For some time now I’ve been toying with the idea that writing a murder mystery – such as I’m currently doing with Down On Cyprus Avenue, the first of what I hope will be a new series set in modern day Belfast and featuring McCusker who had a brief cameo in an early DI Christy Kennedy Mystery, called I’ve Heard The Banshee Sing – is a lot like playing a game of snooker.
Now that thought - playing a game of snooker is a lot like writing or solving a murder mystery - could in fact, be the entire piece, because from there we could go off and think about it and draw our own comparisons and conclusions.
But… the longer version…
In snooker you have two players and a referee, or a judge if you will.
In the murder investigation you also have two opponents; your detective and your prime suspect (who hopefully will turn out to be the murderer). You also have the judge; the law of the land.
As much as you may practice your potting in advance, it will never help you win a particular game because each and every game is different. In order to have at least a chance of winning a game of snooker you have to be able to react to the ever-developing, ever-changing puzzle the game throws up for you. You hit the first ball, you open up the game in a unique form; your opponent takes their first shot and off you go reacting to each other’s play and the set of individual circumstances each pot (or miss) reveals. Once again the comparisons with writing (or solving) a murder mystery are obvious.
In a game of snooker we have our set of balls: 15 red balls- each worth 1 point; one yellow ball (2 points); green (3 points); brown (4 points): blue (5 points); pink (6 points) and black (7 points).
The red balls in the snooker game are like the clues in the mystery. Just like the red balls in snooker we will keep returning to the clues in the case until, near the end, we will start to dismiss (or pocket) them one by one for the final time.
Then we have the colour balls. In the snooker game and they can be considered to be the suspects in our case. Again we will keep returning to them throughout our game/mystery until one by one they are all dismissed (pocketed) and we have concluded our game or resolved our case.
If we assume that our detective is the white ball then our prime suspect must be the black ball. Talking of which, I think it’s interesting to remember that in the early western movies the good guys always wore the white cowboy hats while the baddies were always, but always, decked out, head to toe, in black.
The ever important snooker cue is the detective’s logic and sharpness of mind. The better the cue and the cueing action the better the chances are of winning the game or solving the mystery.
The cue rest and the various sized cue extensions are like the detective’s team or assistants if you will. I’m referring to the Detective Constables, the Detective Sergeant, the forensic departments etc., etc.
The referee is, as we have inferred, comparable to the judge or the law of the land.
The table is like the detective’s patch (and office) and it’s vitally important that both the snooker player and the detective intimately know the ins, outs, not to mention, imperfections of their table or patch. For instance if the cushion at one position of the snooker table is not true then the ball will not react the way it is expected to. Should the detective not be picking up on the truth as he or she goes about their investigation, then, just like the stray ball described above, our detective will be off on a wild goose chase.
The break in the snooker game is exactly like the run the detective longs for in solving the case. Should the detective have the experience and sharp eyes for clues and he manages to solve the case immediately then that is equivalent to achieving the extremely difficult, and much desired, maximum break.
A snooker occurs in the game/mystery when the prime suspect (the snooker opponent) puts the ball beyond the natural line, whereby it becomes impossible to get a clear shot with the target ball (clue) due to the strength of a good alibi, or, in the case of the snooker game, a first class snooker.
A trick shot occurs when the detective grows a wee bit too confident and sets up an Agatha Christie style trap for his or her prime suspect; a trap which could potentially solve the case or go a long way to winning the game of snooker outright.
One of the main similarities between snooker and murder mysteries would have to be the way in which both the game and the case develop uniquely depending entirely on the natural progression of the game or the amassing of the clues and questioning of suspects. So, as we’ve already mentioned, the snooker players and the detective and prime suspect all depend on their ability to be able to react to each other and the unfolding game/case before them.
And yes snooker players can and do practise as much as they want ahead of a case and detectives can do their research, try for clearness and sharpness of mind and gather their wits about them, but the bottom line is neither snooker player nor detective can ever plan out a case or a snooker game entirely in advance, because once the initial break takes place then both sides are acting and reacting to their opponents.
A bit like real life; well I suppose you’d really have to say it’s a lot like real life.
This time I’ve seen:
Bruce Springsteen & The East Street Band at the Honda Centre, Anaheim. Now this man really knows how to put on an incredible, exciting, marathon live show. It’s not vital that you see Bruce Springsteen perform in front of an American audience but it does help to understand the degree of his sustained success. He is so audience conscious it’s unbelievable. He spends the entire concert eyeballing every single member of the audience. You get the impression that he knows every member of his audience on a first name basis. This is how it should be: first class sound and lights with an incredible band and artist not just performing the songs but living them as well.
David Lindley at McCabes, Santa Monica – a national treasure, the man who can get a tune out of any stringed instrument playing in the perfect location – the world famous guitar shop.
