Killing Off a Donor

University of Dundee -- with help from crime writers -- has an unusual approach to raising money for a teaching mortuary.


May 24, 2012

Generous donors to universities traditionally have been thanked with dinner with the vice-chancellor, their name on a plaque, or even the chance to found a new department. But the University of Dundee has come up with a novel way to reward benefactors: murder them. Fictionally, that is.

As part of Dundee’s attempt to raise £1 million ($1.57 million) to build a new state-of-the-art teaching mortuary, four best-selling crime and mystery writers will allow the highest bidder to appear as a corpse or character in a forthcoming novel. Participating authors include Stuart MacBride, whose Logan McRae series uses Aberdeen as a backdrop for "horrific crimes" as well as "much eating of chips and drinking of beer," according to his website.

MacBride pledged his support for the morgue campaign when it was launched last year because he owed a "huge debt of thanks to the forensic scientists"  who advised him on details for his books.

The writer, who has previously auctioned off characters in aid of charitable causes, said he liked to meet his "victims" first and search through their handbags to get a sense of their personality before fictionalizing them.

Previous bidders ­ who were mostly women, he said ­ included one who wanted to become a "bondage princess." MacBride had also met "the sweetest 75-year-old who is desperate to be a ­prostitute."

The auction will also include opportunities to make an appearance as a corpse in future work by Tess Gerritsen, creator of the "Rizzoli and Isles" detective series, and Peter James, the author of the Roy Grace crime series, who came up with the fund-raising idea.

The American writer Jeffery Deaver, author of Carte Blanche, the latest book in the James Bond franchise, has also agreed to take part. He has yet to decide whether he will offer a corpse or a character.

The writers are already competing for votes from fans, each of which contributes a pound towards the campaign, to see who will win the honor of having the forensic center named after them.

Sue Black, professor of anatomy and forensic anthropology at Dundee, said the winning bidder could name the corpse after anyone they wished -- ­ their mother-in-law, for example, ­ although Dundee confirmed that the author would need the subject’s permission.

The online auction ­ will be officially launched on May 26 at the Crimefest gathering of crime writers in Bristol, and will end on 30 September.

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