Monday, November 21, 2016

Crime writing is certainly different from other forms of writing. It is hard to write and has complex plots that in some cases require extensive investigation. While writing, it is necessary for the writer to engage the reader until the end of the story.

So, how do some writers manage to keep their readers glued to their books until the end? How do they create that suspense of having the readers compelled to turn to the next page or chapter?

To present the best responses by the three main experts in this area, the 35th Edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair 2016 hosted a panel discussion at the literature forum on Day 4, to expand knowledge to the audience on ‘Mysterious Writing’ based on crime and thriller literature.

The interactive session included the forensic psychiatrist and Chair lady of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, Anne Buist, a novelist having over 25 years of clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry.

Panelists, (from right to left) Anne Buist – forensic psychiatrist, Omer Shahid Hamid - Pakistani writer and former police in the Sindh Police department, Mr. Mamdouh Abdul Mutlib - Head of the Sharjah Police Criminology Department and moderator Mohammad Abu Arab

Next we had the Pakistani writer, Omer Shahid Hamid, a former senior superintendent of police in the Sindh Police department. Omer is well-known for his novel, The Prisoner (2013), inspired by the 2002 kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Also, his second novel, The Spinner's Tale, was published in 2015 by Pan Macmillan India.

The third chief guest was Mr. Mamdouh Abdul Mutlib, the Head of the Criminology Department of the Sharjah Police Headquarters  who had solved several cases of crime, robbery, murder and other investigative stories.

The session was moderated by Mohammad Abu Arab who enlightened the discussion by asking the panelists several questions based on their personal vocations.

Omer started off his conversation saying, ‘’Crime -thrillers turn out to be best-sellers in all countries. It gives us a depth into a different world by looking at it from the psychology of serial killers or anyone who is indulged into it.’’

Omer further explained his point by saying that there is some sort of danger and illegality when breaking through the mysteries of such situations, but then you should get into the situation to reveal it in your book and especially to the audience. This is what attracts the readers to crime literature!
Crime literature is different from other genres of creative, fictional or descriptive writing as it involves putting your own life at risk. Having knowing all that, if as a writer you have the guts to get yourself into the web of mysteries resulting with a solution, then it’s something rewarding to feel accomplished about.

Pakistani writer, Omer Shahid Hamid, a former senior superintendent of police in the Sindh Police department and Mr. Mamdouh Abdul Mutlib - Head of the Sharjah Police Criminology Department at the Sharjah International Book Fair 2016

‘’I come from a slightly different perspective. From a psychiatric perspective, if we look at it from the psychoanalytic theory and we look at what Melanie Klein says, she says ‘We all feed in on something. As soon as we grow up from the day we are born and as a child, to this age, we feed on something.’’’

Anne further elaborated that we as humans, do not have control over what our souls feed on. For example, when we read romantic novels, we imagine our lives to have the same ideal moments and situations. However, it may not necessarily turn out the way we expected.

‘’However, crime thrillers often offer you the safety of your own room without having to race a car and risk it, but knowing that you are safe. In the end, you know, that there is a hero - be it in the form of a police or a savior or a friend to talk to. And even if we are not sure, if in our real-life this will happen or not- we want to believe it’s true.’’

On the other hand, Mr. Mamdouh Abdul Mutlib said, ‘’There is a great sense of fascination towards working into crime scenarios because part of the attraction is also looking at the secret world of the police because the police around the world is very secretive. They don’t share much about their investigative work and procedures, unless you are a part of them.’’

Omer agreed to this point saying that it is indeed difficult to break into the secret world of police and as for a reader, it gives them an insight into how these professionals or a normal person perhaps would react when they see a dead body on the road. Also, how the investigators, writers, and journalists go deep into examining the cases of murder or robbery.

‘’I think that it is more fascinating to know what people will tend to do in such scenarios when your instinct refuses you to do something – and you still go on doing it! Since most cases are based on true stories, it gives a clear vision to the audience about real-life crime scenes.’’

Anne caught the attention of the audience when she mentioned about the rate of women in almost all countries who go under depression after they have a child. ‘’As a psychiatrist, we look at our patient’s situation or into a person’s life based on the ‘why’ factor. We go deep into why someone behaves in a way and such factors. That is my great interest in the work I do. My focus is on women who are pregnant, who have babies, and their situation after delivering their child.

‘’What I noticed is that there is an increase in the mental illness of women or mothers after having a baby. One in six-hundred women in every country face psychotic illness after having a baby. Now this, in few cases, results in women harming their child and in most cases having poor judgement.’’
Thus, Anne spoke of her experiences working with mothers and their partners, especially who faced issues with infanticide, murder, and child abuse. Her famous novels, ‘Medea’s Curse’ and ‘Dangerous  to Know’ are based on her real-life experience narratives but written in a fictional form. Anne did so to protect her patient’s confidentiality.

Anne explained how some mothers who go through a rough childhood tend to harm their children will later grief and regret about it. According to a British law, if a mother kills her biological child under 12 months, then she is not convicted for murder because it is agreed that she was facing some psychotic mental illness.

Anne Buist, Chair Lady of Women’s Mental Health at University of Melbourne, forensic psychiatrist and novelist at the Sharjah International Book Fair 2016

Omer in contrast said, ‘’ That is why crime books are like a window into this dark-underworld. Most people around the world  will not know what happens in the world of victims, criminals and professional investigators. But as a reader, you can very comfortably  sit in your bedroom and explore that dark under-world of what actually happens behind the bars and behind the scenes.’’

The session concluded by the moderator Mohammad Abu Arab asking the panelists why do most crime scenes take place during the night time to which the panelist hysterically laughed.

Mr. Mamdouh Abdul Mutlib said, ‘’Well, that is obviously because nobody is awake to watch you.’’
Anne said, ‘’I think night issues relate to the loneliness, sleep deprivation, and too much time to think . Perhaps that is why writers use night scenes most in times of climax for crime, thrillers, suspense and horror genres.

 Omer had the final say, ‘’every criminal will have a different response to it. But again, as a reader, that is the point of attracting readers to be engrossed about what’s going to happen next. Night time is associated with hidden secrets and therefore, it serves to act as a tool or crime scenes to take place most at that time.’’

The crowd gradually dispersed after the session opened for the question-answer platform whereby several police officers and other audience members gave in their input about what they thought about crime literature and crime scenes in practical life. Some of them opposed to the fact that real crime scenes have nothing to do with literature, while some supported saying that crime literature is in fact an eye-opener for the readers to know the deep-dug stories that take place which most people are afraid to repot and talk about.

Reported by Sakeena Habib