Jackson Browne at Keller Auditorium, Portland with an amazing new combo singing his heart out. Perfect set-list, perfect concert.
Michael Connolly – The Black Box. I’m a big fan of Michael Connelly I’ve loved all 24 of his books so far and this one is easily up there with his best.
John Grisham – The Racketeer. A great yarn and it’s going to make a great movie.
Rod Stewart – Rod. I was expecting (hoping for) a lot more background stuff from the An Old Raincoat Will Never Let You Down days.
Magnus Flyte – City of Dark Magic.
Greg Smith – Why I Left Goldman Sachs.
Sjowall & Wahloo – Roseanna & The Man Who Went Up In Smoke. By far the best police procedural books I have read since the Colin Dexter Morse stories.
Dick Wolf – The Intercept – Clint Eastwood could turn this into a brilliant film.
Stephen Hunter - The Third Bullet – loved it.
Tommy Mottola – Hitmaker: The Man and His Music – an interesting account of what happened at Black Rock.
Luck the TV series.
The Firm TV series.
Felicity TV series 1, 2, 3 & 4. – absolute gems one and all
House – the 8th and final TV series – please see next blog.
The House of Cards (US Version) Excellent five-star production from NetFlix. I wonder will the big American TV stations - CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, XYZ etc – rue this day as much as the ever dwindling number of major Record Companies rued the day file sharing was first introduced to the internet.
Lincoln – a master class in directing – from Stephen Spielberg - and acting - from Daniel Day Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader. Daniel Day Lewis’ performance is just an absolute joy to witness.
Silver Lining Playbook – might be my favourite movie of the year. This film is so good I went to see it twice and enjoyed it even more the second time. There’s genuine on-screen chemistry between the two leads.
Argo – very enjoyable.
Life of Pi – looks amazing.
People Like Us – I loved it.
Anna Karenina – not for me.
A Royal Affair – big surprise, unlike Anna K they got this one spot on.
Cloud Atlas – brave.
The Sessions – brave and successful.
Late Quartet – a different kind of rock and roll.
Addicted To Fame – very sad.
End of the Watch – compulsive viewing and disturbing.
Jack Reacher – effectively does what it says on the tin.
Playing for Keeps – would have been a perfect vehicle for George Clooney in the ER days.
Hitchcock – Anthony Hopkins just doesn’t make bad movies!
The Quartet – shows, perhaps just a wee bit too effectively, where we’re all heading.
Hyde Park and Hudson – loved it especially the performances from Bill Murray and Laura Linney.
Led Zeppelin Celebration. A fine testament to the band’s legacy; amazing sound, perfect performances from one and all and brilliantly captured on film, in fact, if anything, better than being at the gig - the ultimate celebration.
Django Unchained – mixed reaction from my party (of 4) but I loved it and thought it was very funny in a spaghetti Western kind of way.
West of Memphis – documentary of the year and they weren’t scared to name the name. I find it equally disturbing that a) these crimes are so casually committed and b) that the real offenders always seem to get away with it at the expense of other people’s liberty and c) that local politics get in the way of justice. Same as it always was.
Impossible – brilliant and a true story.
The Hobbit – equally brilliant but (hopefully) not a true story.
The Guilt Trip.
A Dark Truth.
The Last Stand - again you get what you pay for and not a vampire in sight.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas – Edward Burns taps back into very rich, multi layered stories of second generation Irish American family life.
Save The Date – another slice of American family life this time with the focus on two sisters – a wonderful rewarding film.
Stand Up Guys – well worth the ticket price if only for the Pacino, Arkin and Walken performances.
Trouble With the Curve – there’s never ever any trouble with a Clint Eastwood movie!
Breaking Dawn Part 2 – it would appear even vampires need a family life and long to live happily ever after with their loved ones. It’s just that when happily ever after means forever and a day it’s quite a difficult concept.
The Promised Land – another must-see movie from Matt Damon
The Gangster Squad – a great yarn.
This is 40.
Broken City – worked well for me
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Top Ten (in a particular order) Breakfasts while on the way to the movies in Santa Monica.
Seventeenth Street Café & Bakery
50s Diner (on Lincoln)
M Street Market *
Shutters On The Beach
Ye Olde Kings Head (ead (Th(English Pub)
Blue Daisy Café
The Omelette Parlour
The Farm Shop, 26th Street.
*Special Mention for best Hash Browns.
^ Technically not in Santa Monica (more Malibu) but on the circuit and well worth the trip because of the view. Famous because certain movie stars (allegedly) used to dine there with their mistresses while staying at the nearby hotel.
And finally, this blog’s official top ten:
The Top 10 Beatle Albums
01. Abbey Road
02. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
04. Rubber Soul
05. The Beatles (The White Album)
06. A Hard Day’s Night
07. Magical Mystery Tour (US)
08. With The Beatles
10. Beatles For Sale (if only for Mr Moonlight)
Until the next time,