Wednesday, 3 August 2011

My teacher went to prison... By Yvonne Coppard

My A level History teacher, Audrey Peckham, was a gifted storyteller.
She made the criminal scheming of royal courtiers, the bloody and murderous paths to the throne, as good as any murder mystery.

But a few years later, she was convicted of conspiracy to murder and went to prison.

She wrote a book about it: ‘A Woman in Custody’. It was a book that changed the system – what power words have, eh?

 The book became a set text for people working in the prison system (a sort of how-not-to-do-it manual).

Yvonne Coppard
Her observations of life on the Inside remind us that one person’s crime is also a tragic back story for many other people connected with the crime or the criminal.

I love crime fiction because I love Criminal Law.
I have studied it, worked in it, debated its greatness and its stupidities hundreds of times in a thousand different places, including lecture theatres , pubs, living rooms and courts. And all through its tangled history runs the weave of real stories about real people.

Their lives are shaped by crime: as perpetrators, victims or powerless witnesses whose lives are changed forever by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they were presented as fictional characters, some of these people would be dismissed as ‘far-fetched’ or ‘unconvincing’. But they are living those far-fetched lives every minute of the day; they can’t put down the book and escape back into another, more ‘normal’ world, as the reader can.

Crime features in my stories from time to time ,(theft in ‘Copper’s Kid’, kidnapping in ‘Hide and Seek’), but although I don’t write crime fiction, I love to read it.
Detective stories are a favourite. Who dunnit?  Who cares - as long as the journey to discovery is an entertaining one that takes me on a roller coaster and then sets me down satisfied.
But the real challenge as a reader is to find books that take you backstage to the plot and make you understand what it’s like to be caught up in a crime, whether you’re the criminal, the victim, the family or the friend standing on the sidelines.

These are always the stories that stay with me, and make me glad and grateful for my dull, un-criminal life where I can enter into the dark and murky world of crime knowing that I don’t have to stay there.

Yvonne Coppard
Yvonne Coppard has been travelling overseas, filling notebooks and writing non-fiction and short articles lately; she has just returned to the ‘proper job’ of writing after a sabbatical that was supposed to end last year, but was just too much fun to give up...

She is currently writing ‘Amelie’s Secret’, set in occupied France in 1944 and England in the present day, and hopes to finish it later this year. In war torn France, Amelie’s father, a doctor, works for the Resistance, in danger of his life from the Nazis. But it is Amelie who has to flee from France after one terrifying moment compels her to do something that will ruin her own life and shape the lives of two generations to come. Now Amelie is dying, and she wants granddaughter Cat to return to France and put things right so that Amelie can die in peace. But what did she do that was so terrible, and will the family be able to cope with knowing the truth?

No publication details yet - keep an eye on Yvonne’s web site for details of the book’s progress:

Yvonne’s next published book, (unless ‘Amelie’s Secret’ goes much faster than expected,) will be 
‘The Arvon Book of Children’s Fiction’ ( co-written with Linda Newbery). 
 A how-to book for writers, it will be published by Bloomsbury 
– no firm date yet - but probably early in 2013


1 comment:

  1. Great post. I don't know quite what to say but I was riveted by it.