Monday, 17 September 2012

Skulduggery at the Show

On Saturday I read from Being Light at the Lambeth Country Show for Brixton Book Jam. Being Light is about a man called Roy Travers who is swept away on a freak gust of wind while installing a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park - which is where the Lambeth Country Show is held. When Roy doesn't come home, his wife hires local private detective Alison Temple (from the all-female Fitzgerald's Bureau of Investigation in Brixton) to find him. Thanks to everyone who came along and heard us read (Jim Bob, Warwick Cairns and Chris Chalmers were also on the line-up) and to everyone who bought a book.

The Lambeth Country Show is a slightly incongruous but very enjoyable event. The various rural displays such as sheep shearing and pig racing (who knew that's what they get up to in the countryside), and the owls, ferrets, rabbits and goats, suggest that we're in the heart of a farming community. And yet we're in a park in Brixton, an urban area of London that has a reputation for being a bit edgy. Still, like all areas of London, we're well-equipped with parks, allotments and outdoor spaces. We may not do much alpaca farming but we do like a free festival.

There's a nice mix of innocence and irony among the exhibits of home-grown vegetables, homemade cakes, flower arrangements, and scupltures made from vegetables in the craft tent. There are food stalls, cultural and community events, and musicians on the main stage. Every couple of hours the local firefighters demonstrate how easily a chip pan can catch fire, and then put out the flames.

On Sunday I went back and did some research for my third full-length Emily Castles mystery, provisionally entitled Skulduggery at the Show, which will take place at the Lambeth Country Show, where rivalry among contestants in the craft tent will lead to murder. I wanted to take photos of anything that looked dangerous and could be a potential murder weapon - which, as it turns out, was just about everything. Everywhere I looked, people were either waving very large knives or choppers about, or tending jerk chicken barbecues that looked as though they might catch fire, or putting out chip pan flames, or jousting, or whacking pigs with a stick. I didn't even go near the fairground, where all the rides always look to me like motorised murder weapons.

As for a motive - well, the notes on the tomatoes from the judges stating curtly that they shouldn't have been entered with the stalks removed... that would work, wouldn't it? And about half the tomato exhibits had the same biro-scrawled admonishment stuck to them. So we could have plenty of candidates for the role of murderer as the victims are sliced, broiled, fried, poisoned and tossed from the fairground rides at the show.

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