Monthly Archives: February 2015

Work in Progress

Here’s a quick update about what we’re working on at the moment.

I’m writing the final chapters of an historical novel set in England during the 1190s. This will be published in the Spring.

Anne is writing a detective novel set in 1931 on the south coast of England.

During the summer I’ll be bringing out the second William Quest thriller – set in 1854. I’m just doing the final pre-writing research. It will be an immediate sequel to the first novel in the series, The Shadow of William Quest.

We’re also hoping to fit in some holidays and research some future settings.

My most recent novel, Balmoral Kill, is now out as an eBook on Kobo and Nook, as well as Kindle and in paperback.



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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem

Peter Ackroyd’s novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem has now been out for over twenty years. Given my interests in Victorian crime and the history of the music hall I’ve always been meaning to read it.

Now I’ve finally got round to it and I can say that it’s a terrific read, evoking a real feel of the Victorian underworld in Ackroyd’s usual and very vivid writing style.

As a writer Ackroyd is well-known not just as a novelist but as an historian and biographer. If you haven’t read it I commend to you his London – A biography – perhaps the best of all recent histories of the city.

Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem is not your usual crime read. It’s a deeply literary novel which happens to be about crime and the low-life and middle-class existence of Victorian London. And there’s a lot more to it than that. Ackroyd has a way of plunging you deep into this imagined vision of a past age.

For those who don’t know, Dan Leno was perhaps the greatest star of Victorian music hall. But he is not the only real-life character encountered in this book. We also see the struggling writer George Gissing and a glimpse of Karl Marx during his London exile.

This is a book which begins with a hanging and works backwards. We see how his key character Elizabeth Cree progresses as a music hall turn, the murders of a serial killer, the legend of the Jewish golem, a trial at the Old Bailey and pages from the diary of John Cree delineating many aspects of Victorian life – for this is a novel of multiple viewpoints.

Ackroyd is so very good at exploring the sinister hinterlands of the Victorian underworld. The author’s great knowledge of London shines through on every page. Terrible secrets are revealed and the ending is just stunning.

A novel you’ll want to read more than once – thoroughly recommended!

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Catherine Aird

We were delighted to see that Catherine Aird is this year’s recipient of the CWA’s Diamond Dagger. Well-deserved and long over-due. The Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger is probably the most prestigious award in the business. It is won for work of ‘sustained excellence and for making a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language.’

Catherine Aird published her first novel in the wonderful Chronicles of Calleshire in 1966. Over twenty more have followed as well as many sparkling short stories.

Her series detective is the likeable Inspector Christopher Sloan. Happily married, a keen rose grower, he is long-suffering about the amusing antics of his sidekick Constable Crosby and his boss Superintendent Leeyes. The attractive setting is the fictional county of Calleshire, its villages and the small town of Berebury.

The novels can be described as a perfect blend of police procedural and British cosy crime. They embody all the best elements of Golden Age crime fiction such as skilled plots, fair play cluing and a satisfying reveal. However Catherine Aird consistently provides readers with something more. Her characters are very believable and described with gentle irony. She writes in a witty, engaging style that’s an absolute delight to read.

Highly recommended if you enjoy murder most English.

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Norfolk Villains, Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates

Norfolk Villains, Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates.
By Neil R. Storey.
Published by The History Press
ISBN 978-0-7524-6001-7

Since my days at the University of East Anglia, I have always had a great liking for the county of Norfolk. During my three years as an undergraduate at UEA, I did a minor in nineteenth-century social history, specialising in the Regency and Victorian underworld and the history of the working class.

A lot of my own research centred on the troubled times that beset Norfolk during that period. A time of particular lawlessness, mostly prompted by the appalling poverty which plagued the county at that time.

Aristotle commented that “poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” This book suggests the accuracy of his words.

I’ve recently been reading the above book by Neil R. Storey, which is an excellent introduction to these historic and true-life crimes and has the virtue of being particularly readable and very well-illustrated from prints of the time and old photographs.

A fascinating bedtime book if you have an interest in the underworld. Very pleasant to dip into if you like reading about past crimes and times.

Murders, assaults, highway robbery, body-snatching, witchcraft, poaching, smuggling, theft and arson all feature in Mr Storey’s book. Along with criminals, such as the murderers James Greenacre and James Blomfield Rush, the rebel Kett, the highwayman Cook March and the poacher ‘Shirts’ Rudd.

Mr Storey is a very talented narrator who has a real gift for bringing the past alive. He has certainly found a number of crimes I’ve never heard of, as well as the more notorious and better-known villainies.

Anyone interested in the criminal world of an English county and its policing will find this book a fascinating introduction, particularly the chapters dealing with Victorian life – which is too often mistakenly portrayed by writers and historians as a settled time.

Reading this book you can well understand why some Victorians walked around with life preservers, revolvers or just good old stout walking sticks.

I used much of the knowledge of the Victorian underworld gained at UEA in my Victorian thriller “The Shadow of William Quest”, which has a back-story dealing with the poverty that triggered some of the very Norfolk uprisings and criminal deeds mentioned in this book. In later chapters of my novel I brought my hero William Quest back to Norfolk from London for the book’s conclusion.

So Mr Storey’s book holds a particular fascination for me.

A thoroughly recommended read.

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About Balmoral Kill

The autumn of 1937 – A desperate race against time to find a deadly killer…

In 1936 the British royal family were rocked by their greatest scandal as Edward VIII gave up the throne in order to marry an American divorcee.

Many ordinary people regretted the loss of their popular king. In the dark corridors of power, not everyone was sorry…

A year later the Abdication Crisis seems forgotten and all eyes are on the Coronation that summer. In August the new King George VI will retreat to Balmoral, his remote holiday home in the Highlands of Scotland.

As the shadow of war falls across Europe, a sinister conspiracy lies deep within the British establishment.

A man lies dead in a woodland glade. An unfortunate accident or has the first shot been fired in a secret war?

Sean Miller is recalled home to take on his deadliest challenge – but where do his loyalties really lie?

In a frantic chase, from the slums and sinister alleys of London to the lonely glens of the Scottish Highlands, Miller must hunt and bring down his most dangerous opponent.
His mission – to foil the final shot that will plunge Europe into the abyss of a new Dark Age.

Now in paperback and on Kindle.

Just click on the link below for more details or to order. Thank you.



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