An exhibition on the The Making of a Crime Novel: from the British Archive for Contemporary Writing previews at the University of East Anglia on Friday 16 September as part of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival. Justine Mann, Project Archivist at UEA, offers her personal highlights from the exhibition:

Ian Rankin’s first draft

An exclusive glimpse into the creative power of one of our leading crime writers. To achieve a first draft, Ian Rankin, UEA’s current UNESCO Visiting Professor, famously retreats to the north of Scotland finding that ‘tea, coffee, solitude and the inside of my head’ can produce the story in raw form. The exhibition shows early and later drafts of the first page of Rather be the Devil, in which a retired and nicotine starved Rebus is about to be drawn into a cold case from the 1970s. Alongside the annotated draft pages, are Rankin’s fascinating insights into how the story evolves.

Charlie Higson and the making of Young Bond

How does a writer recreate a cultural icon with a literary heavy weight like Ian Fleming peering over his shoulder? Higson’s books were critically acclaimed best sellers but exhibits show him wrestling with the all-important naming of the first Young Bond Girl, Wilder Lawless, and with questions from his editor on the quantity of gin and violence appropriate for a young adult audience. Excerpts from hundreds of children’s fan letters underline just how important the books are in persuading generations of boys (and girls) to read.


Creating a classic ‘who dunnit’


The crime writer Alan Hunter wrote 46 Inspector George Gently novels located within East Anglia. A blunt rejection letter from the literary agent, Curtis Brown, in 1953 suggests the detective story is contrived and has no future. In contrast, a warm acceptance six months later from the eventual publisher predicts a long series. Also featured are character maps and intricate plot designs providing fascinating insights into the process of creating the classic ‘who dunnit?’

Following Noirwich, the exhibition will continue in the UEA Library between 20 September – 24 November.