Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Learning to be Gruesome

Reading the interview on the RNA blog this week from author Natalie-Nicole Bates, who is talking about her collection of vintage post- mortem photographs and a heroine who owns a funeral parlour, inspired me to think about my own excursions into the gruesome.
Being a nerdy academic at heart, when I’m considering a new book, my first thought is -- Is there a course I can do that will help with this?  I like to learn things, and access to an expert over a period of ten weeks, learning about stuff, is my idea of fun. Well, we all have our eccentricities.
When I began to dabble in crime, courses on spying and burglary were a bit thin on the ground, but something that was available from Cardiff University’s Lifelong Learning Department was forensic science.  With some trepidation, I signed on.  I must say that you do have to have a strong stomach and a certain appreciation of black humour, but otherwise the course was great.  We learned a lot about falls, fires, blood splatter and DNA.  The lecturers were excellent – all larger than life figures and particularly enlightening about forensics as depicted on TV. I got the distinct impression that, while excellent entertainment, images of beautiful people in designer ensembles drifting elegantly around crime scenes and solving dastardly crimes in five or ten minutes were not quite how it happened in real life.  Real life was more likely to involve blood, sweat and tears – literally - and to take a lot longer than ten minutes. As a result of their guidance, I do try to get my science right.  Sometimes you might have to bend things just a bit, to fit the story line, but I try hard to get the essentials in place.  And I salute all those experts who do a difficult job with a level of expertise and dedication that has to be seen to be appreciated.
So, that’s me -- I'm a course nerd—most recently I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum, learning about King Arthur for my next work in progress.  But if anyone comes across any good burglary training, do let me know.

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