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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Murders and political intrigue mean there’s plenty to inspire crime writing talent

Younger fans flood to genre, eager for more rapid-fire stories much like those on television

Cuneyt Ulsever and Haluk Sahin, left, agree that Turkey is fertile ground for crime and mystery writers. Courtesy Pera Palace Hotel
Cuneyt Ulsever and Haluk Sahin, left, agree that Turkey is fertile ground for crime and mystery writers. Courtesy Pera Palace Hotel

One of the success stories of Black Week is that it shines a light on Turkish crime authors. Neglected by the literary establishment, which dismisses their work as lacking artistic merit, writers usually publish their works in small numbers for a dedicated audience or in specialised journals.

“Now it’s changing,” says Cuneyt Ulsever with a satisfied smile as he signs one his novels – he has written nearly 30 of them. “This festival has helped spread a greater appreciation for our work, which I have seen steadily growing over the years.

“It is no longer such a lonely experience – which is not necessarily a bad thing for a writer,” says the author,

who has a large following of young fans.

Ulsever puts the newfound interest down to those Turkish youth. An audience raised on an mass entertainment diet of fast-paced television serials, he says the crime fiction is perfectly placed to appeal to those needs.

Unlike his international peers, Ulsever refuses to commit to a series of mystery novels and instead prefers stand-alones detailing political and societal dysfunction.

He had no real choice in the matter, he admits, as Turkish society is not known for macabre murders or enduring real-life mysteries.

“That, of course, makes it hard for any crime writer,” he says with a chuckle.

“Murders in Turkey are not very sophisticated to be honest. I have a lot of friends in the police and they often tell me how the criminals don’t even try to run away.

“They kill someone and police pick them up from home a few hours later. Sorry, but there is no real story. To find those you have to look at the bigger picture such as in politics, there is more material there.”

Haluk Sahin agrees. The controversial former journalist turned successful novelist says urban society in Turkey – like in most bustling international cities – offers a rich tapestry of shady characters.

“I have seen it in my work as journalist,” he says. “I saw weird alliances forming between journalists and not very good groups and how people started behaving in ways contrary to their character. This is great to write about.”

Expect more vital crime fiction to come from Turkey in the next few years, says journalist and author Sibel Koklu.

“The political turmoil we experienced over the last five or six years is providing strong material for some good crime and spy literature to be produced over the next decade,” she said.

“That failed coup against the government will alone give birth to over 100 novels.”

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Read more:

Richard Flanagan tells instead of shows in ‘First Person’

How author Ovidia Yu uses writing to explore injustice

Crime writing demystified by Sophie Hannah, a mistress of suspense

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