleon, Cromwell, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare.

A display that caught our attention was that of Alexander Tardy, the pirate and poisoner from the early 1830s. His skull and facial reconstruction is on display alongside a wealth of information about his less than successful career. I also spotted the skull of Robert the Bruce.

This museum is a working one and medical students have access to it for educational purposes. The museum numbers 15,000 items in its collection, not all of which were on view, but there was ample of interest to keep our group occupied for some considerable time.

The tour gave us all a lot to think about, and maybe provided the seed for a future crime novel. It would certainly be a great setting for one of my murders.

Chris Longmuir

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Invitation to a #crimechat just for you

How do you like your crime fiction?

Do you like the dead bodies piling up as an intrepid hero or heroine faces ever increasing dangers which make you shout “Don’t go in there” or “Turn the light on” or “He’s waiting to kill you” or even the famed pantomime shout “He’s behind you?”

Or maybe you like an international thriller with a Bond type hero.

Or maybe something a little bit cosier like romantic suspense.

And let’s not forget the mystery and suspense thriller.

Well, if you accept the invitation you can chat with four authors who are expert in all these fields. You can ask them anything you like, such as: “How many people have you killed?” “What kind of weapon do you prefer?” “Who mops up the blood?” “What do you do when you’re face to face with a killer?” “Will your hero/heroine ever meet the man/woman of their dreams?” Then there are the writerly questions, such as “Where do you write?” “When do you write?” or after you’ve killed someone (on paper) “Do you sleep at night?” I’m sure you’re capable of thinking up any number of questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them.

The authors:

Wendy H Jones: She writes police procedurals with a humorous touch, and her policemen are always eating. If you aren’t hungry when you start reading one of her books, you’ll be ravenous by the time you reach the end. Shona McKenzie, her gun-toting detective inspector is a tough cookie. Oh, and I’d better warn you, the body count is high in her books.

Mark Leggatt: An exciting new voice in crime fiction whose first book is an intense, page-turning, fast paced international thriller, that moves between Paris, Zurich, Morocco and Tehran. He has been described as a blend of Bourne, Bond, and Indiana Jones.

Fiona Veitch Smith: A versatile author who writes children’s picture books as well as dabbling in crime. She has a contemporary romantic thriller set in South Africa, as well as her Poppy Denby Investigates series, set in the 1920s, I would guess this author is probably a bit cosier than the rest of us.

Chris Longmuir: Yes that’s me! I write psychological thrillers which are also police procedurals, and although I use the same police personnel in each book the main characters are actually the people directly involved in the crime. You know, the victims, the perpetrators, or anyone connected to the crime other than the police. Despite this, my readers have developed an affection for D S Bill Murphy, who appears in each book. Don’t ask me why, because he’s a bit of a loser. But I also write historical crime and have started a new series featuring Kirsty Campbell, Dundee’s first policewoman in 1919. She is a truly original character unlike any other I’ve come across and I think this series is going to be a winner.

So make sure you come along and chat with us. We’ll be waiting with bated breath and hoping you don’t trip us up with your questions.

Put the date in your diary now
Date: - Friday 19 February 2016
Time:- 9pm GMT
Place:- Twitter using the hashtag #crimechat

Chris Longmuir