It doesn’t have to be simple to be clear…

The first thing I ever wrote for real money was an episode of The Onedin Line, a BBC TV drama series. The script editor said he wanted a story that wasn’t patronisingly simple but clear in the telling. Last night I watched the Icelandic noir thriller ‘Trapped’ and gave up after episode three because it’s too simple and unclear, and not just because it’s in Icelandic. It set up what appeared would be a complex story and quickly began to kill off the hares it had raised for want of the skills to keep them running till the end.

The best crime writing contains at least three or four sub-plots that hold you all the way. I mean when did you last read a Val McDermid, Ken Bruen or Simon Brett novel and feel cheated?

I counted five threads in the latest Nathan Hawk Murder Mystery – JERICHO ROAD and none of them gets tied up until the murder is solved. It starts before either Hawk or I were born, with Heinrich Himmler offering a Scottish soldier his pocket watch in return for a favour. I’m glad the squaddy took it or there wouldn’t be a fifth murder for Hawk to get his teeth into.


Douglas Watkinson is an English novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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