Normally when reviewing Crime films there’s one thing you usually don’t tell – and that’s who did it. But here I’ll shun convention and reveal who it is: Karen Lee Street is our guide to the shady world of crime screenwriting. Multiple sub-genres of crime fiction are examined, dissected and offered to the reader along with a multitude of exercises for creating screenplays that embrace the popular form but are individual to you, the screenplay writer. This is a work where you learn about criminality but in a distinctly legal manner, hopefully to the benefit of all.

Street takes a multifaceted approach to discussing her subject, describing the basic protocol for the genre then exploring the many sub-genres of the crime film and breaking these down into key elements. These range from detective, police stories, heists and film noir to prison dramas and serial killer films. Each of these sub-genres is deconstructed and combined with discussions about aspects of characterisation and the protagonists’ purposes within the narrative through revelations and resolutions. To prevent this becoming just a blueprint collection, these chapters are backed up with a multitude of references to crime films in terms of character, scenes, plots and dialogue that increase your understanding of the genre, maintain interest and – in some cases – provide an essential viewing list for films and television series that may have escaped your attention. But, as fascinating as this structured and historical output is, Writing and Selling Crime Film Screenplays does really push the would-be writer to use the book a practical tome for making your ideas come to life. The sections within each major chapter (particularly those connected with the crime sub-genres) also serve as lessons in the screenplay development process with detailed writing exercises which help inspire ideas and implement them in a solid and logical manner.

Once your screenplay has been lovingly crafted, there will be a desire to develop it beyond the keyboard and onto a screen and so, as the title suggests, the selling element is also covered. Marketing matters are discussed, as are the practicalities of producing works for a wider audience. The author conducts a series of interviews with a number of people within the industry: writers and producers, including Jackie Milton, a script consultant and the inspiration for DCI Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect.

If you’re interested in writing about criminality for the silver screen, it would be a crime not to read this.