Crime writer in Rye


The mysterious landscape setting of Dungeness has over the years attracted many writers and film-makers – one thinks of Sheila Kaye-Smith and Derek Jarman for example. It is a perfect setting for a crime novel, thought William Shaw as he was looking for a location in a rural setting for his latest novel, The Birdwatcher.

What unlocks the narrative? Crime fiction has to pull you off line, but it must be grounded in a real event, you have to have a factual basis on which to hang your fiction”, he told a Festival audience at The Mermaid Inn, “the made-up bit and the not made-up. Then your readers will suspend their disbelief at the unfolding plot.

Of course, it couldn’t happen; statistically there are very few murders in the UK, only 527 in 2015 in the whole country, but there’s all this crime writing. People somehow like to rehearse the dark situations that they might just have to get involved in, however unlikely that is.”

Dungeness is famous for bird-watching, so that suggested the main characters: “But I had to find a real birdwatcher to get inside his head. Then, why would anyone choose to live in such a remote place? What are they running away from? So the story developed from there.”

From Rye, William Shaw was travelling north to attend a crime-writers’ gathering at Morecambe: Morecambe and vice, he said.

Photo: Kenneth Bird

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