Competition

The new black

3 August 2013

9:00 AM

3 August 2013

9:00 AM

In Competition 2808 you were invited to invent a new addition to the genre that already includes Tartan Noir and Nordic Noir. This was another invitation to leap aboard the latest literary bandwagon. The new noirs stretched from Devon to space via Middle Earth and Antarctica. You didn’t allow yourselves to be pinned down by geography, though. Basil Ransome-Davies is the proud progenitor of Expat Noir and pockets £30, while the rest of the winners earn £25.
 

Commissaire Lemaître studied the transcripts, baffled and despondent. With all their blogging and emailing the English seemed obsessed by mundane grouches, and for ever in need of advice or consolation. Requests for good yoga classes and hairdressers. Complaints of French inefficiency and greed. How to rescue a damaged swimming pool. Ponies for sale. Properties for sale. And always, always, the Eurozone money-worries.

If they were coded, who could tell? Only one thing was certain. Someone had hated Rodney Stafford enough to murder him with extreme savagery. It had cast a shadow over the Dordogne village of 600 souls. But of those 480 were English, and the murder weapon was a golf club. It would be hard to narrow down suspects. Lemaître though ruefully of his native Brittany, with its cooler climate and straightforward crime patterns, like moonshining. Damn good marc they made, too. He grimaced and refilled his glass.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Expat Noir
 
DI Rosie Mower surveyed the devastation in and around the potting shed. Clearly another attack by the gang that was vandalising the little market town of Stableford. Greenways Garden Centre had been first. Then the allotments. Rosie could understand the theft of desirable vegetables, though old Adam was heartbroken at losing his perfect Kelvedon Wonders and record-sized golden marrow just before the produce show. But what motivated today’s mindless destruction? And closer to home, now. This wasn’t Rosie’s shed, but her precious allotment wasn’t far away.

DS Dave Diggory rose from his knees in a patch of plump cabbages. ‘Something here you should see, Ma’am.’ The ‘something’ was the smashed body of a small dog, the bloody edging-tool beside it probably the implement that had removed the poor creature’s head. A broken wigwam supporting runner-beans lay beside the body, scarlet petals mingling with the blood on the white coat.
Alanna Blake/Horticultural Noir
 
Approaching the drop-in centre, Jeff popped an -omeprazole and waited for the reflux to subside so he’d be good to tackle a ginger biscuit. If they had them. You just never knew. Custard creams sometimes, as if nobody cared. Reflected lamplight flared off a mobility scooter pimped with psychedelic designs. Echoes of 1967 in the darkness. So PJ was there. Jeff went in.

He might have guessed but it was a shock like a bathroom fall; Mavis was there too. They were doing a jigsaw of Charles and Diana. PJ’s tea mug read NOT MY PROBLEM. Mavis managed a nervous smile. She had an upper plate like Burt Lancaster. Jeff flashed his wallet at PJ.

‘Fuck off,’ PJ said. ‘That’s a bus pass, not a warrant card. I’m not that far gone. You remember to turn the taps off?’

Trembling with rage, Jeff smashed PJ’s mug with his stick.
G.M. Davis/OAP Noir
 
The body lay in the dairy products aisle. It had once been a woman. She lay, dismembered, just to the left of the yoghurt display and Detective Jackson noticed that the two-for-one offer was particularly good. Blood was pooled beneath the woman, at least as red as the apples over in the fruit section. He grunted to his sidekick: ‘The 20th supermarket killing this month alone. It’s got out of hand.’

Sergeant Stone could only agree: ‘Back when the old dears would slash each other over who got to the exotic jam section first, things were just about manageable. But then the old rules no longer applied and it turned to stabbings and shootings. And we both remember the garrotting with the sausages.’ Jackson shook his head sadly. He remembered it all too well. He had not been able to eat a sausage since.
John Lias/Supermarket Noir
 
The Laureate lay face upwards on the communal table at the Poets’ Writing Retreat, transfixed, and doubtless, for he was a believer, transfigured. Is this a dagger that I see before me? thought Chief Inspector Shakeshaft. Of course it bloody was. Bottom, thou art translated. The poet’s collected works lay higgledy-piggledy all around him. Shakeshaft picked up a book at random and opened it. Every line of every poem had been scored heavily through in black.

‘Redacted, guv?’ breathed Sergeant Dickinson, a woman of few words.

Shakeshaft shook his head. ‘Edited more like, Emily. And this,’ he pointed to the body, ‘the final editing. Edited out of the living altogether.’

‘An inside job?’ suggested Sergeant Dickinson. The Laureate had been a critic too. ‘TLS?’ she whispered. ‘That means…’

Shakeshaft shook his head again. ‘Anyone could have done it.’ He indicated the slim volumes. ‘Anyone who can read, that is.’
John Whitworth/Poetry Noir
 
‘Another mutilated corpse in Godalming,’ DC Smith remarked, almost conversationally.

‘And a couple more in Guildford,’ replied Sergeant Lawrence, wearily. They were speeding along one of Surrey’s many B roads in the unmarked Ford. ‘But we’d best concentrate on the job in hand. The Dorking disembowelments are about as nasty as you get, even in this godforsaken neck of the woods.’

‘Oh, I don’t know, sarge. How about the Farnham flayings — and that weird Windlesham business?’

‘Don’t remind me.’ He got a flashback of the impaled couple and wondered whether he was a case of PTSD. If so he was due for at least a month’s welcome sick leave.

It came on to rain, heavy drops battering the Ford’s windscreen. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘There go the clues. Look there’s the signpost for Oakwood. Best pull over for a bit. See if we can pick up any speeders.’
Gerard Benson/Surrey Noir

 

No. 2811: New word order

You are invited to take an existing word and alter it by a) adding a letter; b) changing a letter; and c) deleting a letter; and to supply definitions for all three new words (150 words maximum). Please email entries, where possible, to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 14 August.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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