MWA Library Outreach Series: Forensics

Last night I braved the wet, cold diagonal rain to venture to the Mid-Manhattan Library for the MWA NY Chapter’s Library Outreach Series. The topic was: FORENSICS AND THE MYSTERY WRITER: IS IT SCIENCE OR FICTION?

The panel featured three writers (Lindsay Faye, Stefanie Pintoff, and E.J. Wagner) and a moderator (E.W. Count), who read excerpts from their books, answered questions on forensics role in mystery writing, and gave a glimpse into their writing process. All three moderators agreed that forensics was a must have in their mystery novels.

E.J. Wagner gave historical background on the field of forensics, including how at one point in history the belief that the body had to be intact to reunite with the soul in heaven made it impossible for anyone to openly share knowledge about dissecting human bodies. Lindsay Faye pointed out how the “how” and “why” a character solves a crime is in and of itself very character revealing.

The authors discussed the importance of scientific and historic accuracy even in fiction.  Ms. Faye pointed to the recent Sherlock Holmes movie as an example of how the idiomatic use of language didn’t fit the period. She talked about how there was no term for a sociopath at the time of Jack the Ripper and that using Freudian terms before the birth of Freud doesn’t make sense.

The topic of what qualifies as death was also discussed. It is interesting to note that a hundred years ago it was a heart stopping and now (in the U.S.) is when brain activity stops. E.J. Wagner made reference to death being a continuum, which I found intriguing.

All in all a great event by MWA-NY chapter. Many thanks to E.W. Count for a great job moderating and participating in the discussion and to the panel for sharing their experiences and insight. 🙂

If you’d like to hear the discussion, it was taped and is available on the WNYC website.

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4 Responses to MWA Library Outreach Series: Forensics

  1. Emma says:

    Wow, sounds like really interesting discussions (a bit creepy though 😉 ).
    I really like what Ms. Faye said about the new Sherlock Holmes movie and the language it uses. It really got me thinking about how we tend to accept everything that we are presented in movies and take everything we see and hear for granted and harldy ever question it (be it hard facts or just the way something is presented to us).

    • She made some great points. I have a story set in the Victorian period and I kept checking word entomology to make sure words/phrases existed back then. Sometimes, I wish movies would raise the bar a bit high on authenticity when they do historic settings.

      I think I’m going to get her book. The discussion totally sparked my interest. Plus I’m a sucker for Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes!

  2. Loren Chase says:

    I didn’t know that people once thought the body had to be intact in order for it reunite with its soul in heaven. I find that very interesting; especially because of the push to have people donate their bodies for scientific research and organ donations now. I definitely agree with the “how” and “why” being character revealing. Especially when you have someone else to compare that character with, it can really show the inner workings of that characters mind. Really informative and interesting! 🙂

    • I can’t believe how many of these events happen in NY. I think I was living under a rock while drafting my first manuscript. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed my summary.
      She also mentioned how people couldn’t publish what they learned about how the human body worked in their lifetimes (think Da Vinci) because they learned the information by taking bodies and secretly dissecting them. I guess it’s a little hard to imagine how powerful the church was at that time in history.

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