Professor Plum, in the billiard room with the lead piping.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to share a name with one of the Cluedo characters. I’m sure the prank phone calls would get tiresome very quickly.
A friend of mine recently wrote a letter to The Author magazine in which he objected to an article on the worth of writing that was self-published. He argued, rightly in my view, that the worth of a piece of work was determined by whether it found a home, and not by how it got there. His point was well made, and I hope he doesn’t mind if I borrow it and argue that Cluedo is perhaps the single most successful piece of crime fiction ever created.
Launched in the 1940s and now on sale in over 40 countries, Cluedo has been reissued many times. In addition to the classic board game, versions are available in just about every imaginable format. Scoff all you like about it not being proper crime fiction, but if these were book sales you’d be calling some serious shots with your publisher. There are 6 suspects, 6 murder weapons and 9 murder locations giving you 324 different possible endings. Those of you who have played it may recall how difficult it is to get to the Kitchen. That pesky secret passageway in the Study is hard to land on.
I cut my crime fiction teeth trying to write my own version of Cluedo. I wrote stories that had characters with names such as Dr M. Bellish and Ivana B. Alone (she was a Swedish actress). I would play them with like-minded friends over dinner. The plots were ridiculously contrived, so much so that by the cheese course everyone was either drunk or had given up, usually both. I spent hours thinking up names for these stories. I remember one a friend and I wrote which was set during a village fair, such as might appear in a Miss Marple story. It was called A Fête Worse than Death. I still think that is a brilliant title.
I didn’t realise until many years later but I had actually stumbled into the epitome of 1980s middle-class chic, the murder mystery dinner party. Except I was ten years too late. At the time I wrote for friends and family. Today this is seriously big business, ranging from companies who make games for you to play at home, to theatre companies who stage events for large audiences. The commercial value of the product tells you all you need to know about its worth.
The second Mark Dewar novel is published at the end of this month and to celebrate that I’d like to indulge in a sport of Cluedo-style writing. So here is a genuine offer. If you’d like me to write a murder mystery story specifically for you and your dinner guests then drop me a line by leaving a comment on this site. I’ll adopt a “will write for food and drink” for the best request I receive. You’ll get a personalised murder mystery for between 6-10 people, set in any location and historical period you like (remember, it is all about the texture) and in return, I get to join your party and help you reduce your wine cellar.
It will be fun. Especially if your name happens to be Miss Scarlett.