Joyce Carol Oates, Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, 2002
The taller of the two men, who wore dark-rimmed glasses with green-tinted lenses, said, "You're Matthew Donaghy?"
Matt was so surprised, he heard himself stammer, "Y-Yes. I'm – Matt."
The classroom had gone deathly silent. Everyone was staring at Matt and the two strangers. It was like a moment on TV, but there were no cameras. The men in their dark suits exuded an authority that made rumpled, familiar Mr Weinberg in his corduroy jacket and slacks look ineffectual.
"Is something w-wrong? What do you want with – me?"
Matt's mind flooded: something had happened at home to his mother, or his brother, Alex... his father was away on business; had something happened to him? A plane crash…
The men were standing on either side of the desk, looming over him. Unnaturally close for strangers. The man with the glasses and a small fixed smile introduced himself and his companion to Matt as detectives with the Rocky River Police Department and asked Matt to step outside into the corridor. "We'll only need a few minutes."
In his confusion Matt looked to Mr Weinberg for permission – as if the high school teacher's authority could exceed the authority of the police.
Mr Weinberg nodded brusquely, excusing Matt. He too appeared confused, unnerved.
Matt untangled his legs from beneath his desk. He was a tall, lanky, whippet-lean boy who blushed easily. With so many eyes on him, he felt that his skin was burning, breaking into a fierce flamelike acne. He heard himself stammer, "Should I – take my things?" He meant his black canvas backpack, which he'd dropped on to the floor beside his desk, the numerous messy pages of his play script, and his laptop computer.
Meaning too – Will I be coming back? The detectives didn't trouble to answer Matt, and didn't wait for him to pick up the backpack; one of them took charge of it, and the other carried Matt's laptop. Matt didn't follow them from the room; they walked close beside him, not touching him but definitely giving the impression of escorting him out of study hall. Matt moved like a person in a dream. He caught a glimpse of his friends' shocked faces, especially Stacey's. Stacey Flynn. She was a popular girl, very pretty, but a serious student; the nearest Matt Donaghy had to a girlfriend, though mostly they were "just friends", linked by an interest in Drama Club. Matt felt a stab of shame that Stacey should be witnessing this.... Afterwards he would recall how matter-of-fact and practised the detectives obviously were, removing the object of their investigation from a public place.
What a long distance it seemed, walking from the rear of the classroom to the front, and to the door, as everyone stared. There was a roaring in Matt's ears. Maybe his house had caught on fire? No, a plane crash... Where was Dad, in Atlanta? Dallas? When was he coming home? Today, tomorrow? But was it likely that police would come to school to inform a student of such private news?
It was bad news, obviously.
"Through here, son. Right this way."
In the corridor outside the classroom, Matt stared at the detectives, who were both big men, taller than Matt and many pounds heavier. He swallowed hard; he was beginning now to feel the effect of a purely physical anxiety.
Matt heard his hoarse, frightened voice. "What – is it?"
The detective with the glasses regarded Matt now with a look of forced patience. "Son, you know why we're here."
Can you help solve a murder in Newcastle?
Margaret Murphy, theguardian.com, Thursday, 29 May 2014
Suzie is proud of her foster son, Ben. Though shy and withdrawn, he settled well into the family, got a couple of A-levels, then a job in a cycle shop, gaining full independence when he found himself a room in a shared house in Heaton. Now Ben is dead. Discovered by his foster mother in his own locked room, slumped over his computer; his skull is smashed. There is blood everywhere, spattered on the ceiling and on the floor and the wall behind his desk.
A sad story of a promising life cut cruelly short. But thankfully, this particular case is a fictional scenario, dreamt up by Vera and Shetland creator, Ann Cleeves. It represents a brilliant chance for crime readers, amateur science buffs and aspiring writers to take a peek behind the scenes and discover how a crime can be solved with the help and guidance of real-life scientists and police investigators.
Crime Story is a brand new festival from New Writing North and Northumbria University, Newcastle. Taking place this weekend, the event will bring crime writers together with experts in crime scene analysis, digital forensics, criminology, forensic pathology, and the criminal justice system to solve Ben's murder.
Some ask does it really matter if the science and investigative procedure is right in fiction – surely, we're making stuff up? My view is that the pact between reader and writer is one of trust: the reader promises to immerse herself in the story, and the writer promises to tell the truth about that story. But if the reader sees obvious untruths – mistakes, and errors of fact being two cardinal and unforgivable kinds of untruth – then the pact between writer and reader has been broken. Trust is lost; the reader feels cheated – insulted even – by the writer's ignorance and laziness. So, if you want your book to be read, then yes, it matters.
As well as helping to solve Ben's murder, the experts will be running workshops on hi-tech crime, forensics labs, crime reporting, and portrayals of crime in fiction, while the authors will give their take on make crime fiction ‘real'. My own contribution is a workshop for aspiring writers, taking a closer look at some of the forensic science I've incorporated in my own writing. Everyone will have a chance to write a scene of their own, so get those pencils sharpened.
Name the characters mentioned in the passage.
Identify their jobs if given.
Where does the scene take place?
What interrupts the lesson?
Describe the general atmosphere at that very moment:
a) for the class
b) for the main character
Say what the two men want Matt to do.
What are Matt's different feelings at that moment? Support your answer with quotes.
Say how the tension increases with the description of the two men.
What does the passage in italics refer to compared to the rest of the passage?
Say what the Crime Story festival is.
Explain the use of workshops in this festival.
Why would the reader feel "cheated" or even "insulted"?
What are the differences concerning police investigators in both documents?