Just a quick reminder.

Just a quick reminder for all those Grimbarians and Meggies who read my blog (though I can’t think why you do – I’m not that interesting)- I am hosting a Charity Murder Mystery Evening at the Legacy Oaklands Country House Hotel (I have to use the full title otherwise they get cross, even if we all know it as just “The Oaklands”) on the 2nd October. Doors open 7pm. Tickets are a bargain price of £19.95 and include a buffet and free drink on arrival. All proceeds are going to the MS society.

You can find more details out about the event and even buy tickets on-line if you want to (though you’ll pay more than simply sending me a cheque) here: The Spy Who Killed Me

If you wanted to see what you are letting yourself in for then I’ve got a picture of the cast here: Photoshoot

Halloween Hotel Horror complete.

With many, many thanks to Magnus for taking the kids out of my hair repeatedly over the last two weeks I can happily report that “Halloween Hotel Horror” (At least, I think that will be the name of the game…)is finished.

Also – I found out yesterday that Northern Voices will accept my application for Deep Rising. They have decided, this time around at least, that commissions for dinner theatre plays count as “commissioned writer” for the application form. Fabulous! The closing date is 28th August (this Friday). I wonder how the fish will fare…

Where did murder mystery games came from?

I have been asked to speak at the local Women’s contact group in September and, although somewhat daunted by the prospect (I can’t imagine I’m that entertaining) I have nonetheless been putting together my talk.

I’ve been billed as “Jo Smedley talks about her life of crime” – which sounds as if I’m a bit of a jail bird – how dissappointed they are going to be!

Anyway, as part of my talk I’ve been looking into the history of murder mystery games, as I thought others might like to know where they game from and, finding it interesting myself, I thought I would share it on my blog for everyone else.

And so – a brief history of murder mystery games:

To understand where murder mystery games come from, we need to start at the very beginning and look at where murder mystery fiction came from.

Firstly, and this is worth noting, the murder mystery genre simply didn’t exist until the 1800s.

The first detective in fiction was actually Edgar Allen Poe’s “August Dupin” in “Murder in the Rue Morgue” which was published in 1841, but, strangely enough it wasn’t until 1842 that the London metropolitan police appointed their first detective force consisting of just 8 men.

Charles Dickens brought out a detective work called Bleak House in 1853, but even then murder mystery as a genre still hadn’t really taken off.

What changed everything was, strangely enough, a real murder case which happened in 1860. The murder at Road Hill House was the first murder to be extensively reported in the press and it was this case that turned the good people of the UK into amateur sleuths.

Midnight on the 30th June 1860, Road Hill House was just another elegant family manor set in the rural Kent countryside. But by the morning this typical Victorian manor was the scene of a grisly murder. Saville Kent, aged just 3 years was found with his throat slit in the privy. The only real suspects were the members of the household. Saville’s father and mother, his siblings, the nursemaid, and the household staff.

It would be a disturbing case, even in this day and age, but back then, the murder set the British public on edge, they wanted to know everything. If this could happen in a respectable home then what could go on elsewhere? The press responded to the public’s interest by telling them as much as they wanted, printing hearsay and rumours as well as facts.

When the detectives got involved they left no stone unturned in the investigation. But this invasion of privacy was unheard of in Victorian England, where a man’s home was his castle. Needless to say the general public descended on the investigation like vultures, eager for any bits of juicy gossip and they all had their own ideas as to who killed Saville Kent and how it was done, even to the point of contradicting the police force in the national press.

It was this case, and the detective fever that followed it, that drove all future fiction. This case was the blueprint for all murder mystery novels to come. A manor house, a murder, a seemingly respectable family in which lurked secrets, and a singular detective who leaves no stone unturned.

Wickie Collins released Moonstone in 1868, just 8 years after the Road Hill Murder and it was this book that is considered to be the original fictional murder mystery.

Later on, in 887 one of the UKs best known detectives, Sherlock Holmes arrived. During his career Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 4 Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories and Holmes is still one of the worlds best known detective characters to this day.

