A thrilling new fictional form: the bite-size novel

Teddy Carew was an upper-class twit with a streak of evil who liked inflicting pain on girls
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The Independent Culture
WE ARE now in the age of the short attention span, so I make no apology for bring you an entire novel today. Yes, in the next 800 words you will get a complete crime thriller, so let's get cracking with...

Persons Unknown

a complete new thriller

by Raffle Stubbs

Naomi Castle had discovered the great secret which all crime novelists discover sooner or later, namely, that you can get away with murder, or at least, you can get away with any amount of violence as long as you have a police inspector come along and turn it into a respectable crime.

Most novelists find it much harder to get away with violence. When ordinary fiction writers put violence into their books, they tend to get known as violent novelists, writers who seem to be obsessed with pain and torture, almost as if they were as psychopathic as the characters they describe.

This doesn't apply to thriller writers. Violence is automatically justified in a thriller. You can't really have a thriller without violence, can you?

"There's a great deal of sex and violence in your books, Naomi," said the interviewer on Woman's Hour. "Do you really enjoy writing about it?"

Not in the least, was what Naomi Castle wanted to say. My publisher makes me do it. P D James and Ruth Rendell do it, so I have to too. We all do it, because it's expected of us.

But that is not what she said. What she said was the other thing that novelists always say.

"Well, in a funny sort of way, I don't have a choice. My characters become very real and tend to take over the action, and some of them seem to be very violent."

"Yes, but they are still your characters," said the Woman's Hour interviewer, in the slightly schoolteacherly manner you sometimes get on that programme. "They must reflect you, and different sides of your personality, so you must be able to control them."

"I don't really think I have a violent side," said Naomi Castle. "So I don't know where my characters get it from."

Teddy Carew, for instance. In her new book, Teddy Carew was an upper- class twit with a streak of evil who liked inflicting pain on girls.

He hadn't been meant to be like that at all when Naomi Castle first invented him. She wanted him to be an upper class twit with too much money who was going to vanish after he had served his purpose (giving the heroine, Dawn Botsford, a lift to London). But he had stuck around in the novel and started to fascinate Naomi Castle with his combination of heartlessness and - well, and chinlessness.

The extraordinary thing was that Dawn Botsford seemed to like him too.

Naomi didn't really approve of Dawn Botsford liking Teddy Carew. Dawn Botsford was not just the heroine, she was the victim, too. She was due to be murdered in Chapter Five, so it didn't really help if she started getting entangled in an affair with Teddy Carew. Perhaps she ought to have Teddy Carew murdered as well...

"You know she's thinking of having you bumped off this week?" said Teddy Carew, as they sat in the wine bar in the King's Road.

"What?" said Dawn Botsford, shocked. "Bumped off? Me? But why?"

"Part of her job," said Teddy laconically. "She bumps people off because she's paid to. I could understand if she did it because she enjoyed it, but... Anyway, she's thinking of having me done in as well."

"You too?" said Dawn. "Oh, my God... How can we stop her?"

"Well..." said Teddy Carew.

Naomi woke up at this moment, before Teddy could answer. My God, talk about characters taking over your thoughts. They were even invading her dreams now. And threatening revenge on her!

This was something that even Sigmund Freud had never imagined. But by the time she came to breakfast she had cheered up and seen it for the occupational hazard it was.

By the time she had left the house and walked down the road for the paper, she was cheerfully thinking through the plot again, and so she didn't see the lorry which left the road and ran into the shop just behind her.

Before it hit the shop, it also, unfortunately, ran into her and killed her outright. So she could never tell the police the most extraordinary thing of all, which was that her last sight on earth was the lorry driver's face.

He was grinning. And he was the splitting image of what she imagined Teddy Carew looked like.