Writing Shooting in the Dark
During my talk in Lincoln last night I read an extract from one of the novels in the Sam Turner series.
I published Shooting in the Dark some years ago. It is a novel centred around a death-threat to a blind woman and her sister. It is about sight and seeing and how easy it is to miss seeing the wood for the trees and the way that we are often intent on seeing what we want to see rather than what is plainly there before us.
The novel pits Sam Turner and his young assistant, Geordie, against an intelligent and ruthless adversary, a psychologist with a personal problem.
The research for Shooting in the Dark was different to the usual work I put in before I begin to write a novel. The theme was to do with seeing or the inability to see and what was exciting about that from my point of view was the way that the metaphor could be extended. It could provide a way into the subject of stalking for example or the wilful way that we sometimes refuse to see what would be to our advantage. These and other extensions of the metaphor I was only too willing to utilize.
As a writer, I was also intrigued by the way that the word watching is used in the language. How we refer, for example to a watched pot never boiling, or how we watch a person’s back, keep an eye on someone or some thing. And how this idea of watching leads to other related concepts like the idea of witness or that of spying. Being a witness, or bearing witness; how we might label someone as a hostile witness. We talk about spying out the land or refer to a tachograph as the spy in the cab.
But in addition I felt that, using a blind person as a central character, it would be remiss of me to get that character wrong. When I was a child my parents had a couple of blind friends and I could remember them well and the way that we negotiated around and with each other. But since my childhood I have known very few blind people or even people who were only partially sighted.
I approached the local Blind and Partially Sighted Society and was introduced to a remarkable woman called Diane Roworth. We met in the bar of a theatre and if I hadn’t known that Diane was blind I would never have guessed. It was through that meeting and subsequent meetings with other blind people that the novel and the concept of the novel grew from its original beginnings. I felt the stories that these people told me about their struggles and the dignity and bravery with which they faced life in a “sighted” world needed to be told. I had to be careful, of course, not to further the myth of the ‘poor blind beggar’, the handicapped being who can only rely on handouts and charity.
My writing would have to reflect the reality, that someone who is blind is not therefore, somehow less productive or able than a ‘sighted’ person. But only that they see the world from a slightly different perspective.
So while Shooting in the Dark remains a crime novel, it has an additional dimension and the writing of it reminded me over and over again of the words of Jonathan Swift: Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.