The Victorians were lovers of all types of parlour games, many of which have survived until this day in boxed form. And, if we were looking for the true origins of murder mystery games, then it was probably sometime in the late 1800’s, after murder mystery fiction was born, that they originated, starting out in the form of after dinner games such as murder in the dark, wink murder and jury. If anyone has ever played wink murder before, then you’ll know that it is a far cry from the modern murder mystery dinner parties. So what happened?

Well, by the 1920’s murder mysteries were growing in popularity, and it was into this golden age of fiction that Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers stepped in. Agatha Christie is best known for just two fictional sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple who are the detectives in approximately two thirds of her novels and short stories.

Since then murder mysteries have become still more popular and have taken over television as well as shelves and shelves in bookshops and libraries with novels for children as well as adults.

But when did murder mystery games hit the scene?

Well, 1935 saw the release of the first murder mystery game known as Jury Box. It’s vastly different from the modern murder mystery games. In Jury Box the players or Jurors are given the scenario of the murder, the evidence presented by the prosecutor and defendant, two photographs of the crime scene and ballot papers. Jurors have to make the decision as to who is guilty and then a real solution is read out.

Cluedo, the first murder mystery board game was released some time later in 1948, and has continued to be popular. However, Cluedo (or Clue) is again, a vastly different game to the modern role playing dinner party mysteries.

So when did these murder mystery dinner party games first start?

Well the earliest mention I have found of these role playing murder mystery games in their present format is in the 1980s when they were thought to be a bit of a one year wonder in the game shops. Back then the scenarios were simple. The acting directions minimal and the games relied on the guests being comfortable ad-libbing responses to each other’s questions.

However, this one hit wonder clearly didn’t fall entirely flat, and in the last 20 years those basic games have increased in complexity into the more complex role playing dinner party games we have today.

Off Cut festival closes – no luck. (no surprise)

Another rejection. But I’m not really worried. It was a last minute submission of something I found funny and I figured only a few would too. I’m not a comedy writer. As I was explaining to @laurencetimms on ukwriters just the other day, my humour is usually in written form and what makes me laugh doesn’t always tickle anyone else. It’s one of the reasons I’m not entering the BBCwritersroom sitcom competition.

Still – no time to ponder anything else – I’m too busy with mystery game writing right now to consider another screenplay. For now…

Current project

Red Herring Events has had a new commision for a murder mystery performance on the 31st october, Halloween themed, so I am now smack bang in the middle of writing a new game so I can get it to the cast as soon as possible!

The current game is titled “The Transylvanian Trap” for the hotel, but as I already have a game called that on RHG I will be renaming it for general release. My only problem is what do I call it?

Halloween Horror? Dead on arrival? Transylvanian Terror/trouble? Hallo-scream? Horrible happenings at Halloween? Done in at Dunnem Inn? Any preferences???

Oddly, because it’s a commission I’ve actually written the blurb for the game first (as they needed it for the hotel website ASAP) so to give you a flavour of the game, this is what is to come…

Set attractively in the Transylvanian hills of Romania, Dunnem Inn is a grand and elegant hotel with stunning medieval architecture

Sited centrally for the most important cultural attractions, Dunnem Inn is the perfect choice for tourists wishing to make the most of their stay in Romania.

With regular coach tours departing from the hotel every day and themed murder mystery evenings every weekend, Dunnem Inn aims to make any visit to Romania both comfortable and unforgettable.

Guests are always encouraged to join in with the festivities of Halloween during their stay at Dunnem Inn and this evening is no exception. Surrounded by ghosts, vampires, witches and zombies the staff hope to engage you in a lively Halloween themed murder mystery.

The problem is, tonight it’s a REAL body they discover; that of Seymour Vistas, one of the visiting guests.

Photo shoot last night for “The Spy Who Killed Me!”

I think I brush up rather well…

Left to right: Back row: Jeanine Ridher (M), Sara Beasley (Diane Otherday), Me (Just getting in on the photo), Jonathan Parrot (Boris Blastimov), Front Row: Gary Swan (Franco Scaryminger), Ann (Emma’s Mother), Matt Storey (Des truct), Helen Kent (Lettica Bomb).

