The Eve of World war

I remember, back in 2014, walking my dog in the park and wondering how, a century earlier, the world had slipped into madness. The BBC were running a radio programme at the time, looking back to ‘ordinary’ families in 1914, just at the time their young sons were heading off to France, probably excited about going abroad for the first time. None of them having the faintest idea what was to come.

It's the economy, stupid.

Hanging around the school playground back in 2007 (waiting for my sons to finish school, I hasten to add. I wasn’t just hanging around any old school playground), I asked a friend how their shares were doing. It’s not the sort of question I’d normally ask; I’m not from a banking or stockbroking family and I’ve never owned a share in my life. But my friend who, at the time (he’d be made redundant in the near future) was working for a bank. He wasn’t a trader but, rather, a computer programmer. They felt the traders had the easier and more glamorous life. The programmers gave the traders the tools with which to trade so who are the real money-makers? 

As a ‘thank-you’, the banks gave the programmers the choice of getting their bonus in shares. My friend took up the offer. In answer to my question, he replied the shares were crashing! I didn’t know about share dealing but  everybody knew the Stockmarket had rocketed over the last few decades. How the hell had his shares crashed! It made no sense.

Of course, we soon had the answer. The sub-prime fiasco. Invented by greedy bankers who were now offsetting some of the losses on the programmers (they weren’t as clever as the traders after all). It was like 1929, the Wall Street crash (and look what they led to).

Where's the war?

Seven years later, in the park, I was thinking that the crash of 2007/8 had NOT led to the devastation of 1929. We didn’t see money men leaping from tall buildings and, although now we have more food banks than McDonald outlets, we hadn’t entered the Great Depression of the 1930’s again.

But we did have division. The internet, social media in particular, has created massive division. If you announced on Twitter that you were going to give everyone in the world £100, by the seventh reply someone would point out that £100 isn’t very much. That would be followed by you being called a cheapskate and others would question how you could afford it. Before long, you’d be facing threats against your children and that they were planning to burn your house(s) down. 

Then came 2016!

In the USA, Donald Trump was not only allowed to stand for the presidency, but he won it! Donald Trump was the president of the United States!

In the UK, we had the Brexit vote. a couple of years earlier, the Scots had shown the English how much they disliked us. They didn’t quite win their independence vote but it highlighted how many hated the fact that Scotland was being dictated to by Westminster. And now, many were saying how much they hated the fact the UK was dictated to by Brussels. Whilst many were passionately against the EU (and had thought carefully about it), the vast majority believed the the UK should ‘get their country back’. We were told the NHS would be £350m a week better off if we left the EU.

So we did!

Two years after walking my dog (although I was still, and still am walking her), we had returned to an openly divided world. In the USA, people either loved or hated Trump. There was no middle ground. In the UK, we had years of shouting and violence in Westminster. For centuries, Britain had been at war with our ‘natural’ enemies; the Germans, the French, the Spanish, Italians, etc.

But, at least there was NO WAR!

The Pandemic.

Then came 2020 (I’m still walking the dog). A new coronavirus emerged from China (as Mr Trump kept pointing out). 

Here we are, back in the days of the plague. You would have thought the world was better prepared than it had ever been. In many ways, of course, it was. We didn’t (at least, most of us didn’t) assume this wasn’t the work of the devil or of the witch who lives by the river. We knew it was a teeny virus that was spread from lung to lung. we went into lockdowns. At least, those who could went into lockdowns. Easy enough in London or New York or Paris. But my mind went to places like Kenya (where I had worked quite a bit) and India. There, people lived in tiny huts, all piled in together. There was little chance of working from home on the MacBook Pro.

We were in strange times. The world had seen anything quite like this since…well, back in 1918 – directly after the end of that First World War. But at least there was no war. Yet.


In 2016, I got a surprise job. My acting agent rings me once or twice a year at most. I had an audition for a rap video. WHAT, I asked!

I pictured myself saying ‘Yo’ and dancing around some famous (though not to me) cool, black, muscled grime artist (I don’t think they are called singers) with my trousers half way down my legs. Not a bit of it. I was packed off (the next day) to Kiev (which the TV are now writing ‘Kyiv’ and pronouncing ‘Keev’). I spent three days learning the words to the fast-delivered lyrics to DJ Shadow’s (a white rap artist, or something) ‘Nobody Speak’. We shot it over 19 hours (I was knocked by 2.00 am, when I did the final look to the cleaner shot) in a single day.

I was only in Kyiv / Kiev for 5 days, but I felt an affinity. It’s a lovely city and I met some great people. My fellow lead actor, Ihor Ciszkewycz, who I assumed was Ukrainian, both from his name and the fact that everyone around him was when I first met him. So I spoke carefully and slowly. ‘I am Ian,’ I said. ‘Eeee-an. I’m from Lun-Don. Lunnn-dunnn. You know?’

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘I went to drama school in London.’

‘Oh, you’re American.’

I emailed Ihor a couple of weeks ago, concerned about the situation in Ukraine. And today, (24 February, 2022), the Russians have invaded Ukraine. For the first time in 80 years (aside from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962), we could be on the very brink of a world war.


What has that got to do with murder Mystery?

Good question.

And if you have read this far, sorry it has taken so long to get to the point. I am recording this as a sort of diary. I will tidy up when the site is operational. But these are my current thoughts.

Many murder mystery companies set their shows (are the shows?) in a specific, momentous period of time. It could be Sarajevo in 1914, or Berlin (or London or Paris for that matter) in September, 1939. Then it goes on to say, Europe is on the brink of war. You find that, during this historically momentous time, Lord and Lady Passthebuck of Passthebuck Manor, are hosting a party. During this party, a murder takes place and (presumably because the police are busy dealing with world events – or because it snows heavily and the manor is cut off) it falls to the guests to solve this crime. The backdrop is the sort of momentous event that appears, somehow, glamorous.

The reality is very different. None of us have a clue what will happen now that Putin is the new Hitler, but it won’t be glamorous.

And I’ve been thinking about how art (can we count murder mystery as art? We count virtually everything else in that category) should reflect the times in which we live. The real fear of the citizens of Ukraine, or even the real fears of people living in large cities around the world, like London, knowing that Russia has a dozen or more nuclear missiles aimed directly at they house.

So my thinking is that I should have two categories (as soon as I can figure out how to write these downloadable murder mystery games). One should be the traditional escapist mysteries, (‘It is April 1912. You are invited to a New York party by the multi-millionaire, John D. Rockefeller. Your travel first class in the most luxurious of ships ever built, The Titanic. A day after leaving Southampton, Ikannot Swimm, a Polish emigrant, is found murdered on the grand piano…’) and the other should be set in the here and now.

After all, what is the point of escapism if not…well, to escape? But then, many of these mysteries are set in worlds that never really existed. Nothing is ever quite so glamorous as the spectacles of history lead us to believe. Yes, we should entertain. But should we not, we in the wider murder mystery game, have a responsibility to educate too?

And let’s not ever forget; murder itself is not pleasant. It’s not nice to murder someone and, some may agree, it is even worse to be murdered. So to treat murder as entertainment… should we not recognise what we are doing?

On the other hand, one could argue that turning murder into fun and entertainment (the ‘mystery’ bit) is far, far better than getting involved in the real thing.

Maybe I should try to sell a few mystery games to Mr Putin. If I can keep him entertained, millions of lives will be saved.