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Blogger in residence: This house believes there is no such thing as hard evidence

11 October 2015

by DBF Blogger in residence, Simon Savidge

I mentioned in my last post that once I had decided that the life of a fashion designer or a vet wasn’t for me, maybe being a forensic psychologist would. I have always been a fan of both crime fiction and true crime and I bloody (pun intended) loved Waking The Dead on the telly box and frankly wanted to be Sue Johnston. Anyway I digress, for this reason my final two events at the festival were both crime based. The first was an event in partnership with IAS (Institute of Advanced Studies at the university) where two panels fought the argument as to whether hard evidence exists, with academics from the university and authors, which instantly intrigued me.

First up to fight against hard evidence’s existence www Professor Judith Howard. She used the example initially of British Weather and the fact that whilst predicting it has got better (like dealing with evidence has) it can never be perfect, you wouldn’t leave your washing out and expect it to be dry just because the BBC or an app tells you too would you? (I know, I would too!) She then talked about new technology and, unless I heard wrong, that pathology could be know as fraud in certain circumstances. I got a bit lost there BUT I did understand that she basically meant improvements mean there is still no hard evidence, as we look at data in totally different ways from the past and will do in the future, we just have more probably evidence that can still go wrong. Those poor criminologists.

Next up was Dr Dan Grausam who, delightfully I add, did that old trick of getting the audience right on his side from the off. He basically wooed us. He said because of brilliant people like us there was hard evidence in the love of true crime and crime fiction as well as all the television stuff None of this festival, he said, could exist without hard evidence of a love of books or we would just be at some boring existential conference. So really we were all hard evidence of hard evidence. Wow. Twisty. I liked it.

Author Peter Gutteridge was next and he used crime fiction as a way to prove the point of the lack of hard evidence in existence. After all isn’t ambiguity one of the reasons we all love a good crime novel? Nothing is certain and really it is crime fictions guise to be misleading and to write about miscarriages of justice. If it’s all hard evidence fiction wouldn’t work. Look at most novels, multiple eyewitnesses who are unrealisable, and we all love an unreliable narrator don’t we? Well maybe not all of us. His point was that no one (real or fictional) ever sees the same thing in any given situation, plus there is Inattention blindness eg a group are asked to keep score of the amount of times a ball is passed on a baseball court, afterwards they are asked if they notices a woman with an umbrella up crossing the court no one did! He then talked about contamination of DNA followed by quantum physics and dimensions. These last two lost me a bit but I liked the cut of his gib so nodded along smiling. I remember why I changed my mind about being a forensic psychologist… The science bit!

Last but not least was author Louise Welsh (who I have read, see I have read some of the authors at these events) who was fighting for hard evidence. First of all she did it by holding a pen up and dropping it, hard evidence of gravity. She then asked us all to take out or phones and get our cameras ready, where she promptly pulled out a gun (not real) and shot her fellow panellist and said ‘there you’ve proof I shot him’. More hard evidence. She also debated contaminated evidence saying ‘just because it’s contaminated doesn’t mean it isn’t right’ you just need more and more of it. She then told us a fascinating true crime case of a man who ended up being caught by pollen. Stuff like that blows my mind. Finally she advised us that if we had murder in mind we should make it look an accident, push someone down the stairs is probably best. We all laughed… Nervously. Ha.

It was then opened up so the panellists could take a pop at each other’s arguments before we all joined in. People brought up how ‘the camera never lies’ but with editing ability now it can. There was also a discussion about how science disproves itself all too often as it advances (slight over my head again) before we all got to vote on who we agreed with. I voted for Dan and Louise, hard evidence that if I like your books and you make me laugh I’m putty in your hands. Another bloody (pun intended, again) brilliant event.


Simon Savidge is a writer who contributes to several literary and lifestyle magazines and hosts Savidge Reads, a blog about all things literary.

You can contact him on savidgereads@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter here @SavidgeReads