The two cast who couldn’t make the photo as they were on holiday are: Heath Johnson (Walter P. Peekay) and Christina Reynolds (Golden Eyes).

Keep an eye on the Grimsby Evening telegraph this wednesday. We should make the “What’s On?” Guide.

Deep Rising – log line and synopsis.

For those who are interested in what Deep Rising is actually all about, part of the competition application form asked for a one sentence logline and a one page synopsis.

The logline

Deep rising explores one of man’s last frontiers, the ocean, and the small group of marine specialists who are drafted in to deal with the latest threat to come from the depths.

The one page synopsis

Dr Julia Taylor, an eminent marine biologist, is recruited by the military to investigate a series of unexplained and possible threatening behaviours exhibited by marine life around the UK.

Feisty and distrustful of the military Dr Taylor is coerced into reviewing the reported phenomenon, but what she fully expects to be a pointless research project suddenly becomes extremely serious when her husband is killed repairing the Flannan Islands Lighthouse by an enormous and previously unrecorded sea anemone-like creature.

With the mounting threats posed by previously passive sea life, further specialists are called in and SMRT, the SubMarine Research Team is born. Its remit: to uncover the cause of the danger now posed by sea life around the UK, and if possible to stop it.

With new incidents occurring all the time and worrying reports of the sea anemones working southwards time is pressing and Julia finds it hard to reconcile her relationship with the lone survivor of the sea-anemone attack, Steven with whom she had had an affair before her husband’s death.

Meanwhile the rest of SMRT form close working bonds through repeated adversity and all of them pull together as a family to support Nat, a divorced mother struggling to raise her family single handed.

Over a series of exploratory dives, and while following up new incident reports, Steven and other members of the team, all now dear to Julia, are placed continually in jeopardy, yet despite this SMRT manage to identify the epicentre of the new problem: the North Atlantic oil fields west of Shetland.

Using innovative techniques SMRT construct countermeasures for the marine threat and decide to dive directly to the sea bed in the epicentre to uncover the exact nature of the threat.

In a daring attempt Steven joins Mac, SMRT’s stoic dive expert, in a mini-submersible. Realising that Steven might not return Julia finds herself finally able to admit something she knew all along, that she loves Steven, regardless of the guilt she feels that he survived when her husband died.

As the mini-submersible’s lights finally fix on what might be the cause of all the difficulties the mini-submersible is itself attacked and the visual and audio feed is lost.

Cue series two!

The fish have commenced battle

Finally, at long last “Deep rising” is finished. The fish have had their say, and what remains to be seen now is whether the critiques at the writersroom like their long tails or whether the drag of “over large sea anemones” proves too much and the screenplay is consigned back to the depths where it belongs…

The closing date on the “Northern Writers” is 28th of August and the script will be in the post tomorrow. So what can I say but… watch this space.

Back from hols and back to work!

Arrived home yesterday from a “nearly” two week break to see our folks back home. Had a wonderfully relaxing time away from work, recharged the old batteries and rested up, and have now come back raring to go. – Which is just as well really, as I’ve returned to a complicated customisation order on Red Herring Games and two other contacts to follow up over the next week.

This week also sees me launch the marketing in earnest for “the Spy Who Killed Me” which is running in aid of the MS society on the 2nd October.

As well as joining BNI and getting involved in the whole “Give as Gain” ethos of that.

Of course, on top of all that, I’ve still got “Deep rising” to finish, a project deadline for that having been fixed as 20th August as that is the deadline for Northern Voices entries and although I am not, as yet, sure if I qualify for that scheme, I might as well aim for that until I hear otherwise. Either way the fish need to get their own back before I begin eating and sleeping them…

I also can’t wait to catch up with Kerry Dewery this week to find out how she got on at the BBC masterclass. She’s been away on holiday the same time as me, but boy is she going to be snowploughed with questions the minute I see her on Thursday!