Crime Writing, Oxford United and Porridge

(Originally published in the Oxford United vs Morcambe Programme, 29 March 2013)


I write crime novels. Actually I do other things too, but to keep things simple let's ignore them. I am also, of course, an Oxford United fan or why else would I have been asked to write a column in this programme.


What connects the two things? More than you might think. I am not suggesting that Oxford United football fans are more criminal than anyone else, or that they are more likely to be killed than anyone else in a crime novel (except possibly in my first book Blood on the Cowley Road!). It is the experience of being a writer and of being a fan that have some similarity.


At the beginning of February, my son Hugo returned from China for his mid-year holiday and we went to three games - two defeats and a draw! To be honest, they weren't the games I'll be telling my grandchildren about, and a few weeks afterwards it is hard to differentiate between the three because they were so forgettable. But the impression I am left with is what hard work it was for the loyal fan. I shouted encouragement, pointed out the referee's failings and maybe even implored some divine assistance to get the players to actually pass and shoot straight, but nothing I did made any difference at all.


And that is what writing is sometime like. You sit down ready to type. You know what the next scene is going to be about. And yet it is like wading through porridge. Your fingers behave like thumbs. Your brain refuses to cog in. You curse and swear. And yet you persevere, on and on and on, until you get to the end of the scene. You go and make yourself a rewarding coffee and look for a biscuit. You deserve it, you tell yourself. Job well done. Then you return to your seat and read what you have written. Your heart sinks faster than a lead donkey. If writing it was like wading through porridge, then reading it is like eating bread and butter pudding (the most unpleasant experience known to man as far as I am concerned). It is repulsive and indgestible, and you realise you have wasted your whole morning.


Other days, of course, it is all so different. On other days the words flow, the wordcount increases at a merry rate and when you get to the end of the chapter and reread it, you find yourself getting really quite excited. It is, you tell yourself modestly, brilliant. This is going to be my best whodunnit ever. In that moment the world is suddenly a brighter place. The colours in the garden are more vivid that your ever recall. You love everyone!


That is the Wembley moment - the moment when Potter slots home to make it 3-1. The moment when Joey Beauchamp slams home the final goal in the 3-0 defeat of Swindon. High and lows, ups and downs, the hard slog wthout any guarantee of success. That is the fate of the football fan (and player) and the crime fiction writer. That is life.


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Peter Tickler | Author



Blood on the Marsh

Blood in Grandpont

Blood on the Cowley Road

The Modern Mercenary


A List of Published work



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Photo courtesy the Oxford Mail & Oxford Times © 2008


Photo courtesy the Oxford Mail and
Oxford Times © 2008