Character Assassins

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The death of fictional superstars by pen, pencil or type lies, quite literally, in the hands of their creators.

At the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2010; Fiona Lindsay conducts a forensic cross-examination of popular writers, put on trial to reveal their motives for killing off their leading characters. It's an age-old friction in fiction between creator and creation. And the assassination of an author's key character is often a result of a clash of egos.

Agatha Christie kept the death of her famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot secret for 30 years; only to confess shortly before her own demise. She had no regrets and, as her biographer Laura Thompson reveals, was in no hurry to get Miss Marple on the case.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle detested Sherlock Holmes' public domination over his own life and murdered him merrily. Yet the firestorm of protest was so intense, resurrection was inevitable. Holmes expert; David Stuart Davies and actor Roger Llewellyn incorporate the core of this controversy in their latest play.

Colin Dexter claims he didn't kill Morse: 'he died of natural causes'. A nation mourned, but the author is unrepentant, choosing kindly death over morose retirement.

Ian Rankin took the opposite view for the demise of Rebus, leaving the coffin lid open for a timely return. But since fictional characters are immortal, why kill them off at all?

Characters who become bigger than their authors, beware!! They may have all the best lines, but their creator has the last word.

Fiona Lindsay cross-examines the witnesses and interrogates the accused as they try to justify their acts of literal 'murder'.

Not so much a whodunnit as a 'why did they do it?'


Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.
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