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Monday, 15 November 2010

Germany hosts Murder on Hellweg

From The Standard, Report - used with permission

Scary stuff. Six hundred of the world's most dangerous people met in rural Germany last week. At Murder on the Hellweg, Europe's biggest conference of crime writers, there were masters of poisonings, specialists in stranglings, experts in assassinations, and evil sadists who dream up new ways to kill people.It was just like school.
I'd never seen so many people dressed in black. I said to the guy next to me: "I guess black clothes are a kind of uniform, like business people wear suits and serial killers have 1970s moustaches on their upper lips. Or is it dentists?"
He gravely replied that where he comes from, serial killers have neither moustaches nor dentists on their upper lips.
In the dressing room, I sat next to Simon Kernick, a British author of ultra-violent thrillers. I couldn't stop myself turning around to keep one eye on the door. It was weird. Having read his books, I was subconsciously waiting for a gunman to burst in and turn me into a red splat on the wall.
Even MORE weird was that when this failed to happen, I felt disappointed. The human brain is a bizarre thing, or perhaps I am.
Several people noticed I was the only Asian crime author present. "Don't you guys have murders on your side of the world?" one writer asked. I replied: "No. Murder is illegal in Asia."
This answer, curiously, satisfied him. He probably comes from a place where murder is a normal part of daily life, like Mexico (or my school).
The vast majority of attendees were men, but one Woman In Black was present. Tatjana Kruse's fictional detective has two hobbies: fighting serial killers and learning cushion embroidery. "Wow," I said. "TWO terrifying challenges."
Toward the end of the evening, there was a loud bang. Had a Simon Kernick gunman turned up at last? No. Someone was opening champagne to celebrate.
More than 60 percent of the best- seller list this week consists of crime books or thrillers. Why do people go to bookshops to pick up tales of stabbings, shootings and killing? Don't they get enough of that at home? I know I do.
One novelist said humans evolved to live with stress. "We have a deep- rooted need to do battle with darkness," he said. "Fictional criminals are the ultimate incarnation of pure evil." This puzzled me. "Not Rupert Murdoch?"
One man asked me if there are any killing methods unique to Asia. I told him that both India and China have these things called "plenary meetings of congress," which specialize in boring people to death. "It's a horrible way to die," I told him.
His neighbor asked: "Most Asian countries still have the death penalty. Does it work as a deterrent?"
I said: "Definitely. Once we've killed them, they NEVER reoffend."
The world's crime writers turned out to be rather gentle people. Although some DO have highly suspicious moustaches.

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