Launched in response to student demand, and to the growing popularity of the genre, the UK's first creative writing masters dedicated to crime and thriller novels is another harbinger of a "second golden age of crime writing".
The genre is the second biggest in the UK, according to official data, with sales of £87.6m in 2011, while debut thriller Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson topped the charts last week. The course will teach budding Agatha Christies and Ian Rankins everything from how to create suspense to new ways to tackle new crimes, thoroughly investigating all aspects of the genre, from police procedurals to psychological thrillers.
"Crime fiction is an increasingly popular genre. With writers like Tom Rob Smith and AD Miller appearing on Man Booker Prize long- and short-lists, the literary acceptance of the genre has never been higher," said programme director Jonathan Myerson, the novelist and playwright. "There is much talk that we are entering a second golden age of crime writing, though this time the country house has been replaced by the inner city estate. Social relevance is a major factor, as too is the quality and craftsmanship of the writing"
City already runs a masters on literary novels as part of its creative writing programme. Six years' worth of students have graduated, with six so far landing publishing deals. Tutors on the literary course include Sadie Jones, David Nicholls, Sarah Waters, Monica Ali, Naomi Alderman, Ronan Bennett, Sarah Hall, and Philip Hensher, and Myerson said he "would expect our tutors on the crime thriller MA to be of the same calibre". Authors are currently being approached, with the novelists Martyn Waites and Barry Forshaw already signed up.
"We take about 12 to 14 students each year on the literary course and would do about the same for the crime MA, and run them in parallel," said Myerson. "Both genres can learn from each other – literary novelists can learn an awful lot from the pacing of crime novels."
If the crime course takes off, Myerson said he would look at expanding the MA to include other genres. "We'll see how this goes, I think," he said. "Young adult would be the next market, though."